Wednesday, December 23, 2009

COLUMN: Shopping

Being in the first year of a new relationship is a magical, wondrous time, right? This is when you, as a couple, affirm the similarities that make you click as a unison team. It's also the time when you, as two individuals, discover the differences that allow your complex personalities to complement one another in interesting and exciting ways. My girlfriend and I choose to embrace these differences as they come along.

Take shopping, for example. My girlfriend is of the opinion that shopping might just be the single-most fun, thrilling, and life-affirming activity that a human being can do. I, on the other hand, am of the opinion that my girlfriend is OFF HER ROCKER AND PERHAPS NOT PLAYING WITH A FULL DECK. But man, is she cute -- so I let it slide.

I suppose I can't blame Amy on this one entirely. She can't help it. I mean, I think it's genetic, right? Clearly, this is not a case of me vs. her. Caution, stereotype ahoy: This is a case of men vs. women -- or, as I like to call it, sane people vs. the crazies.

Dear Women of the World, what can you possibly find enjoyable about wandering around a retail store with no aim, list, or reason? I. Don't. Get. It. I mean, come on. There are video games that need to be played. Sporting events that need to be watched. Things that need to be sawed in two with saws. It simply comes down to this:

Women see shopping as social entertainment. Guys see shopping as a task.

Let's take the other night for instance. Amy alerted me to the fact that I was running precariously low on toilet paper.

(And wait, can I digress for a second here? Ladies, what DO you do with the massive and vast quantities of toilet paper that you folk use? When I was single, a 4-pack of Charmin could last me a month, I swear to you. Nowadays, I'm lucky to have a 4-pack last me 4 days. I'm pretty sure that when I'm at work, Amy sneaks over and just unrolls t.p. down the drain while probably yelling "wheeeeee!" Then again, I suppose one uses an exceptional amount of toilet paper when one goes to the restroom THIRTY-SEVEN TIMES A DAY. Okay, I'd better stop or she's gonna read this and I'm gonna get coal in my stocking.)

Anyways, yes, I needed toilet paper and some other necessities. Normally, this would merit a run to the nearby drugstore, wherein one can pay inflated prices for the privilege of dashing in and out with ease.

Instead, Amy insisted we go to one of those big box stores. I won't say which, so let's pick a word at random and call it "Bullseye."

Now, there are a vast number of reasons to dislike big box retailers, and I firmly subscribe to them all. For one, they're putting all the poor little mom & pop stores out of business. And then there's the hypocrisy of some chains selling vast quantities of profane R-rated movies while mandating the censoring of any hip-hop album it stocks via edited lyrics. And there's the whole business of the environment and certain stores that seem to get their jollies by abandoning their Supercenters to go a block away and pave over some wetlands to make a SuperDUPERCenter.

Or maybe I'M the real hypocrite. After all, I don't seek out mom & pop stores, I just seek out convenience. And while it's hyprocritical of a store to only censor selected items in their warehouse o' pop culture, it's probably just as hypocritical of me to chastise them whilst their generous advertising inserts in this very paper help write my paycheck every week. And as for the environment? If we lost all our wetlands, my environmentalist friends would have a cow. Me? I'd clap for a world without localized West Nile Virus breeding grounds and then I'd have a cow, too -- preferably on Swiss with some pickles and mayo.

The point is, there's only ONE real reason why I really, truly dislike big box retailers: I'm PATHETICALLY LAZY. Whenever I step foot in one, it invariably ends up that the item I need is roughly 2.5 football fields away from my present location, and the only thing I hate in life more than forced shopping is forced exercise.

But Amy wanted to go to Bullseye, so that's where we found ourselves last night. Sure enough, we walked through the front doors in Moline and quickly discovered that the toilet paper aisle was somewhere roughly three miles east of Geneseo. So off we ventured across fields and fields of bargains (and me without my hiking boots.)

THIS is where big box retailers really nail you, because in-between us and the toilet paper treasure trove was, well, pretty much the entire rest of the store, which began calling out to me with come-hither glances. "NO!" I told the myriad of items, "I'm on a fixed budget and have roughly eleventy kajillion Christmas presents to buy. I MUST stay on track."

But excuuuuse me? Is that a rather comfy-looking knit thermal for only $15? Wow, I'd better get that, it's a deal. And what's this? A green henley for under $20? I'd look gooood in that. Hold the phone! Is that a totally sweet winter coat for only FIFTY BUCKS? Jeez, my current coat looks kinda ratty... Awww, look, CHRISTMAS TREES! And what's a tree without tinsel... and lights... and ornaments...

The average price of a 12-pack of Charmin is, what, six bucks? I left Bullseye that night with a bill for $180 and a carload of non-essentials. Well, I suppose I DID find a couple of Christmas presents in that mix, but I'm still seeking the definition of "fun" in there someplace, 'cause that's certainly NOT what I just had.

I suppose it could be worse. I suppose I could be dating someone who thinks that shaving a few bucks off a retail sticker is worth waiting in line until 4 a.m. on Thanksgiving night. Happily, we both agree that sleep trumps bargains any day of the week, up to and including Black Friday. And Amy reminds me that, on more than one occasion, she's had to twiddle her thumbs while I spend the occasional requisite hour or two digging through bins at record stores, an act that she seems to refer to as "pointless and boring" and I seem to refer to as "fun." Hmm.

I'd love to debate that point, but I need to get to the store - we're almost out of toilet paper.

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