Ever since I wrote Live Your Life In A Crap Free Zone I’ve discovered I have an aversion to shopping. I know that women who own 127 pair of shoes and men who own every Ipod ever made won’t readily understand this, yet there it is.
I’ve always thought walking into a place like Sam’s Club or Costco must be the closest we ‘normal’ people will come to running onto the playing field of a major league stadium. These places are a cavernous, monumental testimony to the American culture of want, need and must have. The only thing lacking is a double line of sixty-year-old cheerleader/checkout people to cheer you on and a ten by ten feet stack of Budweiser cans to come bursting through with your shopping cart to the thunderous applause of your fellow shoppers. (Most valuable player would be the first person to get to the checkout counter and max out their American Express card.)
I think they should put you in a golf cart when you go to these places, not push a shopping cart at you. After all, you can already push around those eight foot flatbed carts. Why not hitch one onto the back of a golf cart? I also believe their should be an eight, nine and pitching iron in the back so you can get the attention of the store employee you caught a fleeting glimpse of between the dog food palettes half a store away. (What does that look like to you Pete; maybe about 110 yards? Hand my pitching wedge, will ya?)
Before “the economy” became something we whisper about in subdued terms as though we were pointing at a mutual friend who just got herpes, I used to go hunting through Costco looking for crap to buy. I felt as though if I didn’t own it I was somehow deprived. Little did I realize at the time that it was more like depraved. I would buy a newer, shinier, bigger set of stainless steel kitchen utensils despite the fact that I already owned a plastic set and a wooden set, (my favorite). Apparently at some point I was preparing to cook for a very large group of friends when I actually only have about two.
To this day I still own fourteen LED flashlights which I now must go to Costco and buy $480 worth of batteries for about every three months.
Advertising media had done their jobs well. I wanted. I thought I needed. I was fairly certain I had to have. Then “the economy” reached up and smacked me back to reality just as it did for many of my readers. I lost it all. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say ‘lost’ since that makes it sound as though I was carrying it all around and it fell out of my pockets in my travels. No, I had to sell much of it to pay bills when income dribbled to nothing, usually at far below market value and garage sale prices. That’s one of the reasons I said in Live Your Life In A Crap Free Zone that the only person your stuff is worth anything to is you. If you don’t believe me gather your kids together and ask them what they would do with your stuff if you kicked the proverbial bucket tomorrow.
Have you ever seen the difference between really old grocery stores and the new ones. It’s stark, rather like the difference between photographs of me from thirty years ago and now. (Good thing I burned them all.) I recently had occasion to visit an ancient looking Safeway in a small town in southern Oregon. Now I know what it must have felt like when archaeologists first walked into King Tut’s tomb. (I wonder if they looked around and said, “Gee, it’s really small in here.”) That’s what I said when I walked into this place. It looked like it had four aisles instead of the usual twenty-four today’s stores have. It looked and smelled quaintly old with large black and white linoleum tiles on the floor that appeared to have boot prints from pre-Civil War days. Unlike modern stores, the cereal was five steps from the milk and the cleaning supplies were just adjacent to Wednesday Only Special End-Cap Sale of a Free Bottle of Aspirin With Every Four Boxes of Pantie Liners you purchase. (What a deal!)
I couldn’t find any statistics concerning the amount of grocery store items in a typical chain grocery from the mid 1950′s but I did find one source that said the average amount of grocery store items in a 1980′s era store was about fifteen thousand. Today that number is fifty thousand. All I can say to that is they haven’t been in a Fred Meyer store. Again, we’re back in southern Oregon and I walk into this place that makes the local Walmart Supercenter look like a master bedroom closet. Somebody named Fred really, really gets it about one-stop shopping! If this thing had apartments you could live here! There’s nothing you can’t find at this Fred Meyer. I went in there one morning at around 10 a.m. and looked at everything from snow chains to banana pudding. I could have rented a four bedroom apartment, (and I’ll bet they have them; I just couldn’t find them,) and outfitted/furnished the entire thing right there in the store. I could have topped it all off rather nicely with my very own Oregon Ducks key-chain and license plate.
Let’s just say that by the time I found my way out of that massive consumer nightmare it was 8:30 p.m., I was exhausted and it took me another four hours to find my vehicle. Next time I’m bringing a backpack and a GPS. (Never mind; you can buy them there.)
I find myself just going in for what old people call ‘the basics’. Even with that as a goal you can still spend a hefty chunk of income. Last week I was in Costco. I walked out with butter, eggs, coffee and pasta and I was $75 lighter than when I went in. I also came out with one less gadget/device/machine that was going to mysteriously implode just after the warranty ran out, ‘needed some assembly’, was broken already, required a call to a robotic call center in India or was taped back together with duct tape, re-packaged, (sort of), and put back on the store shelf to be sold to a sucker like me.
Ethan Holmes has authored five books all of which may be previewed at his website.