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Friday, 13 December 2013
The Joneses Called & Said You Can’t Keep Up by Naomi Elana Zener
Flashbulbs blinded the patrons,
which were made worse by the jeers and catcalls of the hordes of autograph
seekers, naysayers and paparazzi pressed up like sardines against the trendy
Beverly Hills’ restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling window. The world renowned and
infamous couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, were sitting in the tony eatery supping on
a divinely decadent elaborate meal prepared especially for them, with no
expense spared. Accustomed to the glares and stares, the Joneses dined as
though they were the only two people in the restaurant, let alone on the
planet, cleansing their palates between courses with a healthy swig of
Cristale, blissfully unaware of the masses watching their every move. Without
warning and to the Jones’ horror, a plebian reporter abruptly disrupted their
oasis by commandeering a neighbouring table’s chair, pulling it up to their
table and joining them.
“Well, if it isn’t the elusive
Joneses,” the reporter exclaimed. “I’m Joe Public, a reporter, not the plumber,
from the Main Street Everyman’s Gazette. In light of the ongoing economic
crisis crippling the planet, I wondered, hoped really, that I could interview
you both to get your take on the sad state of the World’s financial affairs.”
“What sad state?” Mr. Jones
inquired as he proceeded to take a delicate bite of caviar on toast point.
“Every country, especially the
United States, has been downtrodden and underwater financially ever since the
Great Recession hit. Albeit, housing prices are showing some gains of late and
job numbers are mildly improving, so many people have lost their homes, jobs,
life savings, all in their pursuit of the ‘American Dream’ bought on credit,”
Joe replied. “All to keep up with the Joneses. To keep up with you.”
Mr. and Mrs. Jones shared a
perplexed look as they digested Joe’s comments and then quickly tossed their
heads back in guttural laughter.
“Is that a joke?” Mr. Jones asked.
“Is what a joke?” Joe responded.
“How can you even suggest that
anyone can keep up with us?” Mr. Jones exclaimed. “We drive an Aston Martin
Vanquish. Do you know how fast that thing goes? Even if someone buys a BMW M5
they have no way of keeping up or even catching us.”
“You, with your designer clothes,
overpriced automobiles, flawless diamonds and multiple homes have set the tone
for an ideal that people are chasing to their detriment. An ideal that only the
top one percent can achieve,” Joe stated. “They see you with your black Amex
free from the shackles of a limit, and your Cartier Love bracelet, and then go
to the mall with their ten credit cards with low limits and high interest
rates, maxing them out trying to emulate your blinged out lifestyle by buying
jewelry at Zales. Then, they sit at homein the house they can’t afford on the couch bought on a ‘buy now pay
later deal,’ wondering how they are going to pay for groceries or the mortgage.
Don’t you feel responsible?”
“How can we be responsible for
anyone who chooses to shop at any store where the
diamond quality is less than VVS1?” Mrs. Jones retorted. “I wouldn’t even let
my maid buy diamonds at the mall.”
“May I ask what that shiny diamond
Cartier Love bracelet hanging from your wrist cost?” Joe asked.
“If you have to ask what it cost,
then you shouldn’t be buying it!” Mrs. Jones admonished.
“You must agree that you have
created an image that others follow. Like a god, people revere your lifestyle
and want to recreate themselves in your image no matter the cost,” Joe advised.
“They want to dress like you, vacation like you, buy homes like yours.”
“Dress like us?” Mrs. Jones asked
rhetorically. “What a crazy notion.These people are wearing shmatas that are at least two seasons old
bought either on sale at TJ Maxx or at a clothing graveyard.”
“What is a ‘clothing graveyard’?”
“A consignment store, you know,
second-hand,” Mrs. Jones advised.
“I’m shocked you even know what
that is,” Joe stated.
“Where do you think I recycle
items in my wardrobe that I’ve been spotted or photographed in?” Mrs. Jones
replied. “Plus, I use the money earned from resale to pay for our staff’s
Christmas gifts. I have financial management skills. Also, you could even say
that I am an environmentalist because by consigning my clothes I am enabling
people to reduce, reuse and recycle, rather than going out and wastefully
spending on brand new clothes at full price. Plus, people who buy my items look
chic in them, so in fact I am actually doing a civic service by beautifying the
Earth by populating it with well-heeled women.”
Ignoring Mrs. Jones blatant
arrogance, Joe decided to follow another line of questioning directed at Mr.
