Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I’m Growing Tired of Rampant Commercialism

I recently took a business trip to Lake Tahoe. While there, I felt assaulted by the commercialism and obvious marketing ploys used by the town. Everywhere I turned, I felt the pressure to give my wallet to someone else.

It’s bad enough that when travelling to Nevada you are greeted by the sound of slot machines in the airport when you step off of the plane. There are slot machines in the grocery stores, too. After landing, I was looking forward to getting to my hotel for a nice, enjoyable evening. My itinerary had me staying at a large casino/hotel – and it was relatively cheap and more updated compared to some of the seedier places I had stayed in Tahoe in the past.

After checking in, I was directed to the elevators, which were easily 500 feet away. I had to navigate several hallways of shops, poster advertisements, and even the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls for sale – all this just to get to the elevator. A slightly more faint-of-heart person wouldn’t make it through without succumbing to an attack of shopping.

Later, I went wandering to see what else I could find that was an obvious marketing strategy (I thought it would provide good blog material). It didn’t take me long. As I stepped off the elevator, I found myself in a large video arcade room – which I thought was rather nice, until I realized that this was the “dumping ground” for parents to leave their children while they went upstairs to gamble. What’s more, it seemed to me a sort of “training room” for children to prepare them for the move up to the slot machines and poker tables when they come of age. This began to weigh heavily on my mind.

Later, I went upstairs to observe the gambling tables (no worries – gambling has never appealed to me and my frugal character). I was saddened by what I saw. Dozens of people were feeding money into slot machines, without even getting the satisfaction of pulling a lever (slot machines are button-operated now). I noticed several older women frantically feeding machines, their suitcases at their feet. Confused at this, I wandered outside and found the answer. Their tour bus was warming up outside, ready to depart in minutes. These poor dears were getting in their last-minute gamble before crossing the state line back to California.

I went up to my room to do some writing and computer work, and immediately noticed that there wasn’t a good-sized table to work on. A small round table covered with casino ads was all that was available in this otherwise spacious and rather modern room. When I went to plug in my computer, I found that there was no electrical outlet on the walls anywhere near this table. In fact, the only outlet in the entire room was near the room entryway door, completely inaccessible as a practical place to work. Bottom line – I believe the room was laid out in such a way as to discourage anyone from spending time in it. Rather, everything was set up to get me to leave the room and hit the gambling tables.

Now, I know that I probably should expect all of this, staying in a casino hotel on a business trip. Nevertheless, the feeling of assault stayed with me the entire time I was there. It was frustrating to me that I constantly felt pressured to do something other than spend a quiet evening in my room reading a book or catching up on some writing (which is what I enjoy most when I’m on a business trip).

What is my point? It is that I long for a place free from the constant pressures of marketing. “Buy, buy, buy” is the mantra that you see and hear wherever you go. Our nation has become used to the constant flood of materialism in every location. Even in Hawaii, my family’s favorite vacation place, there is the uninterrupted bombardment of marketing wherever you go. Perhaps this is why my new favorite vacation spot is in my own living room, complete with a good book, my computer, and a soft rain outside to keep me from feeling guilty about not mowing the lawn.

Except for those infuriating Internet pop-up ads that assault me on my laptop. Sigh…

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