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I Wish I Were Happy Like The People In The Electronics-Store Flyer

I suppose I've never really had what you'd call a "zest for living." I've always just sort of slogged through life. Everything seems so insurmountable and complicated, and at the end of even a routine day, I feel drained. Yet I realize that there are some people for whom life is relatively carefree and gratifying. That's why I envy the people I see in the electronics-store flyer in the Sunday newspaper.

After I collect the paper from my doorstep, the first thing I look at is the Best Buy sales insert. I pore over every page, each one offering me a glimpse into a world of untold happiness. I find myself vicariously living the joyful lives of the people pictured with the various electronics products.

Take, for example, the pretty lady with the shoulder-length strawberry-blonde hair and the handsome man in the butter-yellow polo shirt, who, I assume, are husband and wife. (I call them "Katy" and "Greg.") Last week, Katy and Greg sat in front of their 36-inch JVC stereo TV with S-video and A/V inputs and digital comb filter, enjoying a still from the upcoming DVD Platinum Edition of Disney's Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. The week before that, they were both seated in front of their Hewlett-Packard Pentium III Processor 1 GHz PC with 17" monitor, scanning their tropical vacation photos with a Umax 3400 42-bit flatbed scanner. In both instances, they were smiling so broadly, you'd think their faces would cleave in two.

Then there's "Kevin," the bright-eyed African-American teen who can often be found grooving to his favorite tunes on a Rio 800 128MB MP3 player or playing "NBA2K1" on his Sega Dreamcast. This week, Kevin was cruising the Internet on an 800 MHz Sony Vaio notebook computer with DVD-ROM drive while a pretty Latina girl talked to one of her doubtlessly many friends on her dual-mode Sprint PCS phone. Her right hand was on Kevin's shoulder, which indicated to me that he must have broken up with "Rhonda," the cute African-American girl in the midriff-baring top who just last week was snapping photos of him with an Olympus 3.3 megapixel digital camera. My brow furrowed with concern: Was there trouble in paradise? I needn't have worried, because when I turned the page, there was none other than Rhonda, beaming with pride in a trim business suit as she held a Palm m505 handheld with 65,000-color display. Not all of life's twists and turns need end in defeat and despair.

But, as much as I love my weekly Best Buy flyer, sometimes I find it too painful to peruse. It reveals to me in glossy, full-color reality what a mess my own life is, how I've wasted so much of my time on self-pity and dull care. Surely, the wheelchair-bound 6-year-old girl who appeared several weeks ago has experienced more hardship in her young life than I have in my 34 years. Yet the translucent pink Game Boy she holds in her small hands has given her profound joy. Joy that, alas, still eludes me, though I seek it always.

Surely, I am doing something wrong. But what? This past Sunday, overcome with equal measures of anguish and self-hatred, I began to crumple up the flyer. But then my eyes fixed upon the visage of a trim, distinguished, gray-haired retiree listening to a Sony compact CD audio system with stylish wood cabinetry. Though it offered only a small glimmer of hope, it put my mind at considerable ease. It was heartening to see a dynamic older man who was not afraid to try new things and, most important, was not fading from sight in a spiritual and mental freefall seemingly without end.

What accounts for the happiness of the people in the Best Buy flyer? Certainly, the no-interest financing until January 2003 must play a role. Yet the offer extends only to purchases of $399 and up, made with a qualified Best Buy credit card. Could it be the fact that Best Buy will not be undersold by its major competitors? Or that Best Buy will match a competitor's lower prices on available products of the same brand and model, plus another 10 percent of the difference, provided you produce verification of the lower price as well as your original Best Buy receipt within 30 days of purchase? Or that Best Buy boasts 41 convenient locations in the tri-state area? These enticements can only help.

I once dared ponder the purchase of one of the store's wares, a modest 1.7-cubic-foot Sanyo compact refrigerator, only $69.99 after mail-in rebate. But I chided myself for such hubris. You cannot buy your way into Best Buy ecstasy, I determined. You must be to the manor born. Such passion for all things electronic must come from within. Otherwise, I would be in that flyer myself, happily enhancing my home-theater system with a Pioneer 500-watt Dolby Digital/DTS digital receiver.

I now resign myself to going about my minor existence in my usual fumbling, furtive way, never to taint that glorious Valhalla known as Best Buy with my trifling presence. Yet I am still plagued with yearning. I have already consigned this week's flyer to the trash five times today. Nevertheless, I am irresistibly drawn to Katy and Greg. In the latest installment, they are driving in their minivan as their young son, seated in the rear, enjoys a mobile TV entertainment system with DVD player featuring remote and video-game input. Katy, in the passenger seat, peers over her shoulder at her son, her eyes gleaming with boundless affection and wonder.

So are mine, Katy. So are mine.

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