Southern Life

One of my guilty pleasures (I have a few of them) is pickles.

Under the cover of darkness, when no one is looking — guilty pleasures are best carried out clandestinely — armed only with a cocktail fork stolen from my best friend, Booger Wadsworth’s last birthday bash, I do a shifty-eyed slink into the kitchen.  No plate, no napkin. Just me … the fork … and a jar of naked gherkins. On occasion, I’ve even been naked myself, or nearly so.  Oftentimes guilty pursuits are best enjoyed sans clothes. And on the sneak.

By the light of the refrigerator door, I crunch down and devour four or five of the pickles at a time. Sometimes more. Moderation is overrated and besides, what kind of nut counts anything in the wee hours? I polish off the gherkins, close the jar, rinse the fork and then steal back into bed, no one the wiser. Mission Accomplished. No one being immediately wise to the ruse fosters plausible deniability – a critical part of any caper — if one is later questioned by the household authorities.  (No clandestine activity is easily done anymore with a society pre-occupied with the installation of cameras in every nook and cranny.)

It used to be that pickles – the little sweet ones – came very tightly packed in the jar. You’d think that the just picked ‘cukes had been enjoying a Sold Out, Standing Room Only performance of The Rolling Stones moments before they were all lassoed, hog-tied, smothered in brine and then held for ransom.

Not long ago,  jars of pickles used to be crowded jam tight.  Jammed.

Lately though, store-bought gherkins are not so cozily packed, but rather, are frolicking around. What one needs is not a fork to stab a ‘wedged-in’ ‘cuke, but rather some kind of net in order to stalk them and then dip them out.

The pursuit of pleasure is challenging these days. This is especially true of the ones that carry the most latent guilt.

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Gherkins aren’t the only things that we are getting less of these days. Picked up a jar of coffee lately? Lighter, wasn’t it? (even if it cost the same as a year ago.)  Chocolate? Cereal? Mayonnaise?  Peanut Butter?  Butter itself — the stuff endorsed by Paula Deen?  The fattening stuff, the stuff that tastes good, the stuff that is not healthy for us, the stuff that people need to feel good after a trying day? Makers are putting ‘less’ in jars, bottles, boxes and tubes than they use to do.

Of course, you’d think that we’d all be getting thinner too, since food processors are giving us less to eat. Sadly, we Americans remain the second fattest group of people on Earth. Thank God for the Samoans. Although they better be careful since their Islands are located on one of those Tectonic fault-lines. A couple of extra thousands of pounds of downward pressure in the islands and … well, you get the idea.

When caught with their hands in the cookie jar (no doubt taking a few cookies out of the box), cookie makers – and their friends in other industries — say that they are giving us less in order to hold the line on prices? It’s because of the recession and mostly because of increase in oil prices, they say. They’d have us think that every single product was baked, boiled, broiled, battered, or blanched in oil!

Me, I don’t buy any of thus malarkey. For one thing, all of that high fructose corn syrup and trans-fat stuff still remains in everything. You’d think that manufacturers could save a few pennies per bottle or box by leaving some of that stuff out.  For another thing, many of the items  that are on the grocery shelves were  manufactured and delivered long before any of that oil stuff that happened over in The Middle East.

I could be wrong about all of this but I don’t think so.

Given our ‘copy-cat’ ways, I fear that other businesses might soon adopt the ‘giving us less’ for the money approach:

The local bus company: “Sorry buddy, we’ve got to put you out three miles from home. We’re cutting costs. It’s because of the oil. Now get the hell off my bus!”

Steven Spielberg: “Sorry, folks, we can only let you see 110 minutes of this movie. It was originally 120 minutes long.  You’ll just have to figure out for yourself if someone ever came and picked up little E.T.  Sorry for the inconvenience. It’s because of the oil. We’ll tell you how it all turned out after the price of crude goes down. ”

The Airlines: “Yeah, we know that you paid for a ticket to New York, but we’re going to have to let you off here … above Baltimore. It’s because of the oil. You can walk the rest of the way.  It’ll be good exercise. Now put on this parachute … and out you go. Happy Landings!”

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In the end, the gherkin problem is symbolic, of course. The cost of everything is going up these days, especially the cost of guilty pleasure. Chocolate, lattes, fig newtons (another of my vices) cigarettes, liquor, porn, hot women – and gherkins to name  just a few.  Whatever your poison is, you can bet that it’s costing more these days to get at it – i.e. it costs more to feel guilty. (In my book, if a pleasurable act doesn’t carry with it a  meaningful level of guilt, it’s hardly worth pursuing in the first place.)

One  might  think that we’d be a better people – i.e. less guilty because we can’t afford to eat as many gherkins (or whatever one’s vices happen to be.) I doubt it. We always seem to find a way of getting what we want. Necessity is often the mother of invention (as well as  inventive new methods of accomplishing one’s objective.)

...it's because of the oil situation in the Middle East.

There used to be a time when it came to ‘self-indulgence’ and questionable pursuits, all you had to worry about was feeling guilty. Well that, and getting caught.  “Sin now, pay later”, as it were. Nowadays, we have to also worry about the price of sin – or ‘sin substitutes’…. and  if there are going to be as many ‘sin opportunities’ available as there used to be for the same price. I don’t know if the wages of sin are increasing, but the cost of it sure as hell is — along with most everything else.

We sinners are in a pickle.

It’s all because of the oil situation, I’m told.

© Copyright 2011 Will Cantrell

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Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.