My whole life has been spent in the pursuit of instant gratification. It must be some new generation thing, or it might have something to do with my genetic makeup, I’m not sure. All I know is I don’t have any interest in anything on this planet that cannot, or will not, satisfy my immediate desires.
I am unable to eat a PORTION of a pint of ice cream. It tastes so unbelievably creamy and delicious right now, so why not just eat the whole thing? If I want some at another time, I’ll go buy more. Ditto that on a six pack of beer.
I am unable to save money. I haven’t had a savings account since I was thirteen. I had a paper route then, and it only seemed proper to stuff the money into the bank. The problem with that was, I never saw the whole pile of money that I had accrued. All I could ever see was some penciled-in entry in my passbook. That seemed a bit arbitrary to me. I mean, I could put in a fourteen-digit figure in that little blue book if I wanted, it didn’t really mean that I HAD that money, right?
So I withdrew all of that money one afternoon and blew every cent of it on a "boom-box" and approximately ten pounds of candy. Tracing back to that moment, I realize that was when I started living paycheck to paycheck.
Once a normal person gets a couple thousand dollars ahead of the game, they start thinking about investments, houses, stocks, vacations, retirement, whatever. I get a couple grand ahead and I quit my job, toss all of my belongings in my car and take off for three months.
"So long, suckers!" I yell on my way out of town.
Three months later I’m standing on my parents’ porch with a long, sad face and a look of "I think I learned something this time" in my eyes.
Instant gratification is very important, though. With all of the movies about the world coming to an end and with the impending "Millennium Brings Armageddon from Jesus Christ", not to mention the escalation of weird, daily deaths ("Man Dies While Sipping Beer Friday After Work") in my age group, the future seems so bleak.
This is why I contacted the Social Security Office in Washington, D.C. and requested to have my name and number removed from the ledger.
"I want to cash out right now," I said, "I’m not going to be around for retirement anyway, so what’s the point?"
"Social security doesn’t work like that, sir," the cyber/human monotone voice informed me. I’m guessing they’ve heard this request once or twice before.
I didn’t really accept their answer, though. I mean, I’ve got over $20,000 to my name, according to the government. It’s MY money - I am number 52791XXXX, so why can’t I have it? I wrote letters to them once a month. In these letters I mentioned the importance of attending to my IMMEDIATE needs, rather than the unlikely ones in the future.
After I hadn’t heard from them in two months, I bumped my letter writing up to once a week. I was firing off a letter every single day at one point, until one quiet, hazy morning was shattered by a ringing phone.
The assistant to the Director of Social Security informed me that it would no longer be necessary to mail my inquiries.
I sighed. "You’re sending me my money. Finally."
"No sir. Social security doesn’t work like that. Please stop wasting your money on stamps. Your letters are now being immediately discarded upon receipt."
I hung up the phone, a bit disenchanted. I find that I’m a bit like a cat when it comes to getting instant gratification: I can lose interest in something lickety-split and venture on, completely aloof and without guilt.
Now I’m writing the State Lottery Department. I’m explaining that although I don’t physically OWN the winning tickets to all of the unclaimed cash that they’ve accrued over the years, I think some of it belongs to me. It only seems fair.