Lead Balloon

The Price of Things
January 14, 2008, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “things”. Things that cost money, things that, for many people are a status symbol. The type of purse you carry, the car you drive, your home, your shoes. And I’ve come to realize, it’s all relative. And it’s all pretty much watered-down these days.

Todd and I talk sometimes about cars. Neither of us is a car fanatic. These conversations usually happen while we’re in the car, on the road, “I really like that car.” Or, “I really hate the shape of that Honda Element.” Or, “Give that asshole driving the Hummer the finger, will you?” We’re terrible about buying cars, we don’t research. We don’t visit 10 different dealerships and play the game. We just go somewhere, look at the cars, and get one. At least that has been our experience as a couple thus far.

Yesterday we drove alongside a Chevy truck (at least I think it was a Chevy), whose driver had basically stripped the truck of its own identity and given it a new one. In its new life and identity, it was a Cadillac truck. It had (what one can only assume are stolen, or maybe black market purchases) Cadillac symbols all over it. One on the grill, one on the back tailgate, on the side windows…You couldn’t, however, deny that the teal-green color of the truck was definitely Chevrolet. Or maybe GMC, I’m not sure. One of the two. Not a color Cadillac carries, I don’t believe. The truck also had a Cadillac-style steering wheel – shiny and woodgrain. Some leather looking seats.

Is a Cadillac-inspired Chevy truck a status symbol? Assuming, of course, that a Cadillac truck is a status symbol, itself. It’s all relative. One would think that it IS, given that this person put a lot of effort into morphing his truck into a Caddy.

During the same drive home, we passed a Land Rover, and then the Land Rover dealership. For some reason, I just love the old body-style Land Rovers. The new ones look like they’re made for a rap star, lots of bling and fine lines, not so rugged. But the old ones remind me of going on Safari. And that’s why I like them. I don’t think they are a status symbol in any way…while it is an expensive car, that’s not why I like it. I’d likely never buy this car simply because I’ve heard from a friend that a car seat can’t fit comfortably in the back seat. Your priorities change, you see. But I like the “boxy” shape of it, I think. I just like it.

Todd puts the Land Rover in the same category as the Hummer. And for those of you who read this blog regularly, I don’t have to tell you how either of us feels about the Hummer. But relative to relativity, he says the Hummer is an army vehicle that has been “dummied down” for people in the burbs to drive on regular streets and to drop their small children off at school, wherein they have to use a step-stool of some sort to actually get the kids in and out of the vehicle. Perhaps an electronic “lift” typically reserved for handicap-accessible vehicles. He says the Land Rover is the same – a “dummied down” version of a Safari-terrain vehicle. Modified for the same city drivers, with the same, awful gas guzzling engine, in our burbs and on our city streets. And he thinks that both vehicles are status symbols, simply because of their price tag.

I disagree, only because I like the Land Rover. 🙂 It’s just all relative to where you’re coming from in your like/dislike or gravitation toward a particular thing. Your motives, if you will.

Watered Down
Now comes my two cents on the purses, the cars the homes…all that jazz.

I have to say, first, that I love good quality things. I truly believe that you get what you pay for. I think, for example, that a good pair of shoes is hard to come by, and that typically, if I spend a little more, they’re a little easier on my dogs. I like nice things. I’m not saying, by typing any of this, that I’m above or immune to being drawn to or purchasing trendy or expensive things.

BUT. For people who like these types of things for the status they carry, I also know that there are as many people out there carrying a knock-off purse as there are people with the real thing. Some would say, “I can tell if it’s real or not.” Who cares!?!?? Any time there is a trend, there is a reciprocal lower-priced version of it available immediately. And suddenly, the importance placed on those items by those people who spent their last paycheck on this nice thing is watered down.

The same is true for the cars we drive. Some might say they want a particular car because of the quality of that car…Some people would flat-out admit that they want the higher-priced, nicer cars because they’ve worked hard and they deserve it. It’s a status symbol, after all. Whatever our reasons for wanting or getting a really nice, high-priced car…it doesn’t matter. Because if our motives ARE in any way to have the best…for others to see…it’s fruitless these days. Any car dealer can get anybody into any car for anything. With the leasing programs that are out there, everyone’s fair game when it comes to auto dealers targeting us and piquing our interests in these fancy-schmancy cars. In other words, just because you can afford and drive a Lexus…doesn’t mean that someone with a salary of $25,000 a year can’t afford one or doesn’t have one, too. So, what does that mean for those who place a significant amount of importance in the fact that they CAN afford those cars? I’m not sure.

Do you think the number of knock-offs or the ease of getting into a new, expensive car waters down the significance of those nice things to some people? I don’t know. I think what I’ve found the most interesting is coming across people who really do HAVE the money to buy luxurious things…But they still get the knock-offs. That’s the best.

Mostly, I hate that I tend to gravitate toward things that are more expensive, even before knowing their price or their place in the world. I’ve often thought about the idea of going into a mall and having a stylist bring me 10 purses, 10 outfits, and 10 pairs of shoes, all with the labels and price tags removed. Would I choose the most expensive? Would I find, after knowing the brands of the items, that I would prefer the “better brands”, even if I’d picked the cheap stuff in the first place? Who knows! I’d like to see, though. I’d like to test the importance I place in material things, for sure.


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