Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Why yes, I have heard of “stocks.”
A few weeks back I got a sales call from a wealth management consultant (a made-up job?) about the concept of 401ks (a made-up thing!). I didn’t know it was a sales call. They’d gotten my information from Hearst because I contributed to a 401k while I worked at ELLE and they told me “we’re going to help you transition your 401k!” And I thought, well that’s awfully sweet. I was wondering what would become of it. It’s nice to know there’s people out there who will cradle my imaginary doubloons and ferry them to live at home with our tax-sheltered Heavenly Father. What I didn’t know is that my 401k didn’t have to go anywhere. It wasn’t its time! I should have known it was a sales call because I have never in my life gotten a call from a wealth management consultant, because it would sort of be like me getting a call from a “full head of hair management consultant.” Babe, my doubloons and my follicles are living with our hirsute Heavenly Father.
On the call, the wealth management consultant (Prince Ali from Aladdin) launched into a complicated spiel that blew my eyebrows off of my face. I am completely serious when I tell you I had no idea what we were talking about. He jumped into thoughts, concepts, and theories that didn’t seem to have a thing to do with any crisp $20 Harriet Tubmans that I’ve seen, held, or sent to a student loan company. I scribbled incomprehensible notes in my bullet journal like the one time I took Astrophysics in college because I think stars are pretty (and I’m trying to destroy the moon). I actually went back and looked at my notes this morning. Here’s some of what the page says. Let me know if you have any questions.
Aggressive glide path (space ship. Moon?)
(We used the same sheet to write down an Indian food carryout order later on. I think.)
Now, look, I don’t find feigned ignorance funny. Like, when you post something about Beyoncé online and someone responds “What’s a Beyoncé?” Go directly to prison. I find that so annoying because Google exists. There are many things that I see, hear, and read about on a daily basis that I’ve never heard of. If I want to know more, I google. Or I ask a question that’s not wrapped in snark. It is fine to not know something, but to act like that knowledge is completely out of one’s grasp as a way of negging? Bleh.
So, when I tell you that I had no idea what was happening on that call, I truly mean it. I’ve since googled everything that we talked about and I am happy to report that, yes, I have heard of stocks!
That came in super handy this week when everyone was selling Game Stop short stocks by the seashore.
As you’ve perhaps heard, many people on Reddit collaborated to buy Game Stop stocks in an effort to drive the price up; it worked and a lot of people made money. This was bad news for some hedge fund managers, however, because they shorted Game Stop (which I believe means they invested in the concept[?] of the stocks not going up). Anyway, everybody is mad and my money ain’t changed an inch.
Because I am a huge fan of magical thinking, the minute people started talking about investing a dollar in Game Stop and having it turn into $400 over night I was like, surely this will trickle down on to me somehow.
Did I have any idea how? I absolutely did not. Time travel, perhaps. That one paragraph of summary about the Game Stop situation is the result of me reading at least three articles on it every day and each time getting to a point in the explanation where I was like “I dunno; maybe I should go back to Astrophysics.”
But what I did figure out rather quickly, however, was that this event sent Wall Street into a tizzy. I thought, oh, no, maybe this will trickle down on to me somehow.
I logged on to Fidelity, where my 401k lives, and it was just this photo:
I was like, “Miss Fidelity, what’s this I hear about Game Stop?”
And Fidelity replied, “well, I’ll put it like this: Game Stop has got a point, she’s an icon, she’s a legend. Now come on now.”
I said, “can I get Game Stop stocks in my seashell?”
After people started getting rich, the inaccurately named stock trading app Robinhood and many others shut down trading on Game Stop. Suddenly, I understood what was going on! “This is the running on the bank scene in Mary Poppins!” I screamed with a mouth full of Samosa Chaat. “This is my area of expertise! I was just talking about this two weeks ago!”
What I need is a “wealth” management consultant who speaks to me exclusively in references to the movies I am obsessed with. “Hi Eric, this is a message from Prince Ali from Aladdin. Just letting you know you need to drink your juice, Shelby. And by ‘drink’ I mean ‘pay’ and by ‘juice’ I mean ‘your taxes’.”
See how simple that was? Eventually on the call with the consultant I said, “stranger friend across the telephone wires: I have no idea what any of this means, but good luck and God bless. However, I’ve taken very copious notes, as is one of my core competencies. Many volunteer organizations have elected me as Secretary because ‘you write stuff right?’ and even though what I write is ‘jokes on the internet’ and not ‘Roberts Rules of Order’ I have learned to adapt. So, I’m going to google some Lady Gaga memes and I’ll get back to you.”
It was so liberating. I’ve found that I love telling people that we have reached the limits of my capacity to understand in the present context. I have spent so many years feeling defensive about being thought to be dumb but, oddly, the thing that broke the spell was learning how to say, as Denzel famously asks in Philadelphia, “explain it to me like I’m a 3-year-old.” That’s good advice! Ain’t nothing wrong with reminding people “I just fell off the turnip truck so let’s run this back a beat.”
Yesterday, however, I think I met my match. So, we had to have a tech from Verizon come out to fix the internet. As you are aware, my wifi has been on the “Sick and Shut In” list for a while now. Hard times. And I was loathe to call someone to the house because *everything everywhere all the time* But I’m about to start on a project where I need to be on Zoom for 7 hours a day for the next 14 weeks and I just didn’t have an option. Fortunately, when the tech arrived, he quickly discovered that the issue was outside the home, which meant that he didn’t have to come in. Good news for him, me, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
He looked at our outdoor internet box (a technical term), followed the wire up and across the street, and then pointed at the utility pole. He said, “water is freezing in that black box up there which is disrupting the light.”
I said, “Is that a metaphor?”
He said it was not. He then said he was going to go check and see if he was right. I had no idea what this had to do with the internet (although when I told this story to David he immediately understood that this had something to do with fiber optics. I said, “I’m really busy with my moon rocket.”)
The technician knocked on the door. He was extremely excited. “I was right! It was the light,” he said. I briefly considered that this tech was Ariana Grande, who famously declared “The light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole.”
The tech said, “I moved your internet to a new port and the light went down 30 decibels!”
I was like, “Woah, woah, woah. We were just talking about light and now we’re talking about sound? I don’t believe in switching horses midstream buddy. Also, decibels going down? On my internet? No, thanks. As President Jennifer Lopez once said, ‘Let’s get loud!’”
Anyway, the internet is working and I don’t know how. If I wanted to, I could google it. But I don’t!
I had a BLAST talking to Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo on their podcast A Thing or Two about deep bench pop culture references, comedy, and the seismic effect of Britney Spears's Toxic. You can listen here.
Random Thing on the Internet
This thread, about a couple who spent their time in quarantine making a miniature house with incredible detail is truly marvelous. Click through to Twitter to see the whole thing; there’s so many pictures!
I just fell off the turnip truck so let’s run this back a beat,