Essay 3, Finite
By gayla mills
“Look at this,” Gene said, as we sat at the table going through holiday catalogs. This is a dangerous activity, for inevitably I find two items I want to own for every gift I want to give.
There it was, a small digital camera that attaches to your dog’s collar and can take pictures at various intervals—15 seconds, a minute, 15 minutes, and so on, for a total of 40 pictures. See the world from your puppy’s perspective, it read. Only $49.95.
This was in a Solutions catalog. I wondered what kind of problem it was trying to solve. The thing was, at that moment I suddenly wanted it, badly.
“You know, sweetie,” I said, “the biggest problem I see with this is that we’d have to swear not to tell anyone that we bought it. But wouldn’t it be great to finally see where Riley goes when he runs off in the woods?”
We began speculating about what the pictures might show. Zoey’s butt. A neighbor raising his fist and cursing. A patch of dirt. The sky. The white tail of a deer.
It was appealing, the notion of seeing the world through our dogs’ eyes. Because you really can’t know what they’re thinking. You can’t get in there, in their heads. But here was a chance to see things, in some limited way, from their point of view.
The thing is, saying you’re interested in this is one thing. Paying $49.95 plus shipping and handling is something else entirely. It’s
admitting to the world, or at least to the Chase Visa accounting department, that I was willing to purchase this ridiculous indulgence. People are out there going hungry, and I was contemplating wasting a sum of money that could feed a family for a couple of days.
But this is the dilemma we all face, isn’t it. Where do we draw the line with the luxuries we indulge in? Do we stop having that cappuccino at Starbucks because that money (from just one day) could save three children with oral rehydration treatments in Ethiopia? Do we stop subscribing to cable television because it could pay for two small business loans a month in Bangladesh?
I reopen the Solutions catalog and look again. None of the products are about Ethiopia or Bangladesh. I turn to page 32 and give the camera a second look.