Why I Don’t Collect Things.
I was staring at a SEPTA token the other day. I have no idea why. I just, out of nowhere, found myself admiring it like it was some kind of little marvel. How much does it cost to mint these, I thought to myself. Is it even called minting? It’s not money. Not really. So, is it just pressing in that case? Is there another name for it? How do they get this one copper colored strip through the middle of the coin? These, I decided, were mysteries that needed solving.
I decided to start collecting subway tokens. I thought it would be cool to have different subway tokens from all over the country, and maybe all over the world. I could compare them, research who designed them, learn why some have holes and some do not, find out if all of the subway people got together and agreed to have dissimilar tokens—things like that. It would be especially cool to have all of these tokens in the future, when transit companies move to a one hundred percent tokenless system, like New York has already done. Or, in the event that teleportation is available and affordable for widespread use and subways are eliminated altogether. ‘Cause it’s the future.
About a millisecond after I thought about the teleportation, I decided that token collecting was a ridiculously terrible idea, and that collecting subway tokens would be akin to social suicide.
The problem with collecting anything is that there are little societies with social systems that I would inevitably have to become involved with. Simply by beginning the collecting process, I would open myself up to the rules and regulations and hierarchies that these systems operate upon. Take collecting model trains, for example. If you are involved with the model train collecting community and you are not someone’s dad, you’re on the bottom by default. Grandfathers are automatically above dads, and grandfathers who wear railroad-related hats and actually sit around railroad tracks watching trains are above everyone.
Beyond certain characteristics like this, the hierarchy is based on what kind or how many of the collected item you have. Someone will always be beating you at this game. If you want to collect baseball cards—not just in a “I’m eight and I collect baseball cards ‘because I have fifty” type of way but as a “hobbyist”—go ahead. Keep in mind, though, that you will never have a Honus Wagner, and Wayne Gretzky will, because he can afford to blow a million dollars on a baseball card. If you did that, you’d just be a chump. Oh, wait, you have a mint rookie Jose Canseco? Well, somebody else has five, so fuck off. That means you’re losing.
Were I to begin collecting subway tokens, I would inevitably have to deal with this kind of thing. I would have to meet up with other people who collect subway tokens. These people are probably fat. I’d have to visit their web pages, and look at their tokens, and talk about their tokens with them. They probably have message boards. They probably have meetings where they all sit around someone’s living room and eat cookies that look like big tokens while discussing token properties. And they probably have dogs. And their dogs are probably fat.
Not only—follow me on this—not only would I have to do all of these things and hang out with all of these people, but I would also have to accept their social hierarchy. We can be relatively certain that what is considered worthy, or hip, or cool in the token collecting world does not conform exactly to normal societal views on hipness or coolness or worthiness. It is possible, and probably very likely, that the social standards of the token collectors are in direct contrast from those of “real people” society, and I can almost guarantee that my current feelings on who is above who would clash directly with the system that I would have to integrate into. What I’m getting at is, that most likely, one or all of these token cookie eating, golden retriever raising, Moody Blues listening weirdo fatties would now, in terms of relative social truth, be above me.
I have enough problems with my social position as it stands. I have to deal with being less cool than muscley twenty-eight year olds who hang out in Old City but still live in mom’s basement. I have to compete with guys who wear sweatpants to bars without irony. I am, in the mind of most people, still less cool than guys who regularly—regularly—wear military caps with scarves. If I have this hard enough of a time dealing with minor disagreements in coolness like these, adapting to a social structure where being the least best makes you the coolest would probably make me bust a synapse.
Okay, I have to go now. I’m going to my room to listen to bands you’ve never heard of on old vinyl that I got, like, at the flea market. So fuck off.