Every once and a while the free market really gets it right. Dippin’ Dots, the mothball shaped ice cream that took America by storm back in the 1990s, has finally, mercifully filed for bankruptcy. The fact that 2,000 of these stands exist today is a shaming blight upon the wooly, pock marked face of consumer capitalism. I am not much of a dancer, but I need to admit that I actually leaped out of my seat and did a fair Michael Flatley impression when I heard that this frozen pox was nearing eradication.
Anyone who has had the misfortune of having been around me when walking by a Dippin’ Dots stand has been subjected to a mile-a-minute tirade about how “the rat poison of the future should be grinded into the dust of the past” (as I told my wife on our second date). I actually got in a shouting match with a Dippin’ Dots franchise owner in Poughkeepsie, New York that ended with me nearly getting maced by a mall cop.
What bares further investigation is surely not the uselessness of the product, for who among us can actually defend such swill, but my disposition on the matter. With famine, war, pestilence and torture all more obvious candidates for my vitriol, what really rankles me is the existence of these pellets of shame.
To be fair, I can’t even be certain I’ve ever eaten the things. They actually might be quite good. There is just something about them that makes my internal organs weep. I feel insulted by their very existence.
I’m certainly not harboring some deep dissatisfaction with the concept of frozen desserts. I could ingest nothing but ice cream, Italian ices and Sno Cones from now until when my first social security check comes in and be perfectly content. It’s not like I had to be hospitalized with an ice cream headache for three weeks or got hit by a Good Humor van when I was 11 and have some odd physical aversion to this sort of thing. I practically sweat gelato.
After almost four decades of being offered a shameful array of stuff that I could not find a use for in a million lifetimes, I think this may be the Dot that broke the camels back. How many Sham-Wows, how many Pillow Pets, how many steel-belted, titanium, rust-proofed, icy cold scams can a man endure before he reached the point of feeling genuine, hot-blooded scorn? Every time one of these asinine businesses get started in the name of The American Dream, a little part of me dies.
If the little Chamber of Commerce member in your mind has started to spew rhetorical vomit about how having 67 thousand different brands of oatmeal is good for the economy and, thus, America, tell him that while this stuff may be good if your goal is to create a society who’s members all have amassed personal debt in excess of the Gross National Product of Peru it might not be the best use of their time and collective brain power.
I’m a communist, you say. Fine! At least Lenin never had to sit through toothpaste commercials. If what passes for communism in America is being ill-disposed to living in a 24 hour a day flea market that has been approved by 9 out of 10 dentists, then sign me up.
Truthfully, my real anger is at the feeling of having to participate in the market at nearly all moments. Sure, I could go sit up on a mountaintop and breathe fresh air all day, but most people’s lives put them face-to-face with The Never Ending Hustle. In The Great Gatsby, the billboard of Dr. TJ Eckleburg was a façade that hid a part of the soulless, desolate valley of ashes. The billboards of today merely serve the purpose of hiding more billboards.
I can’t get five steps away from my door without some hackneyed inducement to participate in the ever-glorious marketplace of individual freedom. Sometimes they are gentle, sometimes they are rough, sometimes they play on my nerves, sometimes they tug on my heartstrings, but the pull is interminable.
Sure, I don’t have to buy whatever this or that company is selling, but I do have to make an effort to tune it out. Constantly. And while that effort is minimal, the collective weight of it has worn me down. After all, you can be crushed under the weight of a hundred tons of feathers just as you can be crushed under a hundred tons of lead.
At some point along the line, a very real feeling of insurmountable weariness has crept into my mind. Like when you are trying to fall asleep and different vague, unconnected noises continue to awaken you right when you have become completely calm. Eventually, you can be annoyed into the belief that peace and calm are impossible.
I blame you Dippin’ Dots, because getting my arms around a problem this big and pervasive doesn’t seem feasible. I’ve forgotten how to take to the streets and I don’t know the mailing address of my duly elected state representative. I only know the language of futility and those types of words don’t move mountains. I might not be able stop the endless flow of sugar-coated avarice that flows unabated though our collective veins but I sure know how to smile when the axe of the free market lands squarely on the neck of a hated foe.
Thanks to good old-fashioned American knowhow and the virtues of commerce, I can be assured that five even uglier heads will sprout up where there once was only one. That problem, however, is for another day. Tonight when I lay my head down on a pillow, I can rest easy knowing that at least one stupid idea is being vanquished from our world. Sometimes, that’s enough.