Queuing for jelly beans

I was passing through the ‘Festival Street’ of a recent international film festival, the pedestrianized zone full of food carts and various other promotions. Among the crowds, there were several long lines of people queueing up for things. I stopped at one of them, which was displaying various candies in jars supposedly relating to ‘attributes of the workplace.’ Perplexed, I asked the man heading up the stall what it was about and he said they were basically giving away free jelly beans.

Other stalls with extensive lines seemed to be proffering various similar promotional items amidst a festival atmosphere where standing in long lines was the norm – to try to get into a ‘hot’ screening or waiting hours for a chance to catch a glimpse of a particular celebrity.

Of course, the creation of a buzz or a trend is a key aspect of its success and we’ve become accustomed to hype driving up the value of any given thing, so long as it is marketed along the lines of scarcity and exclusivity. Media – augmented by social media – continually and perniciously plays on our need to feel special and our desire to be one of the privileged few able to acquire something in limited supply.

Some people will go to immeasurable lengths in pursuit of such things – spending wild amounts of time or money, and in more extreme cases, going into debt or committing acts of violence or crime in pursuit of the desired prize. Of course, often what is being sold is an idea or image, which we in turn re-relate as an image, inflating its wonder on our own social media posts.

For me, it’s not so much evaluating the merit of these coveted objects or experiences, but rather, our diminishing degrees of discernment in assessing their true value for ourselves. I would like to encourage people to take a harder, longer look at the shiny things that we’re going after and ask ourselves – do I really need this?  And what is the true price in my life of acquiring it?

It’s also worth considering whether in scrambling to get that next ‘hit’ of a limited attainable item, we are losing the ability to cultivate slower, deeper and richer experiences and connections. We must learn to judge and evaluate the value of any given experience for ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves manipulated into standing in endless lines, only to come away with a handful of jelly beans.