My first order from Amazon.com was in the spring of 1998. Even though I've ordered bazillions of things from Amazon in the last twelve years, I'll always remember the first order I ever placed there. Back then, there was something novel and magical about ordering things from the World Wide Web. I still think there's something novel and magical about ordering things from the World Wide Web, don't be fooled. Also, I was a sophomore in college, and at college, when we got parcels from UPS, which is the shipper Amazon used exclusively back then, it involved getting a notification in your mailbox instructing you to go to Central Receiving, which was all the way on the edge of campus, across the railroad tracks, even. Getting a UPS parcel was a great, big deal!
The cool thing about Amazon.com in 1998 was that they were still pretty shiny and new, and with every order, you got neat Amazon swag. My friend Ben got an Amazon thermal travel mug. I saw it one day when he brought his SleepyTime Tea to our 10-11:35 T-Th Study of Literature Class. Nothing against the professor, but Ben admitted around 10:45 that putting SleepyTime Tea in his free Amazon thermal travel mug before leaving for Study of Literature was a mistake. I always thought Ben's free Amazon thermal travel mug was really cool, I thought. All I ever scored were bookmarks and a few Amazon-branded pads of Post-it notes. I'm not complaining. Every so often, I run across one of those bookmarks in a book from the late 90s, and it makes me smile. And I'm a Post-It note fiend, so it didn't take me long to have Amazon sticky-notes stuck all over everything in my dorm room. The point is that I kind of miss that part of the nineties. Free Amazon swag with every order. But also in the nineties, Ace of Base was in heavy rotation on the radio, and we had to pay for shipping. So Amazon swag aside, maybe it's better now.
I'll always remember my first Amazon order that spring in 1998. I ordered two items. Here they are:
The first was "James Cameron's Titanic," a behind-the-scenes guide to the movie. It was 1998, and "Titanic" was the big movie of the year. It was pretty to look at, Billy Zane was in it, and we hadn't yet realized just how tedious the whole thing was. Please don't judge. Now, it's fun to get it out and giggle and facepalm about what impressed us so much back then. Geeze, did that movie ever take itself Seriously!
The other thing I bought in that first Amazon order was a thing called "The Observation Deck," which is a boxed set made up of a deck of cards with a word or a shape or some other writing prompt, and a little book that gives a little more on what each card is meant to prompt. It's been a handy way out of writer's block over the years. I get it out and use it when I know I need to write something, anything, because there are all kinds of ideas agitating around in my head but I can't get them out. Often, all it takes is getting started, and then the block is over. For me, I need to be able to write as much as I need to be able to hit the gym just about every morning. Too many days of skipping either, and I'm practically homicidal.
Maybe because this particular thing, this particular boxed book and its silly little deck of observations to use as writing prompts, was half of my first Amazon order, and because that silly little boxed set has helped me out of so many writer's block jams over the years, I'm devoted to Amazon for life, why I remember with such stunning clarity what was in my first order, why I can close my eyes and see exactly that cardstock Amazon bookmark that was my swag in the order.
Amazon won't replace actual brick-and-mortar shopping for me, but when I'm looking for something specific, Amazon is my first stop. There are no ignorant people driving their motorized shopping carts slowly down the middle of the aisle I need. There are no surly sales associates going out of their way not to answer my questions or ducking out of the way to avoid actually having to talk to customers. When I'm ready to check out, I just hit the check-out button and it's done. I didn't have to wait in a long line or compete with a cell phone with texting capability for the teenage checker's attention or have to put up with that checker rolling his or her eyes at me when I suggest (okay, command) they "put the damn phone back in your pocket and do your job!"
I shop at other places online besides Amazon, but Amazon is usually my first stop. I just type in what I need or want, and there it is. If I have a question about the way a product is supposed to perform, or I wonder if a book is really as good as all the hype, I check with Amazon. Chances are, there's a customer review that addresses just the issue I'm looking to find more out about, and if not, when I find out the answer, I can post my own review, in case someone coming along behind wonders the same thing I did. And in the interest of serendipity, I get the biggest kick out of their recommendations that wait for me when I stop in at Amazon.com. I still think it's pretty magical. That's just me.