The Sad Ballad of the FarmVille Thief
At first, I don't understand the insistence of the noise. I am pressed up against a glass wall, staring into the eyes of the snake standing at attention on the other side. I know I have to be eaten. The snake detaches its jaw and lunges as if to swallow me. It would have but for the glass. I have to get beyond the glass. But what is that terrible noise? The noise is like the longing I feel for the creature -- incessant, anxiety-inducing, torturous.
Rinnnnnng. Rinnnnnng. Rinnnnnnnnnng. I reach out for the noise and the glass becomes flesh, its warmth taking the snake with it into darkness. Rinnnnnng. It's behind me. I turn, seeking, grasping in the dark, scattering the things at my reach, still unable to locate the origin of the noise. I'm getting closer. I can hear it now. Rinnnnnng.
I fall, a short drop cushioned by something soft. Pillows. Ah, the phone, the phone. It's the phone. I attempt to untangle my arms from my hair, but they're caught in the sheets I took with me when I slid off the bed. Rinnnnnng.
I pull the blindfold from my face, locate the phone on my nightstand and reach for it. A number I don't recognize. Two missed calls. No messages, of course. I killed my voice mail -- I hate voice mails. I wonder who it was? Not bothering to get up, I begin going through my inbox with my legs still halfway on the bed. Press release, press release, pitch, press release, news from a friend, press release, press release, someone added me on Pinterest, press release... courtesy notification regarding suspicious activity on my account?
Oh, God, what now? Once my bank froze my account because I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes. Yes, it was very unlike me -- but you try walking around Manhattan in the middle of summer with anal plugs for stilettos! You'd fall for promises of "almost like being barefoot!" too. (It was nothing like being barefoot, by the way. Never wore them again).
It would be so embarrassing if my bank had frozen my account because of how savagely I behaved last night. "It's just not who you are!" I imagine my personal banker telling me as he looks over the charges, his brow furrowing the way it does when I suggest we do something insane or slightly illegal with my money. Yes, yes, there was something particularly twenty-something about last night. No doubt my mascara's run down to my navel. I'd look in the mirror, but my body feels like ground beef.
Oh, all right, then. I answer the confounded phone and go through the mutual screening process with the bank. Once we're both satisfied we're talking to the right person, the woman on the other end begins reviewing the "suspicious" transactions.
Except they have nothing to do with my revelry the night prior. They're so horrifying, I find my strength and get up, running to my laptop as gracefully as the tangled sheets will allow, which is to say, not gracefully at all.
There, on my own screen, I see it, too. The dream of the snake and foggy memories of laughter and the sort of fun that only makes sense to people living through a somewhat stunted post-adolescent existential crisis fade immediately. I am wide awake, staring at the screen. My card has been involved in a number of transactions to purchase Facebook credits.
Photo by Helga Weber. (Flickr)
It's not the theft that bothers me. Money is money, it comes and goes. But Facebook credits?! Of all the things in the world to do with fraudulently-acquired free money, some sad person somewhere in this country decided to buy Facebook credits. Thousands of them. Not Petrossian's special reserve Alverta caviar. Not a pair of Choos. Not a compound bow. Not a trip to Mallorca. No. Given the chance, they went for the Facebook credits.
I open another window and I read about Facebook credits. According to what I find, credits are not easily transferrable or refundable. Basically, someone used my card not in a scam, but because they wanted the in-network game tokens. What are they for? I wondered. Facebook's prime example was FarmCash, the currency used in the popular Zynga game FarmVille.
If you could have anything in the world, would you pick Facebook credits? I pictured the perpetrator. Unkempt, malcontent, chained to a desk at a tedious job, spending day in and day out in front of a huge, dusty monitor with archaic resolution with only FarmVille to give their life meaning.
FarmVille! I am the paradigm of fine living and someone steals my card to play FarmVille?! That's outrageous! What kind of person loses touch with the pleasures of life to the extent that the only thing they can imagine thieving is Facebook credits?!
"This is heartbreaking!" I exclaim.
