Friday, February 15, 2013

Department Store Blues

Yes, I know. It's a horrible title. I should have gone with something like "Yours For Only $19.95" or "Where's The Dog Food?", but I felt like going with a title which conveys how I feel whenever I head over to WeHaveEveryCheapThingUnderTheSunMart. Shopping in a department store used to be a pleasant experience when I knew that not every item for sale was made from recycled Lavoris bottles and manufactured in China.

And that's what has me in a funk this drizzly, damp Friday. Don't get me wrong. Being cut off in traffic by some idiot who thinks getting home before the last cupcake is eaten is more important than driving safely around other impatient drivers usually irritates me. Today, however, that transgression against my freedom, nay my very dignity, is put back into its proper context by the more pressing issue of shopping for the various items I need  for my home in order to make me feel like I've finally arrived.

I feel vexed. I desperately want to step into the past and shop at Woolco during a time when things were made with at least some measurable degree of quality by American workers. More to the point, I want to shop in a store whose main aisles aren't cluttered with so many pallets that the shopping carts run the risk of being replaced by forklifts. (Fun mental image there. "Excuse me, miss. Could I just squeeze by you with my ninety dollars' worth of  Ramen noodles?") Seriously, every time I shop at GallMart I feel as though I should join the Teamsters Union. What ever happened to the days when one could roam down an aisle and not feel like he were taking a shortcut across a stockroom? If shopping gets any more basic, we'll all have to attend OSHA-certified training seminars and wear hard hats whenever Yes Dear sends us out for a new watch band. I'm old school in the sense that I neither needed nor required every single item on my "get" list to be under one roof. Thirty or so years ago, one went shopping with the gritty determination to complete the arduous task of finishing that list at any and all costs. It was a pain in the butt to go shopping. Gas bills were proportionately higher. One waited in one long line after another. But there was an almost inexplicable sense of having done something meaningful over the weekend -some accomplishment- which made it all worthwhile. People were out in public more. They actually saw others whom they knew.

And Hill's -that "low-cost living, anti-inflation department store" of the seventies and eighties- had a snack bar which one won't find in today's behemoth box stores. Sure, you'll see a Subway sandwich shop tucked safely behind the line of cash registers (all thirty-nine of them, as though they were ever meant to be used). But unlike the "good old days" when we strolled around the eight track tapes with our eighteen cent bags of overly-buttered popcorn and our over-carbonated sodas, one would be hard-pressed, thankfully, I suppose, to see someone ogling the bath mats while gobbling an entire Italian submarine sandwich.

I'm a social creature. When I go shopping, I don't just want a generic remote control and a box of Corn Chex, for Heaven's sake. I want to see people. I want to say "hi, how are you?" to a good friend.

Hope you'll excuse my crankiness today while I go have a bowl of cereal.

The Rifleman is on, and I have to put new batteries in the remote.  

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