Jewelry merchants and car salesmen share the same circle of Hell. There, they wear pinkie rings that blind them and smoke endless Camel Lites that burn their lungs while swilling down coffee that's made from the tears of customers they've ripped off. They are tormented by the wails of frustrated people who just want a simple answer on how much their wares costs. They are beaten with their pocket calculators and those pieces of paper that show the various options for payment. And then, when they go to the cafeteria there in their circle of Hell, they are forced to negociate for their sustenance and are stymied at every turn, until their patience wears thin and they leave to go back to their cells where the whole process begins again.

I pray for the day when I can walk into a car dealer and see some clerk putting the Real Absolute Price for the cars. I pray for the day when jewelry dealers tell you straight up that the materials cost X, the manufacture costs Y, and the amount he needs to make a profit is Z, and the whole things adds up to a price that doesn't include a twenty-minute discussion on the philosophy and meaning of diamonds that comes straight from the bowels of the marketing department of DeBeers.

That day, unfortunately, will never come, so I will have to make do as best I can, which isn't all that well, actually. I can ride my bike and take the bus, but damned if I can figure out a substitute for the jewelry. I'm afraid I will have to give in. The galling thing is that while I know I'm getting ripped off, I have no idea how much I'm getting ripped off.