Tuesday, December 28, 2010

COLUMN: Hand Towels

As I type this, it is a cold and lonely Monday night. Normally at this time, my girlfriend and I would be sharing dinner and snuggling in front of the television. Not tonight. No, tonight I sit alone eating microwaved hot dogs while Amy is at her house having a party I'm not invited to. And as I sit here in the sullen silence of a dark and lonely house, all I can think is: THANK GOD.

Amy's "party" tonight is one in which someone comes to her house and pitches a vast array of products to those female family and friends unlucky enough to get an invite. I forget what the company's called -- Tastefully Easy? Elegantly Simple? Needlessly Overpriced? Something like that.

Until the day Tupperware invents plastic power tools, guys will never understand the lure of the home sales party. But I now know the reason why: girls' brains are hardwired completely different than ours, and I now know why.

It started off with a reasonable request.

"Hey babe?" she asked. "I need a new hand towel. Can we run out and buy one real quick?"

The male mind sees shopping as a basic problem-solving exercise: Need. Buy. Have. If we need something, we go buy it and then we have it. And if my baby needed a new hand towel, then we should go buy one.

"Just stop by the drugstore. I bet they have them there."

Excellent! Why drive to one of those ginormous box stores when you can go a few blocks and get it at a drugstore? You might pay a buck or two more, but it beats the parking lots, the walking, and the check-out lines of MegaSuperMart. My girlfriend and I are a well-oiled, think-alike shopping machine.

Which is why I was a bit surprised when she marched into the drugstore, bee-lined to the toiletries section, and started shoveling stick after stick of my deodorant into her shopping basket.

"Ummmm," I said, "I don't need deodorant. I just bought some last week."

"I found a coupon!" she said with glee. "Now you can stock up!"

My girlfriend prides herself on being a bargain shopper. Guys never find coupons. We're usually too busy using our newspapers to sop up oil spills or kindle campfires. I guess in the long run (in this case, since I was already pretty well stocked up, the reeeeally long run) I'm saving a few bucks, so... okay, sure. I now have enough deodorant to see me through my golden years free of pit stains and springtime fresh.

I, meanwhile, rounded the corner to a fantastic find. There in front of me was a bag of SIX hand towels, ON SALE to boot! I presented it to her like a proud hunter returning with the kill.

"Problem solved!" I said with pride. "Hand towels and deodorant. Mission accomplished! Let's go home!"

"Don't be silly," she replied sternly. "Put those back."

"But you needed a hand towel, right?" Need. Buy. Have. "They're on sale! Now you can stock up!"

"I'm not looking for THOSE kind of hand towels," she said as if talking to one of her first-graders. "I need a HALLOWEEN hand towel for the party!"

Umm. This begs oh-so-many questions. Chief among them: "Why does one require a Halloween hand towel?" "They MAKE Halloween hand towels?" "People BUY Halloween hand towels?" "Is there anything on Earth more pointless than a Halloween hand towel?"

Now don't get me wrong. I am the king of possessing pointless stuff that I really don't NEED in order to function in society. In fact, the very minute that I finish this column, I'm hopping in my car to go wait in line at midnight for the release of Rock Band 3 for the X-Box. But even my pointless stuff serves a good and proper time-wasting purpose: Video games are FUN. CD's are FUN. DVD's are FUN. You can listen, watch, and play them again and again for true quantifiable fun. My life NEEDS fun. Need. Buy. Have.

But what personal satisfaction, what FUN can one gain from a Halloween hand towel? I actually know the answer to this. Are you ready, because here it is. Start the stopwatch.

"...aww, cute..."

Annnnd stop. 1.6 seconds. That's how much fun a Halloween hand towel is. That's exactly how long it takes to look at the hand towel, have your brain absorb its charming Halloween theme, and internally register some passing reply of cuteness. Then it's done. Your hands are dry and it's time to move on. All this fun for a mere $3.99. That equals $2.49 per second of enjoyment.

THIS is the primary difference between guys and girls. We both buy stupid stuff with alarming frequency, but guys at least buy FUN stupid stuff. Rock Band 3 may cost $60, but I plan on playing that video game for hours on end until my fingers are blistered and my arms throb with carpal tunnel. By the time it's done, I will have spent less than $0.0000000000000000000000000001 per second of enjoyment. Yet SHE'S the bargain shopper.

So we went from the drugstore to the big box store in search of a Halloween hand towel. And at the box store, we found some that clearly fit the dual criteria of (a) being Halloweeny and (b) being hand towels. One had a little skull on it, the other a little ghost. Unfortunately, though, those weren't CUTE enough to make the grade. See, the skulls and the ghosts were SCOWLING. That's right, guys: If you're going to decorate your home with elements of the supernatural, you'd best make sure they're at least SMILING.

So we went from the drugstore to the big box store and finally to the department store, where we finally found a docile hand towel showcasing an emotion-free -- yet apparantly cute enough -- pumpkin. Whew. Crisis averted, party saved.

I, on the other hand, am beginning to worry. In a couple days, I'm having people over to MY place for a Rock Band 3 party, and I fear that I don't have a Halloween hand towel. I don't even have a hand towel. I have a roll of Bounty the Quicker Picker Upper woefully bereft of holiday theme. In fact, I have nothing Halloweeny in my entire place. My only hope at this point is to leave the uneaten remainder of hot dog out and hope that something orange grows on it within the next 48 hours.

I'm beginning to realize that if this girlfriend of mine is the keeper I know she is, one day I'll have a house full of holiday hand towels. And I think I can live with that. After all, I need something to do for those 1.6 seconds per day that I'm not playing video games.

No comments: