There are those who love shopping. There are even those who are addicted to it. They find browsing through potential purchases euphoric and love bringing home something new, especially if it was on sale. It’s more than just something they choose to fill their time with but the actual event or destination that has prompted them to leave their homes.
I am not one of those people.
Shopping, for me, has always been more of a chore than a pleasure. It boils down to two things really. First, I’m cheap and would prefer not to spend money. Second, and probably more important, if I need something I’m going to get it and only it and I want to find it as quickly as possible.
There’s a certain mindset one needs to go shopping and I don’t have it. This deficiency makes shopping almost painful to me.
Case in point, when I was single I went grocery shopping once a week. I went to the same store each week and bought the same things. I had a route mapped out where everything was that I was looking for and I followed a preconceived pattern that got me back to the register with the fewest amount of turns and no back tracking. I could complete my shopping odyssey in under five minutes which seemed just right to me.
One of the first shopping trips after I got married we went to the same store that I had always shopped at. I fully expected to deviate from my routine being that she was new to the store and had different tastes and requirements than I had. We began by getting a cart and heading to the produce section which was foreign to me but I was fine with it. She perused through the fruits and vegetables and made her selections and we moved one. We turned down the first aisle we came to and followed it to the end, selecting nothing. That was immediately followed by a trip down the adjoining aisle where we got the peanut butter that I was accustom to getting, although she looked several other brands first. I began to get antsy as we were already well over the five minute mark and the thorough aisle by aisle pattern we were setting would certainly have us there a while longer. Still I was happy to spend time with my new bride and didn’t much care what we were doing. Fifteen minutes later I fought the impulse to run screaming as she examined the contents of two different brands of the same product. By the time we reached the register I was a shell of my former self; a shaken sweaty mess desperate to escape from this gondola bordered prison.
It wasn’t too many more such shopping trips before we agreed that it was best that I not accompany her to the store any more. After all she didn’t want to drag around an agitated mess and I found it excruciating to hover over her shoulder in an aisle where nothing might even be purchased.
I know some of you are saying that grocery shopping isn’t really shopping and that real shopping is fun. Oh contraire.
Women have a shopping stamina that men just don’t possess. Women can shop for hours on end, store after store, and not feel the effects until they are nearly done. Men on the other hand aren’t built for shopping. You know those little sitting areas in the mall? They were built for men. Men and little old ladies, but mostly for men. I can go on a three day backpacking expedition and not feel as tired as one trip around the mall.
Recently I’ve had two terrifying experiences in an IKEA. The first was to purchase a gift for my wife and the second was to return said gift with my wife to get her something she’d actually like (I could write an entire different post on this topic but that will have to wait).
My first IKEA adventure was solo. I knew what I wanted to get and had been there once before so thought I had a rough idea where to find it. I was, however, unaware that IKEA was Swedish for ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here’.
I quickly became disoriented in the labyrinth of home décor and accessories. Trying not to panic I looked for signs or landmarks that could tell me where I was or how to find the section I was looking for. At long last I happened upon the object of my desire. I gave brief consideration to several different patterns and made my selection.
Sadly my adventure was only beginning. I discovered signs and arrows on the floor that said they led to an exit. I followed them twisting and turning through the dizzying maze of shelving and furniture and finally came to stairs that I hoped would lead me home.
At the bottom of the stairs I was met with disappointment as the network on the bottom floor was just as diabolically constructed as the top floor. I still followed the now taunting blue arrows but began losing hope that I’d ever see the light of day again. Just as I felt my legs would give out I saw it. A large sign that said EXIT. I crawled past the potted plants and plastic ware and entered what appeared to be a warehouse. Surely this was the end. It was not, and don’t call me Shirley. I saw nothing that resembled registers or an exit. I forged on while planning in the back of my mind a potential rescue plan for when my strength inevitably failed me. With great relief I caught sight of the registers around the next corner and felt renewed energy as I saw the light at the end of this eternally long shopping tunnel. After a few more minutes in line with two bitter man-hating women and a young mother with a hostile child I was free at last. A tear came to my eye as I climbed in the car, rolled down the windows and exited the parking lot. It was over, if only temporarily.
Experience told me to save the receipt as my taste in purchases for girls and women…well it stinks. So it was no surprise when the decision was made to return the item. What was surprising was the timing of the return as my wife thought that we could go together as part of our next date. So with silent horror I once again returned to that Swedish death trap.
I took comfort in the fact that I now had an experienced and well trained guide who could gladly withstand the rigors of a shopping trip. After all this is the woman who chooses to go shopping without a particular object in mind and who gets up early on Saturday mornings to go garage saling, for fun. I completely forgot about what other hardships coincided with such a battle tested travel companion.
I tightly clutched her hand as we entered the store and ascended the escalator. The anxiety welling up inside of me with nearly unbearable, I suppressed the familiar urge to scream and run. I knew right where to go this time and began to hurriedly make my way through the hodgepodge of self assembly furnishings when I felt a tug on my arm. I looked back to find her stopped in front of a small looking bed or table. She wondered if it was a basinet or a changing table. I bit my tongue as we had no immediate need for either and said that I thought it was a changing table and beckoned her to follow me and resume our march towards our objective.
The next unscheduled stop was to collect some bowls and plates that I was unaware we needed. She stated that it was her intention to get them all along, so we moved on without much more protest from me.
After stopping to peruse a few other odds and ends we reached the section where I had purchased the original item. After looking at the displays she said that another section existed downstairs with a better selection. I quickly grabbed her hand and led the way to the stairs following the aforementioned blue arrows. She paused at the landing in the stairs to look through some bins and picked up an ice cream scoop. I asked, “Did you want to get that ice cream scoop?” to which she nonchalantly replied “No,” and returned the scoop to the bin. I held back a baffled head shake, as I knew that would certainly provoke a dirty look, and we continued on our way.
Following several brief detours in the kitchenware section we came to textiles where I hoped we’d conclude our shopping for the day before making our way to the exit. I laid my head down on a large ergonomic pillow display while she looked up and down the vast array of different patterns. After briefly dozing off I looked up to see her holding something. I asked if she’d found one that she liked and she said she thought she had but that we’d need to get new curtains to match. The room began spinning and I felt as if I might throw up; I can’t be certain but my eyes and ears may have begun bleeding. I pulled myself together and said that we should go look at them as we had passed the curtains just a few minutes earlier. I placed her selection with the other things we’d picked up and threw that IKEA bag on my back like Chewbacca carrying C3PO in Empire Strikes Back and we back tracked to the curtain section.
We didn’t find anything to her liking and she suggested that there were better selections elsewhere and that we could go. A surge of joy bubbled up inside of me but almost immediately burst as we’d spend the next several minutes looking at chairs that we both agreed were too expensive but were just what she was looking for to go in the living room.
I could no longer remember what life was like outside the walls of this fabric and plywood laden tomb. I was sure that I’d spend the rest of my days looking at rugs and assorted cutlery but then suddenly and without warning it happened. We checked out.
My sweet wife bought me a cinnamon roll, most likely as a reward for being such a good boy, and we left. As I put that blue and yellow nightmare in my rear view mirror I was happy to be eating that frosting covered goodness, but not half as happy as I was to be done shopping…forever.