Karl Meyer
November 6, 2007

The Wages of Chocolate

I didn’t get a job today. I got a candy bar instead. I looked for a job. Alittle. I read through the want ads. I emailed an editor to see about writing a new story. I started a long–frustratingly, endlessly long, letter to another magazine editor about a bigger story. That letter just kept growing as my confidence in its potency withered. I put it aside after staring at it for hours. I looked up job listings on-line. I looked in the phone book for places to call about work. But in the end I got one reply from that first editor—all the spring articles have been assigned. Are you interested in summer?–we have an issue on bugs?? As I said, I didn’t get a job today.

Well Scarlet, tomorrow’s another day. As the light faded, I thought it would be tolerably responsible to go out again—even though I’d already taken advantage of the decent weather to have a midday bike ride that lasted an hour and a half. But I would go out, return a library book; maybe pick up some new reading. And I’d stop at one of the stores with a news rack out front and pick up a copy of a new magazine someone suggested I could maybe write for.

In the end I got two books. And I borrowed a music CD. Clearly these things were not jobs, but they were pretty good. Plus, they were free. I was not spending like a drunken sailor as I went through my underemployed day. But in the lobby of the drugstore, the sirens were calling to me: candy! CHOCOLATE! Halloween is just past. I didn’t get any candy for trick-or-treaters since I wasn’t going to be home. But neither did I go any place where there was candy put out for little adult candy beggars like myself. There are years when you’d be hard-pressed to avoid the candy deluge–and you wouldn’t think twice about missing out. But, when it’s not there… you know.

So, in I went, like a zombie stalking in candy land. And there were the bags of the stuff, all in snacky-sizes, half price. I wanted chocolate. Chocolate alone. There was one crinkly plastic bag with a couple of dozen chocolate bars all individually wrapped inside. It depressed me—unpeeling all those wrappers. I’d have to look at them. I wanted something bigger. I wanted a big honkin’ block of no-job chocolate. I followed my nose, and there—just ahead, were the big bars. You know the ones. Paper binder over tin foil. On sale. Eureka! I grabbed a bar and had me a purchase—no bag, thank you very much.

Suddenly I felt as if I almost had a job. My job would be to eat this chocolate bar when I got home. Here was work that no one else had thought of. I would get right in the trenches and take care of it. But I got to looking at that candy bar on the walk home and started to decide this job was not going to be all it was cracked up to be. This candy bar was small—smaller than the ones that were on the shelves just a year or two back. Even on sale it was more money, less chocolate. Have you noticed this? I felt more than a little cheated. I’d ended up with a part-time gig, when I was looking for a full-time job. I didn’t necessarily want work that seemed like I was going around in a clunky old pick-up with scrawling on the side that read: No Job Too Small. I wanted work; I wanted chocolate.

In truth, the wages of chocolate are low. If I had more money—and better taste, I’d be buying the high-priced, fair trade stuff. The people harvesting cocoa beans, primarily in Africa, are sometimes—even often, working in slave-like conditions. So eating bad chocolate, or even just a lot of chocolate, is not a particularly good job at all. There’s a lot of misery behind all that sweetness.

However, when I got home, I bit in. And I sat down to continue working on that arduous query. The bar, five ounces—not the former eight of just a year back, slid down my throat in silky bites. It wasn’t hard work at all. But, by sheer weight, this commodity is overpriced compared to the wages the cocoa corps imposes on the laborers. And at this end it’s higher prices; smaller bars–a chocolate pyramid scheme. Candy bars used to cost a nickel, then a dime—the quarter, now sixty cents on a good day. That’s for those weenie part-time bars.

So I’m wondering, as I sit here looking at my smaller “large” bar, with a bigger price tag slapped on it to disguise its deficiencies, if we really are all just being programmed. Will we continue to accept less, for more?—be tricked into thinking that a treat of something smaller is the same? Can they make us believe that small is big, just by saying it is? This is a serious worry for me. I have one last chunk of candy bar and then wrap the remainder in its foil for another little morsel round tomorrow. This whole chocolate thing is hard work. And I need a job.