Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
One of my best qualities is that I am extremely suspicious and also deeply gullible. I would say this is evidence that I contain multitudes but really I just contain two tudes. One is this GIF:
And the other is this GIF:
I believe conspiracy is everywhere but also sometimes I’m like “Ah, it’s a conspiracy to help me! Wonderful!” This makes some things difficult. Chief among them is the proliferation of intuitive ads based on internet search history. I do not like the fact that when I google something or mention it in conversation or even just think about it, ads for similar products show up on my Facebook and my Instagram (less so with Twitter, which is not, to me, an indication of Twitter’s superiority so much as a clue that the call is coming from inside the house and that that house is owned by Mark Zuckerberg). One of the frustrations with these ads is that they’re never smart enough. If a company is going to go through all the work of breaking into my mind palace—crossing the Moat of Anxiety, answering a riddle from the Drawbridge Troll of Double Entendres, navigating the guest shop (30% off all mugs through Saturday!!!)—the least they can do is enhance the searching I’ve already done. Instead I get ads for things that are sort of what I want but never quite right. All winter long I always want colorful chunky cardigans but I’m rarely able to figure out the right combination of words to find exactly what I’m looking for (mostly because what I’m looking for is locked in a storage room in my mind palace and I have, unfortunately, misplaced the key). So, all winter long I am served ads for cardigans that are either chunky or colorful or, if both, are clearly coming from a scam company somewhere in Europe. I do not appreciate an obvious scam. Please approach me only with sophisticated scammery. Oceans Eleven a sweater to me.
This week all of the ads are about sofas because I went to two (2) websites and clicked on “sofas”. Last week, all of the ads were for knock-off Pelotons because… well, you know exactly why. I did not buy a knock-off Peloton. I will be buying a sofa. And none of these ads are helping me. For instance, every ad is serving up some obviously cheap mid-century modern piece and I don’t know why the ad robots don’t understand that my taste is moving away from mid-century modern but I haven’t really figured out what’s next (I’m thinking of diving to the other end of the spectrum and going full Rococo. We’re doing Maximalism for the Apocalypse, darlings!). I also wish the ad robots would show just a bit more initiative. Like, despite my best efforts to claim all the listings for the house we just bought and remove images the images (see above: suspicion), it is still possible to find photos of the inside of our house if one is truly industrious (put your back into it, Zuckerberg!). There is even a photo of the newly painted living room. So, skittle me this: why don’t the robots find those photos, analyze my search engine history (“What is Rococo lol?” “Where do I find the wallpaper they use on AppleTV’s Dickinson?” “Pros and cons of just being unbearably eccentric from now on?” “List of songs on I May Destroy You”) and send me ads for a couch that I will actually like and will match our new living room wall color (and also send me a list of songs on I May Destroy You every time I watch a new episode because it’s obvious that I want to know what they are.)
Shopping for a couch in-person during the pandemic is largely a no-go. The other day I had to pick up something from a store next to a furniture store so I figured I’d go in if it wasn’t crowded and take a look. They’d turned off the automatic doors so when I approached I had to stand there until a manager came out to greet me. They asked me so many health questions before letting me in that I gave them a copay. I appreciate this level of thoroughness even though I didn’t see anything I liked (“Where is the Rococo section???”) and now their ads are following me around too. It’s hard being popular.
The last time we needed a couch, years ago, David and I faced a similar dilemma. We bopped around to a couple of furniture stores, unclear on what exactly we were looking for or how to figure it out. At one store, we entered and sat down on a huge white sectional. I always have dreams of getting the same huge white couch that one of my younger brothers, Stephen, has. It’s the deepest couch I’ve ever sat on. It’s basically a full-size bed but as a couch. Stephen, however, is the king of shrewdly finding deals and doing exhaustive research (the opposite of me—someone who clicks on the first link on a google search and thinks “my work here is done.”) Every time I ask Stephen for consumer advice (which I’ve done for a car, a house, and a couch, all things he owned before me), he always sends back the equivalent of a conspiracy board. With the huge couch he said something like “I got it from this company in Texas” (he does not live in Texas) “but they don’t actually sell couches and they don’t have a website. Call this number, hang up, and then call back. Don’t pay more than $50.” Babe, I don’t have time. I’m too busy trying to Shazaam songs on I May Destroy You.
