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 home  in 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’?” Joe queried.

“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. Jones.

“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 asked.

“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 retorted.

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.

“Let them eat cake” Mrs. Jones offered.

© 2013 Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

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