Friday, October 17, 2014

Surrendering to A Favorite American Pastime



People have purchased needed goods and services for thousands of years. American society has elevated shopping to the status of supreme leisure time activity. It is one of our most dubious practices, peculiarities, and cultural exports.

I recently made a short visit to my old hometown – not where I grew up, but where I lived for over thirty years. The area is growing, with the most noticeable change the increasing number of stores, restaurants, and other businesses cropping up everywhere, along with an increase in traffic. The county has not built major roads or widened current ones in decades. The only new roads are within housing developments and shopping centers. And a lot of paving is done creating parking lots.

My girlfriend and I spent a couple of hours in that time-honored pastime we love to hate – shopping. Not interested in traipsing through malls, we limited our outing to a favorite store – Chico’s.

Chico’s offers clothes that fit our boomer bodies. The store often has sale and clearance racks, and – most important of all –comfortable outfits with elastic waistbands and/or stretch material. We both walked out with a bag of new, comfy fitting garments.

Fast forward a couple of days and hub and I go luggage shopping. The handle on one old piece cannot be raised. The wheels on a second no longer roll, and a zipper on an outer pocket is broken. Both suitcases are shredding. And they are heavy. Airlines often weigh bags now, and the heavier the bag the fewer items can be stuffed inside.

A couple of department stores advertised sales, so we decided it was time to buy.

We drove to the mall and entered the alluring world of a three-story department store. It happened to be Macy’s. We rode the escalator to the third floor, home of the luggage section, and emerged into a winter wonderland.

Christmas arrives earlier every year in the retail world, but most stores in my neighborhood still display pumpkins, scarecrows, hay bales, and other fall items.

Walking off the escalator, hub and I looked at each other. We could not remember the last time we were in a department store. The mountains of merchandise, the variety of products, the glittery holiday decorations, were all overwhelming.

Locating luggage, we slowly made our way along the displays. There were too many choices. Soft side, duffle or hard side? Color? Sizes? Number of pockets inside? Outside?

We found three matching pieces in an odd blue color on sale, the last of a particular brand and style. We never buy black bags because they are too hard to identify coming off airline conveyor belts, or mixed with a collection thrown together on group trips.

No employee was available to assist us in luggage, so a sales clerk from another department checked us out.

We rolled our suitcases to the car and drove home.

At home we began tearing off sales tags, and immediately realized a security clasp had not been removed from one of the bags, the kind that, if attempting to remove, releases ink and an ugly mess. Or so we were told.

We drove twenty miles back to the mall and found the salesperson that checked us out. She apologized profusely, removed the tag, and we returned home.


Enough shopping for a while. We will not visit a mall again for a long time.


A postscript…Women might be from Venus but men inhabit an alternate universe. Proofreading this article, hub looked at me and said, “Holiday decorations? Really? I didn’t notice.”