An unnatural man and his quest for humor.

Seems some people know just how to work the system. It comes preternaturally to them. Their minds are constantly on alert for each nuance and sleight of hand available that affords the maximization of profit and excess goods. I am not casting judgement.

More power to these people, as long as their hyper and constant vigilance is directed into legitimate, legal avenues of strategy. More power to them! If they choose to channel their brain power into the exploitation of institutionalized avenues of possibility, good for them. Personally, I’m awful at gaming the system. I simply do not care enough about free or cheap stuff and about stockpiling savings and discounts using the most contorted twists of manipulation available. I don’t like money that much. This is to my own discredit, obviously. If I liked money, I would be a much different person and in a much different place. I would have directed all my energy and brain power toward the collection and nurturing of wealth and goods, which I suppose, is natural for people; but I am an unnatural person, and though I do like some stuff, it doesn’t possess me and I have always refused to be money’s bitch.

Money is great, and if I have a little extra, awesome for me. But I refuse to construct my cognitive waking state around the always-on sentry scrutiny which involves wrapping every little offering around my cerebral algorithm in a real time flow of an intensive Calculus of Profit. I am not materialistic or greedy enough to live like that, but I think my mind is capable of it. It’s just that my spirit lags.

Today something happened that once again made me realize my intellectual capacity for gaming the system, but also, pointed out my idiosyncratic disregard of the auspicious outcome such gaming can reap if one thus devotes oneself to it.

So my son, graduating high school, required a gift. It’s what we do. Our kids finish a mandatory level of schooling and we lavish them with gifts and praise and cash-studded lei’s. This is how we roll in the modern-day West, right? So I chose a specialty store I know he shops at, one which I can never be caught shopping in for myself simply because my age precludes my purchasing anything there while maintaining any semblance of self-respect. We walked in and two people were staffing the store: a manager and a newbie junior clerk type. The clerk greeted first, then the manager. I walked to the cash register and they both filed into the cashier area and I told the young guy that I wanted a gift card for $150.00. He went through the motions of preparing the blank card I handed him and the manager started doing her manager-like duties for the purchase.

He informed me, “When you spend $50 worth of purchases or more, you get a free $10 gift card.”

“Great,” I smiled.

His manager came over to help him close out the purchase and he informed her that I spent $150, as if to cue her that I was owed a $10 discount card. I could resist no longer. My humor has no sense of boundaries or self-effacing shame.

“Does that mean I get three discount cards?” I chuckled.

Neither of them laughed. They barely batted an eye. It was a funny joke, so I thought.

Was it too deep for them, or was it just not funny? This a conundrum I find myself mired in all the time. I always make jokes that people don’t understand, or that they don’t find funny. This is my existential conundrum. I used to try and quell the awkward silence by laughing or trying to elaborate my failed joke away with an additional addendum of humor that made the entire situation even less pleasant than it had become. Now, I just shut up.

I made a bad joke, that’s life. They looked at me and didn’t laugh. Good enough. I just kept quiet. I took the receipt, said thank you, and bailed.

As we walked away from the store, I told her about the $10 complimentary gift card offer, and she was on it like a fly on shit. See, she is one of those people I alluded to earlier. She knows how to legitimately game the system and bleed it of all its inefficiencies and ambiguities.

“Wow, if I would have known that, we could have gotten an extra $10 card!” I was taken aback and confused. “We could have split it. I could have bought a $50 gift card, you could have gotten a $100 gift card. The special is $50 or over…we both would have gotten a $10 card!” Oh…she meant we could have tackled this as a team. I never thought of the team concept because I never thought of getting an extra discount card because I just don’t care about an extra $10 that I would never use…

I just wasn’t considering such sly machinations against this poor retailer.

I wasn’t prepared, nor did I care enough, to peruse all sales opportunities as profit vehicles seeking to exploit poorly designed promotional offers. My humor was a poor man’s (literally) attempt at misguided humor when the path to true levity is paved with money-hungry manipulations. I just don’t get it. Such is my life. Squandering my thoughts on dubious humor instead of the quest for pure profit.

I don’t know what I’ll do if people begin laughing at my jokes. Besides, the employees probably thought I was serious. I’m sure many customers have asked the same thing, but in earnest.

I’m doomed either way.