Discover more from Low Lift Ask
New genre of experience dropped
In the past month or so, I’ve developed a strong affinity for items. The humble item, that most overlooked of entities, came to exert a strange and powerful hold on me. Honestly, I’ve always felt slightly superior to other members of the PMC (Pinky Monkey Collective) that obsess over items in a way I used to find profoundly uninteresting. Nice items are nice, I thought, but god forbid I ever let them consume my mind.
How naïve I was.
Turns out all it took was a roommate shift to throw my mind into a state of profound disarray—a state I attempted to remedy by slathering on a homemade poultice of retail therapy so potent, it would make Paris Hilton shed a tear. An incense holder, a new poster, a new mirror, a new t-shirt. A wok, a new knife, a packet of food-grade diatomaceous earth for miscellaneous use, a little wood container for my floss picks. These are some of the items that I’ve invited into my life in the hopes they can replace what I can never regain—fleeting youth, the ability to stay up late, the PS4 that I barely used but randomly really miss now that my ex-roommate (rightfully) took it to Syracuse. Joy, wonder, unemployment, dat 2020 summer feeling, Arthur on PBS Kids after school, mommy’s milky. All of them, replaced by little fucking trinkets and tchotchkes that give me 20% off for signing up for their newsletter (this newsletter will never give you 20% off).
Mr. Zuckerberg, I am begging you to stop showing me ads like these. I am very vulnerable right now.
It was in the pursuit of an item, this item:
That I found myself… in a CUMS.
What is a CUMS? Your feeble mind wonders, too hesitant to ask. Well, fret not, dear reader, for I shall reveal all…
CUMS stands for:
Some of you may be thoughtful, intelligent people, and therefore don’t find yourself in a CUMS very often. I, however, am always setting up weird CUMS for myself. A CUMS can be defined by the one thought you have while in a CUMS: Why did I put myself into this situation?
I write this on the 8pm Thursday train home to New York from Philadelphia, having been in a CUMS earlier today. Here are the events that led me to the CUMS:
In my newfound quest to acquire items to fill the hole in my soul, I stumbled upon a website for a Philadelphia-based vintage store that I thought had “cool stuff.” After browsing the website for a while, I honed in on the fruit bowl and a small desk lamp as items that would make me emotionally whole.
I added the items to my online “shopping cart,” which is what we’ve decided to call a purchase staging area website instead of “blee bloo,” which would have also worked and been normalized over time. Uh oh, I thought—shipping is $50 and there are no returns. Well, I’m not going to pay $50 to have handsome, muscular, sweat-drenched men deliver these goods to me, especially when the goods are Tchotchkyist in nature… Guess it’s to the damn “delete from cart” gulag for me.
But wait, I thought, my friend, who crucially has a car, is going to be in Philadelphia for a conference in a few weekends. Perhaps she could be of assistance in my grand design… perhaps she could make a quick pit stop at the Item Place and just pick up these little things, and it wouldn’t be difficult for her, and I would get what I want! Here, dear readers, lies the seed of my demise—the hubris in the assumption that the logistics of item acquisition would align leaves me aghast.
I receive an email from the store, asking me to sign up for a “pickup slot.” All of the slots are on weekdays, and my friend’s conference is on a weekend. Well fuck, I think, I guess I’ll have to pay for shipping after all. $50. Useless waste of money…
Wait, but Philadelphia is cool, and I haven’t been there in years. Maybe I should just go and pick up the items myself, and see some friends who live there, and it would cost $50 for the Amtrak tickets, and everything would just be fine and normal!
Oh, but I have to work. That’s fine, I can work from home (due to aforementioned membership in the Pinky Monkey Collective) so I can just go to Philadelphia early in the morning, work from there, and come back at night.
All of this is fairly reasonable, if sort of weird and arbitrary. I didn’t think through the obvious—that waking up early and going to Philadelphia is actually quite exhausting, that some work days are more demanding than others, that perhaps the items are not as important as having peaceful, calm experiences that don’t put me in situations where I find myself lugging a fruit bowl and lamp down this street to the bus while listening to and watching a “company town hall meeting” on my phone, 100 miles from home.
None of this is actually particularly difficult or upsetting, but it’s frankly too complicated to explain why I found myself in the situation to the average person. It takes about 90 seconds to explain this. That is too much explanation for such a boring, mundane, stupid thing.
Really, this is the crux of it. Having to explain such inanity, so consistently? It’s one thing to tell an exciting story of a grand coincidence or an earth-shattering event—it’s another to regale someone with the frustrating texture of modern, rootless life. That’s a defining feature of a CUMS—it’s boring to talk about, boring to listen to, but the snapshot of the situation itself has the seed of potentially being interesting. A CUMS invites inquiry but leaves the inquirer hanging. It’s like a big giant inflatable ball that gets thrown your way, and you can tell that it’ll have really nice heft and bounce, but then when you actually catch it, it’s surprisingly light and unsatisfying to hold.
My last note on CUMS: All CUMS are self-inflicted. Somewhere, along the way, a seed of stubbornness, a misunderstanding of one’s limits, a desire for inane pleasure, the strange ingrained need to save money and cheap out—they’re the final element, along with misfortune and bodily discomfort, that leads to a CUMS. Now that I’ve introduced you to the idea of CUMS, I hope you, dear reader, can learn to identify and avoid these situations, as they are a massive waste of one’s singular and precious life.
Some may say that all CUMS are self-inflicted, but I disagree. Some CUMS? Well…shit, hah. Sum CUMS cum frum uther people (couldn’t figure this one out).