Less is More- Weekly Writing Challenge

(One more Monday, and again I look to the Weekly Writing Challenge abyss and wonder if it stares back.  This time they encourage writing about something different.  I don’t normally talk too much about my opinions, and I try not to rant, so this will be some sort of amalgamation of the two.  The fictional stories are coming later this week, honest.)

Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.” -Mark Twain


“’Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free.”  That’s what I’ve been taught for years and years.  The older I get, the more I find it to be true.  At the same time, I’ve noticed that there are more voices than before shouting at me in defiance of that notion.

I like to consider myself a fairly simple guy.  Okay, my work schedule with four jobs at three places is completely insane.  Everything else is normal though.  Honest.  Sundays are made for jogging, church, and if I’m feeling fancy; a visit with my best friend.  Breakfast is normally cereal or oatmeal; scrambled eggs with ketchup if I have extra time to lounge about.  Kim Kircher offered up a quiz on her site to see how much of a thrill seeker people are.  Out of a possible score of forty, I scored a three.  What can I say; it takes very little to keep me content.

Now, I know that there are different ways to approach things.  Some folks like to keep up to date on all the new stuff.  I am aware of people that buy a new car every few years or purchase a computer to keep their gear top of the line.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than with cellular phones.

I use my phone for two things; texting and phone calls.  If I’m having trouble staying awake at work, maybe I’ll play Carmen San Diego.  (It turns out that my memories of high school geography are still accessible when ushering an eleven p.m. movie.  Who knew?)  I do not need internet access.  I do not need a program to tell me when the bus is coming when I can simply memorize the schedule.  And I don’t need to get updates from people I haven’t seen for two years.  That sort of thing can wait until I’m sitting in a comfortable chair with a computer that has a reasonably sized screen.  Again, that’s my preference.  My newest phone is the only one that my provider offered for free without having to sign up for a data plan.  Clearly I am in the smartphone minority.  The lines at iStores have proven that.

Part of why I raise an eyebrow at people increasing their possessions, is that I have seen how much it really costs them.  I know people that have a tablet, a smartphone, and a laptop, but have problems paying their bills.  Folks will come up to the register with an armful of merchandise and lament how they shouldn’t be buying as much as they are.  A new trend that I’ve noticed are consumers that will pay part in cash and part on a credit card so that their spouse doesn’t realize how much money they are shelling out.  I start to wonder about the issue of self-control that we, the buying public, have over our wallets.

Bumblebee says, “Hand over the dough!”
(Photo from Wikipedia.)

The less is more approach didn’t always come easily to me.  In high school, I bought pretty much every country CD that I came across and had even the slightest interest in.  (I’m looking at you, Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw.)  For some reason, my parents decided to pay my way as long as I was in college.  That meant that all the funds that I got from work could go wherever I pleased.  So, once upon a time, I spent over a thousand dollars purchasing old Transformer toys on eBay.  Not my proudest moment.  I later sold them all to others online for a fraction of what I paid.  It didn’t take me long to buy a clue; purchasing more knick-knacks didn’t make me any happier.

At the end of a long work week, I don’t wish that I had more cool things in my apartment.  Come and visit; you’ll see hand-me-down furniture, used books, and a cat that wants nothing more than a bowl of food and a warm pair of jeans to knead.  I still have more things than I like and try to think of ways to get rid of them.  My friends know that my hundreds of DVDs are available to loan, as are the countless comic books.

Any gal that enters into a long term relationship with me is going to quickly find out that I’m no sugar daddy.  I will never be rich.  I’m going to be working multiple jobs for a while because the thought of a high-paying office job, complete with the corporate stress and “earning your outrageous salary” holds absolutely no appeal to me.  I want enough of a paycheck to keep the debtors away and the cat stocked in kitty litter.  That’s all I really need.

Take a look at my workplace.  People come and see movies at my theater because it has a big screen.  Sometimes I look at what we’re showing and tell myself that it really doesn’t need such a fancy presentation.  I didn’t really love Titanic the first time, and I sure didn’t think that Titanic 3D was any better.  One of my favorite movies is How to Train Your Dragon.  The last time I visited my nieces, they strongly suggested that I simply had to watch it in 3D.  I did, and I still like the 2D version better.  I don’t need seats that movie in synch with the action of the film, I don’t need custom 3D glasses, and I certainly don’t need some waiter coming up to me and offering me another beer during the film.  I just want to watch a movie without any frills.

For those folks out there that enjoy the finer things in life; I get it.  I do.  New and shiny things hold a great appeal.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having nice things.  If you can afford to upgrade your lifestyle every so often, then you’re certainly allowed to.  My family thinks their 3D T.V. was worth it.  Speaking for myself, my ’97 Dodge works just fine, my original Kindle is still souped-up enough for me, and I have no problem patching holes in my clothing.  By all means, do whatever makes you happy.  Personally, I’ve slowly learned that there’s not a lot for sale that makes my life any richer.

