"Understand this: through overuse, the extraordinary can become the commonplace, and soon after, the unappreciated. That which just yesterday was the rarest and most desirable of gems, the diamond, would be worthless tomorrow if only the jewelry cabals released their stores to the public. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that, strange as it may seem, we preserve the rarity of that which we find most irresistible, for it would cease to be the latter if it were no longer the former. Please keep that in mind.
"Consider, if you would indulge me, one of our most beloved beverages: hot chocolate. When I say these words, "hot chocolate," of what do you think? The drink, of course, but also the atmosphere around it: the rosy glow of the fire, the warm (if more often than not fur-covered) blanket, the family gathered in quiet domestic harmony, perhaps a book or a favorite television show.
"Now, if you would, imagine if hot chocolate could be drunk at any time, willy-nilly. It would be absolute chaos. Divorced from its natural associations, the drink would lose all symbolic importance. Picture the average schoolchild unable to understand our misplaced, increasingly outdated affection for a certain beverage at a certain time. We'll be relics; considered by all to be foolish old men, grumbling for a simpler and (it is assumed) inferior time, not unlike my great-grandfather, whose continued insistence that a lack of corporal punishment should be considered a privilege has earned him awkward stares at every family reunion since 1987.
"Now, am I really insisting that a failure to make hot chocolate sufficiently rare would destroy its cultural significance? Yes, I am. Furthermore, there are consequences to the resulting decline in the popularity of the drink that you aren't quite grasping.
"Consider: hot chocolate becomes commonplace, declining in value. As a result, it becomes increasingly unpopular, as apart from its cheery wintertime connotations, it has little to recommend it above tea or coffee. Yet our society remains in desperate need of a drink appropriate for late, cozy nights in the cold dead of the season. Fortunately, they find an expedient substitute: brandy, which has been drunk by elderly insomniacs for three generations.
"The resultant rise in brandy consumption causes a correspondent rise in general alcohol consumption. Children who would not otherwise be exposed to alcohol are given it as a means by which to help them sleep or cure nightmares. A wave of addiction sweeps the nation, which naturally has nowhere close to enough clinics to support the new alcoholics, as well as other groups of addicts strengthened by the effects of a dangerous, and legal, gateway drug.
"The shortage of relevant professionals and facilities leads to the mass conversion of buildings into rehabilitation clinics. Such buildings include warehouses, hospitals, mental hospitals, universities (or at least lecture halls), and prisons. Naturally, the former occupants of such buildings will need to go somewhere. The results? Weakening of laws and the correspondent release of "minor" criminals, many of whom will undoubtedly offend again. Newly "functional" patients wandering the streets, free to do whatever they like without so much as a "by your leave!" Mass firings of security professionals. And professors? Enrollment plummets due to a combination of skyrocketing tax rates (the better to fund the conversions) and loss of lab and lecture space. Anyone without tenure, or sufficient genius to be guaranteed a job, soon finds himself homeless amongst the worst our society has to offer! (And let me just say that it says nowhere in the Roommate Agreement that I need support you in such an event.)
"None of it is even close to enough, and between the bands of roving criminals, mental patients, and mediocre adjuncts, not to mention the structural economic problems arising from the closing of factories, the high tax rate, and mass unemployment, the government is forced to either disband or dramatically reduce its own responsibilities. Either way, its involvement in the day-to-day running of the country, particularly in terms of maintaining law and order, drops to practically nil! Those of us still fortunate enough to have jobs worthy of our intellects cannot leave our homes for fear of those of you who don't. We are reduced to diets of pizza and cheap delivery Chinese, reducing the average human lifespan by almost ten years.
"Soon, the last vestiges of civilization fail altogether, and we are overrun by your desperate, murderous hordes and consumed by those who were once isolated from us by virtue of their illegal, insane, or moronic actions. Those who remain are reduced to a bunch of screaming cavemen, unable to think beyond their own instant gratification, devolving into the closely related primates from which they sprung! I ask you, is this a price you think is worth paying for a small act of delayed gratification? Because I don't!"
"So let me get this straight: you're saying that if you drink hot chocolate whenever you want, civilization will collapse forever?"
"In essence, yes."
"And I'll end up breaking down your door to kill you for your Chinese food?"
"And this doesn't sound even remotely – oh, I don't know – unlikely to you?"
"Fine." Leonard irritably returned to the kitchen, preparing to dispose of the steaming cup of hot chocolate in his hand. 'Honestly, you try to do something nice for him, and he says something like that. I should probably check the Roommate Agreement, though. I was almost certain it said he had to help if I ever – what am I thinking?' After a moment's pause, he turned back, cup still in hand.
"Just one question."
"Leonard, I've made it as clear as I possibly can. If you want more materials on delayed gratification, may I suggest – "
"No, no, I got that. But… why only months with an "r" in them?"
"Oh, Leonard, Leonard, what's happened to you? You used to have such an admirable spirit of whimsy. Now look at you.
"However, since you mention it, there is an amusing theory surrounding the use of the letter "r" in consonance in – "
'Why did I even ask? Why on Earth did I ask?'