"This is why we have fraud protection available to all account-holders, ma'am," the woman from my bank's fraud department tells me. "We will return the credit to your account and investigate this further." She doesn't understand why I'm upset, but it doesn't matter. I thank her, and consider going back to sleep. But I don't. I can't stop thinking about the FarmVille thief and what it must be like to feel so stuck that the only thing left is fraud to enable more sitting before a monitor.
I've been like that. It wasn't FarmVille or fraud, but I know what it's like to feel stagnant. I don't know how it happens. It feels like we're moving up, like we're achieving something, but the grind is a high price to pay. Work, commitments, obligations and errands pile up higher and higher and next thing you know, you're dying to get home so you can just throw on sweatpants, pop a Hot Pocket in the microwave and watch another season of The X-Files or Army Wives or Law & Order or Sex & The City -- or whatever you've already seen 18,000 times.
It's easy. It's comfortable. It's better than work and stress and the fact you're behind on your taxes or upside down on your mortgage or tired of being unable to save any money because of all the other expenses you're dealing with. Some days on your way to work, the idea of doing it all over again for yet another day is so demoralizing that you almost wish that ice cream truck would take you out as you made your way across the street. You're grateful it doesn't and chastise yourself for even thinking that way (how ungrateful! You have your health and a nice home and people who love you!), but still, you thought it. That's how tired you feel. Not body-tired, soul tired.
I wholeheartedly believe that the daily grind atrophies the soul. If we don't feed it with wonder and laughter and fun, we starve it, and a withered soul is not a creative soul or a hungry soul. It's not a soul that will jump up from the couch when a friend calls asking if we want to go have a picnic in the park. So the cycle continues, with us stuck inside of it, tired and stuck and done.
If we ever long for an experience of some kind, we bemoan how difficult it has become to enjoy the pleasures of life. "Everything costs money," we tell ourselves. "There is no such thing as a free lunch." And we believe it. We believe it even though we know a lot of parks, lakes and riverbanks have no admittance fee. We believe it even though we know beaches do not. We believe it even though botanical gardens and museums charge less than what we pay when we mechanically get a coffee drink at Starbucks on our way to work.
The withered spirit is not one for strokes of creative genius, but fortunately, we have the internet. A search for "free events Los Angeles" spit out an entire site devoted to free activities happening around town: salsa lessons, poetry readings, concerts, lectures, film screenings, dancing, plays, open mic nights, live painting sessions, open buffet and open bar events, pole dancing lessons, art crawls, cultural dances, a carnival, a parade, an evening at the aquarium. And these are only the activities happening in the next week.
I know that's not everything, either, because I have signed up for several newsletters from my favorite museums, galleries and cultural centers and I know they have events lined up for the week that are also open to the public. How did I find these places? I took a walk around my neighborhood, each time going a little bit farther than the time before. I've been in this neighborhood for two years but wandering around instead of jumping in a car and going straight from point A to point B has made it so it feels like I've been here for so much longer. I know these streets, these people and these places in a way I wouldn't if I'd not taken the time to explore.
Of course, not all living situations enable you to walk to nearby cafes and museums. Fortunately, we have sites like Yelp and even Google Maps, which can help one locate the nearest anything. Locating places to see isn't the only thing Yelp is good for, either. Just the other day I got an e-mail from them about their 100 Days of Summer parties, three huge events involving food, drinks and entertainment -- completely free of charge, provided one RSVPs.
Local blogs, newsletters and even weeklies or dailies can open up entire new worlds within our communities, bringing us everything from art and wine tastings to underground parties. The truth is that it doesn't matter where you live. There is always something to do. Somewhere out there in your city, someone has put together something amazing to share with the world. And if by chance they haven't, who's to say you can't? Why not go on your own art walk or photo walk? Why not call some friends to join in? Why not ask them to call some of their friends? Why not have a drink after, see if you can catch a sunset on a rooftop somewhere? What else is going on around town? Does the bartender know?
Your city is yours, but do you live there? You curse the traffic and the hours it keeps, but do you know it? There is a life out there to be lived, people. A life full of wonder and fun and all manner of delights. You are not your job and your obligations -- you are a human hungry for experience.
Get out there. You don't need to be rich and you don't need to take what isn't yours. You just have to step outside and be open to experience. Don't be like the FarmVille thief! There is more, so much more -- I promise. You just have to be open to experience and take that first step.