Claudia Myers column: Shopping an all-American sport
It just gets easier and easier.
I just returned from a large quilt show, where I bought way too much fabric. I thought I was only good at one sport and that was bowling. However, I am an ace shopper — if you consider that to be a sport — and I do. Think of the similarities.
You have your training regimen, when you are making your lists of what you are looking for, clipping your coupons, doing your research about who is having specials and sales.
Then, there is the prep, when you psych yourself up, decide the best thing to wear, do a little running in place. Should you dress like you just stepped out of Vogue, so the clerks in the high-end shops won’t ignore you? Or are you going flea-marketing so you need comfy shoes and clothes, looking a little scruffy, so you can make a deal?
Eat a light lunch and use the restroom, and you’re ready! Don’t forget your tote bags, in case the stores are charging for them.
Or, maybe you make a detailed list and never veer away from it. What fun are you? How will you ever know about all the new fads and fascinating things you could impulse-buy and take home to clutter up your space? You will never have a closet full of those lovely velvet-covered hangers that you can color-match to the clothes you put on them. Poor you. And you will come home with your bread, milk and butter, not knowing there was an amazing sale on lobster tails.
My mother always did her shopping on Tuesday. She planned her week’s menus, checked to see if someone needed underwear or notebook paper and off she would go. Our little town of 746 people didn’t have many shopping opportunities, so she headed across the Susquehanna River to Endicott, where there was a whole four-block long street of shops and department stores. Sometimes she went up to the big city of Binghamton, but then she gussied up in a hat, high heels and gloves.
What a contrast to the way we shop now, especially since the pandemic. We shop 24 hours a day in our pajamas. Three-o-clock in the morning and I’m on the computer, ordering a case of V8 Mango Splash juice and a blue sweater that I saw on “Making the Cut.” I once ordered three very large galvanized stock watering tanks from Amazon. They came all trussed up in plastic wrap and the UPS guy didn’t even blink as he toted them up the driveway.
My husband is one of those list-makers and doesn’t waste time looking at stuff. Parks his car, goes into the store, gets everything on his list, swipes his card, takes the number for drive-up and out he goes. Once he went with me to Ikea. We went on a Sunday.
“Well that was just crazy,” I hear you saying. Yes, you are correct, because Tom had his first- and last-ever panic attack. I had to lead him by the hand through the maze, away from the crowded aisles and drive him outta there. Didn’t even stop for the Swedish meatballs! Proof positive he is not a shopper.
His dad, however, was a champion. I once opened the closet door in the guest room in Tom’s parents’ house to find it stuffed floor to ceiling with paper towels. Stuffed! My husband took one look and said, “Yeah, my dad’s been out shopping, again.”
One shopper to another: Don’t you just love hardware stores? I can spend a whole day there, pushing my cart around filling it with things I’ve never seen before. Look-it here! An attachment you stick on your electric drill to make holes in the ground to plant your bulbs! (Just before the squirrels dig them up and stash them away for the winter). Who knew that there were so many types of hammers, angle irons and door knobs? Where else could you still find a Hoky carpet sweeper or wooden clothespins in this day and age? And a wooden folding drying rack, for goodness sake! My husband always has to take a book when we go there.
So many ways to shop. Most everybody is on the “25 catalogs-a-month” list. Everything from fruit to furniture. You browse through those at your leisure and send your order via snail mail or call them up on the telephone. You can go to one of the “home parties” where you buy jewelry, pots and pans, monogrammed dishtowels, beauty products and wall decor. You answer your front door, and you can buy popcorn in big tubs and Samoa cookies from the neighborhood scouts and hockey players. Band members will sell you turkeys.
Since the quarantine, we now have traveling food trucks selling anything you’d care to eat, like a mobile mall food court. You can graze up and down the street, munching here, sipping there, trying things you’d never cook.
So many ways to pay. In the 1920s, my husband’s grandfather, a country doctor, accepted a rifle and some chickens for setting a man’s broken leg. Now, we have checks, credit cards and even apps on our phones that will pay the bill. No more dragging out the family cow when you need to make a big purchase.
Shopping just gets easier and easier.
Next time: Hardcover, paperback, Audio or Kindle — what’s your reading preference?
Claudia Myers is a former costume designer for The Baltimore Opera, Minnesota Ballet and has taught design and construction at the College of St. Scholastica. She is a national award-winning quilter, author and a local antique dealer, specializing in Persian rugs.