Friday, November 10, 2006

Peace in a Pod

Yesterday I bought an iPod, after a three-day ordeal that will be more familiar to buyers of a first home. My mistake was to buy it on what Brits and Paddies would call 'the HP' from Fnac, which entailed running off home jointly and severally for a piece of official ID and bank details and then submitting to an in-depth evisceration of my personal and financial life. Fair enough, but I was even willing to pay off the first €200 in cash, but, no, they would not let me. But still, paying the whole thing over five months is not the worst thing in the world, even at 3% interest (the funny thing about France is that the concept of interest only really exists when you are repaying a loan; you'll be waiting a long time if you expect your bank to pay you interest on your savings account).

After finally getting the turbulent piece of hardware in my hands, I admitted to myself that, like all the millions of other iPod owners worldwide, I really do not need one. I could plead unusually long Metro journeys across Paris for work but I have managed well enough till now without one and these journeys still constitute a minority of travelling time for me in a week. But in the modern consumer world, desire is much stronger than need, and though I managed for so long without really wanting an iPod in the past two months I have felt an insatiable desire for one. Completely irrational, of course. To the extent that when I showed some friends of mine my new machine, they replied with 'another one?' or 'I thought you had one'. Probably because I look like the sort of guy that just has an iPod, almost like I should have been born with a wee Nano tucked under my infant oxter, or safely concealed in the swaddling clothes. By the same token, people always assume that I am a smoker, because I look like one. Casual acquaintances are forever congratulating me on giving up, which is the most gratifying piece of flattery I have yet to receive, but which is also cruelly deprived of the tens of Euros per month savings I might have made had I a habit to kick in the first place.

I went for the biggest possible iPod, real estate in effect, because I figured that you are as well to go the whole hog if you are going to spend money on a toy of dubious function. The 4Gb Nano trades at €200, the 30Gb model at €300 and the whopping, hitherto-unknown 80Gb at €400. It's clearer and brighter at the top so of course I go for the 80. I have since been struggling with a pair of dodgy headphones from my last, sadly-underused Discman, which, however poor they are, are still a better choice than the official Apple earpieces, which, as a New York Times review once remarked, come in 'only one colour: "mug me-white"'.

My biggest anxiety following my purchase was not the usual buyer's remorse, which I suffer from as much as the next man (considering I don't start paying for it until the 5th of December and that I have a little money to spare from working two jobs in the past month, money is not, for the time being, an object), but guilt at having finally capitulated to consumer desire. I am not an early adopter by any means; in fact so late an adopter am I that I have yet to get myself a driver's licence, but, all of a sudden I felt like purchasing something completely unnecessary and which will, most likely, bring me minimal pleasure. But I am still proud of, and happy with my shiny new black iPod that plays me an enormously wide array of music that I would normally not give the time of day to if I encountered it all in the form of space-consuming CDs or vinyl. It feels like the decay of growing up has begun to set in; that I have given up the ghost and finally admitted that I am becoming one of Nietzsche's Hollow Men. When effete Western civilisation is eventually overrun by whatever vital and barbarous horde that will elect to do so, I will be caught square in the onslaught, but at least I'll have twenty Bob Dylan albums at my fingertips (or thumbtips) as I expire.