The white couch that David and I found was similar to his and I thought “Ah! I’ve cracked the code just by walking into a fancy store having done no research.” A salesperson came over to greet us. She was one of those salespeople that you immediately like and also desperately want to please. She had on a chic pantsuit and sensible flats and had a halo of curly white-blonde hair; her air projected total competence in all things and the sense that she was very invested in our furniture happiness but also that she had seen it all before. I was obsessed from the jump. She also had what I can only describe as Ethel Mertz energy, as in Lucy’s sidekick from I Love Lucy. I have never wanted anything in life as much as I want Ethel Mertz energy. Ethel seemed put together in every possible way but also teetering constantly on the precipice of farce. I think the key to that energy was actress Vivian Vance’s history as a vaudeville performer. (I’m getting off-topic. Let’s put a pin in this; I will revisit my many thoughts about Ethel Mertz and the great Vivian Vance at another time. Mark your calendars.)
Anyway, Ethel came over to David and me sitting on the couch. I think she assumed we were roommates because the first words out of her mouth were “There’s a stain-proof guarantee on that! You could drop a whole pizza on it!” We looked at her blankly. Why would we drop a pizza on this couch. She then started extolling the virtues of the couch, namely its size, before reminding us that we could “dump a pitcher of beer and a whole pizza on it and not even worry.” Okay, that’s great but this scenario you have sketched out for me has me worried. I don’t even drink beer! Does it have to be a pitcher or can I use one of my crystal decanters? What size pizza? What would I be eating and drinking after I’ve finished completely ruining my couch? When I tell you that sofa shopping is stressful! Child.
To get her off the subject of the deranged frat party that she apparently thought two men in their mid-30s were having, I asked her how much it was, as it didn’t say anywhere. This is where things really took a turn. “Well,” said Ethel, “when you buy a sofa you have to think about the price per butt.” I was spiraling. Ethel, why are we speaking of butts?! Trapped between a pizza stain and the concept of butt pricing, we let her continue. “So,” she said, “a good sofa costs about $1,000 per butt” WHOSE BUTT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? She charged on “And this sofa can hold six butts.” Oh, no honey, not my ass! David and I sprang up off of those expensive cushions like an entire pitcher of beer being repelled by the stain-fighting power of a guarantee. Noah fence to literally everyone I know, but I was not then nor am I now in a position to spend one thousand doll hairs for you to sit in my house. We ended up getting a much cheaper sectional from a place aptly named Bob’s Discount Furniture and took great pride in bringing it home, setting it up, and gingerly placing an entire large carryout pizza directly on the cushions.
I was off this week so I’m re-surfacing some oldies but goodies from the column. First, in light of the VP announcement, here’s two columns about the unique experience of watching Senator Kamala Harris ask people questions. Then, in light of Cardi B and Megan THEE Stallion’s new hit song, revisiting Cardi’s perfect deposition from last year. Fun fact, the deposition was so good that even though I was on vacation at the time, I wrote this column on my phone while standing in line to get on a plane.
Sen. Kamala Harris' Was Constantly Interrupted During The Sessions Hearing But We Heard Her Loud And Clear
Every molecule in her face is saying "Bless your heart." Sessions can skip his cardiologist visit this year because I have never seen someone's heart blessed as much as Sen. Kamala Harris blessed his heart. The Pope called and said he's considering Sessions' heart for sainthood. That's how blessed it is. The rest of him? Not so much. But his heart. BLESST!
Ah, another episode of my favorite show: Law & Order: Downfall of the Republic! When last we caught up with the gang of tertiary Batman villains running the country, the Mueller Report revealed that the President wanted to but failed to obstruct justice because no one would play with him, but before that Attorney General Bill Barr—a man who always has the expression of Gene Hackman trying to sneak out of the club at the end of The Birdcage—released a letter summarizing the Mueller Report which basically said "All good; nothing to see here; definitely no crime or nuthin'." Mueller, however, wrote to Barr and was like "that is definitely not what I meant; I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion." But we didn't find out about that until yesterday, hours before Barr was scheduled to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee. And that's what you missed on Glee.
Cardi B, as you might expect, talks exactly like Cardi B even under oath and answering questions in the law offices of Reddick, Bozeman, and Lockhart. For instance, during an exchange between Cardi and a lawyer, she was asked how often she goes to California on an annual basis. She replied, "I go there a lot now." The lawyer asked, "For what reason?" Cardi answered, "Work reasons." Case closed for me, but the lawyer needed more information, asking "Yes, why?" Cardi's answer: "Because I'm Cardi B."
Reclaiming Her Time: The Work of Maxine Waters by Helena Andrews-Dyer and R. Eric Thomas, on sale October 20, 2020!
Here for It, or How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas, on sale now!
Random Thing on the Internet
Where is the Roccoco section???