What Goes Up Must Float there Until Payment is Received

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

What Goes Up Must Float there Until Payment is Received

We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.” -Wernher von Braun

Gretchen walked into the door of her apartment to find that her world had been turned upside down.  As her napkin holder spun slowly in midair, she groaned as each little paper napkin strayed off towards a different direction.  She saw the couch blocking her path to the kitchen and pushed it down to the carpet.  The three-seater hide-a-bed lingered around the floor, but Gretchen could tell that it would probably head to the ceiling at any moment.  She really thought life before the gravity bill had been much simpler.

Like many inconvenienced citizens, Gretchen blamed the government.  She pined for days when gravity was free, not a social service that was regulated and controlled.  Gretchen remembered ten years ago when she could lay on the ground, her hair in ponytails, and read Nancy Drew books as she rested her chin on her hands.  When she was a girl, she did that for free.  Now she had to pay for her right to rest on a surface.

Scientists had claimed that their control of gravity was the greatest benefactor they could have dreamed up.  They spoke of elderly people with aching joints being relieved of pressure on their joints.  The biologists remarked that the change in how they operated meant that they could work on concepts in a zero-gravity environment.  Although many in the intellectual community admitted that much of the joy of being an astronaut was gone now that floating in the air was an everyday occurrence.

The whole idea had started on a small scale.  Individual labs were fitted with the Gravitational Nullification Unit, or GNU.  The machine did exactly what the name promised.  Much like noise-cancelling headphones were capable of blocking out ambient noise by matching frequencies, the GNU negated the force of gravity by exerting an opposing force.  Like a hovercraft for all matter, the GNU kept anything within its range free from their previous weighty restrictions.  It was soon declared too important a discovery to be left to industry alone and was mass-marketed to consumers.  That was when things to got hairy.

Who knew that a GNU would be such a nuisance?

The government stepped in and decided that all these different levels of gravity needed to be regulated.  What if a house was being moved by a GNU which malfunctioned and fell on a small child?  Who would be responsible for guaranteeing that dump trucks driving through various areas wouldn’t have their entire load end up littering the sky?  And of course, there was the famous Superbaby concern, where any child that wandered into the wrong place might be sent into the stratosphere.

With a vote that was nearly unanimous, (two representatives felt it was immoral to regulate nature) Congress created a system that would license, regulate, and bill each person for the GNU’s services.  With GNUs occupying eighty-six percent of all consumers of an annual income exceeding forty-thousand dollars, the Gravitational Regulating Organization for Weighty Laws had their hands busy.  The GROWL went to work right away and set out to collect one thousand dollar start-up fee from each member that was using a GNU machine.  Then they added a monthly bill to “continue to assure governmental and proper use of such equipment.”  Many people, including Gretchen, bemoaned the matter.  There were already discussions about voting out the established government representatives due to their apparent over-charging in their monopoly.

For the time being, Gretchen was trapped.  She tried to tie her purse onto the doorknob, but it started to remove itself.  Gretchen screamed, slammed the door shut, and swam her way to the bathroom.  Thanks to a last minute appeal by medical professionals and human rights organizations, bathrooms were required to always have gravity.  Every toilet had a built in gravitational system of its own that extended in a ten-foot diameter.  There were some questions as to how much strain was put on the structure when walls shared gravity on one side on no gravity on the other, but bathrooms needed things to go down pipes.  Showers needed to send water down onto a person, not floating every which way like some sort of psychedelic rain storm.

Gretchen floated along the bottom of the bathroom and shut the door.  The doorjamb-sensor was activated and she heard the familiar clicking noise.  The GNU turned the gravity on slowly, allowing Gretchen to find her footing.  She was already dreading turning the doorknob, which would deactivate the machine at the same rate.

Gretchen wanted things to go back to the way they had been.  She wasn’t a fan of flighty behavior or fancy technology.  She liked her belongings to be practical.  Her books had all been carefully arranged in a nice order, and now, because she had forgotten to pay one little bill, she would have to reorganize all her things.  That of course, was after she found her cordless phone that was floating around somewhere in her apartment.

Gretchen screamed again as she sat in her bathtub.  All she wanted after a long day of work was to take a nap.  She wanted to recover from her menial day as a receptionist before she had to go back tomorrow.  She wanted to cook food on a stove without the scalding hot water reaching up to burn her.  She wanted to sit and read a book in a chair.  When it came down to it, Gretchen preferred the down-to-earth way of life.

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