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Shopping Shopping

Brian Wilson

I have a confession to make. I actually like going shopping.

I know that shopping is far from being the most manly of pastimes. I would doubt it is anywhere in the top 100 favorite activities for most guys, ranking somewhere below removing toe jam and only slightly above an emergency root canal.

For these unfortunate souls, I can only offer my sympathies with the understanding that the experience of shopping is what separates it from being something enjoyable and something that is a chore. It also makes a huge difference as to what you are shopping for. I know guys who can literally spend hours in an automotive supply store talking about spark plugs, the merits of synthetic versus conventional motor oil or who carry strong opinions about the brand and quality of belts someone should use in repairing a vehicle.

At the same time, if you transplant these people into a typical clothing store, they would be bored senseless and counting down the seconds until they could escape without having to gnaw their own arm off.

So really, it is not quite so much about shopping as it is what people are shopping for. I think this is true for most people. The person who is happy to spend a day in a quilt shop discussing thread counts or critiquing sloppy stitching or appliqué techniques may not be so thrilled to spend several hours perusing through the brewing supply store and debating which particular strain of yeast will yield the proper amount of fermentation without imparting an unwanted fruity taste to the final brew.

The thing is that unlike most people I am broadly ecumenical in how I embrace a typical shopping trip. While I have been known to go full tilt in talking shop with salespeople at retailers selling brewing supply items, power tools and outdoor camping/survivalist gear, I am equally at peace wandering up and down the aisles of the grocery store or checking the cool artisanal items at a downtown shop.

For me, the treasure hunting aspect of shopping is a major appeal. While I usually go in with a purpose, I find that many of my purchases over the years are things that I stumbled upon serendipitously. I remember as a child going to the malls with my mom and siblings on shopping trips at the holidays. While they would be busy looking at clothes and other girly stuff, I would enjoy checking out the big displays of random stuff the stores would pull out and crowd into the central aisles. While the display of luggage may be artfully arranged to make you think about jetting away to a holiday vacation in the Bahamas, it was in those random aisle boxes that you would find the leather-bound travel grooming kit that even included the paddle-like metal tool that I always assumed to be for removing toe jam, or at least that is what I used my sister’s for.

I have found that when I shop even outside the holiday season, my eyes light up at the oddball items that seemingly are out of place in their displays. I am sure there are marketing geniuses who are sitting at desks propped up with stacks of money who could explain the exact science of separating me from my paycheck one doodad or gizmo at a time, but I prefer to think of these finds much like the intrepid hunter bagging a trophy deer, even if it is akin to hunting in the enclosed yard of a deer farm.

Beyond the excitement of treasure hunting, there is a social aspect of in-person shopping. After crossing paths with the same person 15 times in the grocery store and piecing their life story together by the sadly large quantities of cat food and single serve meals in their cart, you start to imagine you know them as not quite a friend, but more of a fellow traveler.

I am fully expecting that in the future, I will be that guy who always seems to be at the grocery store but doesn’t seem to ever have more than a few items in his cart at any given time. If my efforts of bringing a “sockinaire” fall through, I feel this is a solid and attainable life goal.

As we head into the height of the holiday shopping season be sure to wear a smile under your face mask and as you interact with others let that smile show in your voice and actions. It can get frustrating at times, but we are all in this together so we might as well have a good time while we are here.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.