What Came Next

And then one year, all the stores raised their prices for Black Friday.

Everything was 100%-800% more expensive. During the month of November, the stores hyped their Black Friday mark-ups: $3001 for a bulky, standard-def TV; $801 for a blender.

Thanksgiving evening, the overnight lines for Black Friday “doorblocker” sales (6 AM to 8AM, minimum 30 per customer) were meager. A few stalwarts huddled in the cold, driven more by stubborn tradition than genuine enthusiasm.

The bulk of Americans stayed home that Friday. They made breakfast with leftovers. They sipped coffee and chatted on Messenger. They wondered how to spend their free time.

The best Black Friday of all: so much time saved.

Why We Love

Indeed, LaCroix has captivated a thirsty populace. It’s zero calorie, zero sweetener, just flavorful enough to curb your soda craving, just fizzy enough to distract you from work-induced despair. Tongue-tingling, hope-prolonging LaCroix. It’s August in Manhattan. The whole city is humid as a jock strap. You ask your roommate to bring an ice-cold LaCroix from the fridge.

A moment passes. You close your eyes, imagine the first sip. The perspiring can frosts your lips. The crisp ambrosia releases you from this swollen, scorching heat prison of a city.

Your roommate taps you on the shoulder, plunks a container into your waiting hands:

A scalding mug of hot chocolate. You smell the sweet steam rise from its thick, creamy foam.

That asshole.

Literally the best beverage in the world, and the last liquid you’d want to drink in this sweltering moment.

LaCroix and hot chocolate: two completely different sets of ambitions, for non-overlapping crowds of people. Hot chocolate is a terrible stand-in when you crave LaCroix.

Perhaps this falls short of revelation. And yet:

We endlessly debate the worthiness of reality television vs. HBO drama, of EDM vs punk, of Tinder vs. serendipity, of those shoes with the toes in them vs. literally going to hell.

Instead of sprinting into the impossible, endless debate of whatever vs. what have you, before declaring LaCroix morally bankrupt or hot chocolate intellectually insipid, first ask: what is this liquid trying to do? Take whatever confounds you and ask: who is this for? What are their goals? Does this succeed or fail on those terms?

This is far from relativism. There is good hot chocolate and bad chocolate. Good LaCroix (coconut) and bad LaCroix (peach-pear). Until you accept that the best hot chocolate is also the worst LaCroix, then you will have trouble understanding the popularity of anything, the enthusiasm of anyone.

Why We Act

The programmer looks at the writer and thinks, “Ah, she just writes words on a page and makes up whatever she wants. It’s all feelings, nothing objective. Not that hard.”

The writer looks at the painter and thinks, “Looks relaxing. He can just move his hand and paint what’s in front of him while listening to music and call it a day. Not that hard.”

The painter looks at the photographer and thinks, “All she does is click a button. Takes literally less than a second. Not that hard.”

The photographer looks at the barista and thinks, “Must be nice for him, getting to make coffee and chat with folks all day. Not that hard.”

The barista looks at the owner of the coffee shop and thinks, “Wow, she drops in, tells us what to do, and is out before lunch. Not that hard.”

The owner of the coffee shop looks at the programmer and thinks, “Are you kidding, six figures straight out of college to type on a computer and play ping-pong every day? Not that hard.”

The funny thing is, they’re all right.