The Mother of Modern Consumption
One of K&L's owners came by my desk the other day to give me a pat on the back and let me know we were shattering our previous sales records in the booze department, despite our fears that we might be down this year. He was surprised, to say the least, as he expected the crackdown on interstate shipping to put a serious dent in our numbers. He asked me what I thought might be responsible for the extra boost. Was it a bevy of new products? Was it better marketing? Was it something that I was doing specifically, or maybe my colleague David Othenin-Girard?
I asked him if he listened to any of the new true crime podcasts that have been so popular lately, like Dirty John or S-Town. He said no. I told him that I had never been interested in podcasts before either, but that had changed over the last year as the traffic in the Bay Area has become worse and worse. I was desperately looking for something to entertain me in the car while commuting and these non-fictional podcasts (at the recommendation of my wife) were doing the trick. I was actually looking forward to getting back in the car to finish the most recent episode of Up and Vanished.
"What's your point?" he asked with a smirk.
My point was that modern life dictates modern consumption. Necessity is the mother of both invention and popularity. Podcasts are basically on demand radio stories. The rise of TV and internet video streaming has all but destroyed serial radio drama, but it's making a comeback now because of how much time we spend in our cars these days (and at the gym on the treadmill). You can't binge watch Making a Murderer while you drive, so why not listen to something similar instead—one that's perfect for those of us who spend hours in the car each day. That necessity has sparked a resurgence in a medium once considered obsolete and today I know dozens of other people like myself who are binging podcasts each day on the way to and from the office.
What do traffic and podcasts have to do with a rise in spirits consumption around the Bay Area and Los Angeles? Everything, actually.
I had a similar conversation with David OG last night and we discussed the same phenomenon. The local California economy is booming, but at the same time the amount of hours that we spend working has cut into our social lifestyle and our motivation to participate. We're more tired at the end of the day and as a result we're less inclined to fight the inconveniences of our crowded urban environments ("I'd love to go out to eat, honey, but we've got to fight traffic, look for a parking spot, find a sitter for the kids..."). Let's say you've been at the office for ten hours and now it's time to unwind. Would you rather fight the hustle and bustle of getting a reservation at the latest metro hotspot, or instead change into some leisureware, put your feet up, pour yourself a big glass of whiskey, and check in on the latest season of Stranger Things?
Since we're likely going to Netflix and chill anyway, a fairly cost-effective way to pass the evening, why not at least throw down for a nice bottle of something to enjoy while we do so? Not a regular old bottle of Scotch, mind you, but something really interesting and unique. You might as well put the extra effort into the booze, right?
That's my theory, at least. I don't think it's anything we're doing as much as it is a societal shift in values. It's based on my own experience. My wife has been asking me all week what I want to do for my upcoming birthday. I told her: "I'm exhausted right now, so maybe I'll just order a pizza and watch 80's horror movies all night. With a bottle of 1990 Haut Brion, of course." All that money I didn't spend on dinner and a taxi gets processed by my liver and kidneys instead.