“Sir, you must know that all of
the technological gadgets that you’ve amassed, giant flat screen TVs, cable and
high speed Internet, Netflix, tablets and the like are all luxuries you enjoy,
but are not necessities?” Joe asked.
“What do you mean they aren’t
necessities?” Mr. Jones asked. “They are the basic lifeblood required to remain
digitally apprised of what’s going on in the world. How else does one expect to
stay informed? And, for the record, your attack on my wife ignores the basic
principle that you get what you pay for in life. If people were smart and saved
up to buy just one pair of Louboutins or Manolos, then they would save their
feet from damage by not wearing crap from Payless, saving themselves from having
to shell out big bucks on chiropody treatments.”
“So, then what is a luxury in your opinion?” Joe asked.
“The Emirati royal family’s new
yacht, the Azzam.No one needs a five
hundred and ninety foot yacht,” Mr. Jones explained. “At six hundred and five
million dollars, just think of the real estate you could buy that doesn’t
depreciate like a boat does.”
“That boat is just so gauche!”
Mrs. Jones exclaimed. “Since you must still watch free over-the-air TV, you
don’t understand how Netflix is a necessity. Time is money, and who wants to
waste time watching useless commercials.”
Joe, realizing he had made no
headway at trying to get the Joneses to accept any responsibility for setting a
dangerous lifestyle precedent, decided to dumb down his cross-examination of them
in the hopes that they would finally see the error of their ways.
“Ok, so we agree to disagree about
the clothes, cars and toys you buy, but what about your homes? Do you really
need so many? And, do they need to be equipped with the highest end
restaurant-grade appliances when you don’t even cook?” Joe queried.
“Why should we apologize for
having good taste and wanting to have the finer things in life?” Mr. Jones
“Of course we use our appliances.
Every time we have a dinner party, our chef or the catering staff prepares each
meal with them, “ Mrs. Jones explained. “The better the appliance, the better
the food tastes.”
“As for the number of homes we
own, well that makes solid financial sense. Real estate is a safe investment,”
Mr. Jones offered.
“Plus, one could go mad looking at
the same scenery and décor day in and day out. Vacation homes are important
tools to promote good mental health,” Mrs. Jones stated. “Next you’ll try to argue
that having a maid or a gardener is a luxury.”
“Aren’t they?” Joe asked.
“You could sprain an ankle or have
a heart attack engaging in such physical manual labour! Why do you think they
invented in ground sprinkler systems?Having a staff is a necessity borne by you and your fellow media
comrades by publicizing all of these so-called studies telling everyone what is
good and bad for our health. In fact, it’s you people causing us to hire
nannies and housekeepers. The flip side is that we are creating jobs, thus
lowering unemployment,” Mrs. Jones advised.
“How can you say that by
performing manual labour you run the risk of having a heart attack when you
workout and exercise?” Joe laughed.
“Because, we hire trainers to
oversee our every move so as to prevent any injury from happening,” Mrs. Jones
Joe shook his head realizing that the
Joneses would not have an epiphany recognizing their frivolity and wastefulness.
They would continue to buy their own hype and the masses would continue to run
like caged hamsters in a spinning wheel perpetuating the vicious debt cycle.
“I give up. You think it’s ok for
people to go broke trying to keep up with you,” Joe sighed.
“Hell no!” Mr. Jones roared. “We
don’t have large mortgages, if any at all. We own our cars. We don’t lease
them. My wife’s jewels are family heirlooms inherited over the years. The
people you talk about have no financial management skills, but we do. They
should hire financial planners to help advise them.”
“How can they afford that when
they are in debt up to their eyeballs?” Joe fumed.
“Please, people have access to
cheap credit and with government policies keeping interest rates at historical
lows, they can afford a planner instead of a new pair of shoes. If you want to
blame someone for the World’s debt crisis, blame the government, not us.”
“For the record, if you can’t
afford a bank loan, luxury purses make for excellent collateral. Just look at
China where the ‘Yes Lady Finance Co’ gives loans against designer handbags. Only,
you must ensure that the security is in the form of Hermes, Louis Vuitton,
Channel or Gucci,” Mrs. Jones offered. “But, think twice before giving up a
Birkin. Those damn waitlists for a new one are a bitch!”
“You people are unbelievable!” Joe
exclaimed. “You tell people that it’s ok to fake it until they make it, the
hell with keeping a roof over your head or food in their belly. What do you say
to them when they can’t feed their family?”
Mr. and Mrs. Jones gave pause to Joe’s question, unsure of what they would do
if they had no food to eat.