“How much do you think you’ll spend? Just give me an over/under.”
There is no worse question to be asked, when standing in line ready to pay for your purchase. Beside you is your loyal and trusted friend, who has just spent two hours shoulder to shoulder as you fought your way through retail trenches. But now, here at the final moment, he turns and – as if it were planned all along – stabs a dagger into your back.
What a terrible question to be asked. And why? What makes it the ultimate horror of horrors? There’s no right answer.
You either lowball your guess, in some foolish attempt to salvage your frugal conscience, or you highball it – which is just as terrible because you can feel every last penny slipping away between your alternately clenched and unclenched fingers.
Sighing, I looked deep into my in-store-use-only bag and guessed: “Three hundred and fifty dollars. I think I’ll be just under three hundred and fifty dollars.”
It was a painful realization, but there was no way around it. There was no way it could be anywhere near the reasonable price I had hoped for when this consumerist extravaganza began. I was ready to hand over my credit card, shed a few tears, and be done with it.
But, of course, this is the end of the story. How did we get from there to here?
It was a beautiful afternoon. Somehow the sun managed to sneak out of its multi-month long incarceration, trapped behind the cold gray clouds that are ever so present near the great lakes. In my heart I could feel a tinge of delight, excitement, and perpetuated calling. For, on this day, I was going to shed off the problems, and stress (not that much presented itself) of work and shop.
Now, it’s important to be stated, that I do not normally enjoy shopping. I do not buy clothes that I’ll never wear, I do not own multiple unnecessary assortments of footwear, and I do not splurge on the finest alcohol, the tenderest cuts of meat, or the rarest of all cheeses. I do not shop for fun. I shop only when something is needed.
But today, it was a shopping extravaganza. The type that a sixteen year old girl might have her credit card cut up for embarking upon. Although this was not funded by some tough-loving, yet understanding parents. No. This was funded by hours of working, marking, and educating. (Uhh – or moving watching, as the current units have been leading towards. But never mind that.)
So there I stood, looking into the store, good friend – giddy with the delight of vicariously buying things, without having to spend money. In an instance the threshold, roughly marked by two automatically sliding doors, was crossed. And we were inside.
the hunting grounds
Inside Mountain Equipment Co-Op my first order of business was to grab a shopping bag, with which I could hold all my purchases. It seemed a reasonable beginning. But, of course, one thing led to another.
There, before me, taller than I could have ever hoped to be was a display. On this display rested all number of plastic, coloured, trinkets. Each item was complete with three triple A batteries, and an elastic band, created to fit snugly and securely. Guaranteed to make you look the fool in any social context. I was looking at row upon row of Petzl Headlamps (19.00). There were some that offered four different settings, other blinks, and one more added a red filter – guaranteed to preserve your night vision, while you read – for the low cost of only eight dollars.
Personally, I’ll just eat some candy strawberries and put the foil overtop, thank you very much. And that was how I decided. I went for the cheapest: I needed no flashing lights, or multicoloured arrays. When I want a flashlight strapped to my head, in a ridiculous fashion, well then – that’s exactly what I want. Nothing more, nothing less. And if I’m mocked for my outdated head tech, well then so be it. I’ll feel superior to anyone who cares for such things anyway. I mean come on, it’s a flashlight with a rope on it. Really now.
And oh that it could have ended there. I would have been in and out so quickly. But, as always, there was more. My next stop was TSA locks (11.50 x3). Now, I know – these are foolish. Ultimately they will be cut off by some foreign airport worker, or just stolen – as the whole point is that all airports have the keys for these. But, I felt like I needed to buy them.
I opted for the combination variety, because I would have undoubtedly lost the key to any lock I used on my bags. Then I’d need to do all sorts of horrible things to get at my clothing. Horrible, horrible, things.
And when I bought one, that wouldn’t make sense. I’d need to buy a second for the other access in my pack. And then, I might as well get a third for my day pack.
I know, I know – just use plastic zip locks. You know, the type Americans use to arrest suspected terrorists? They cost about five cents each, and sure they’ll be cut off too – but for the price of one lock, I could have two hundred of them. We’ll see how long the locks last this time, and I’ll rethink this in the future.
But, luckily for me, the locks were right beside the money belts (8.50). This was something I would need, either way. I like the idea of someone having to literally steal my pants, before they end up with my cash. Also, it’s not in pockets, or worn under your shirt. It’s simply a belt. And I’ll need one of those anyway. I love adding function to form.
Now I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had most things I needed, or so I thought. All that was left was the clothing. How much could that cost me? How much indeed.
As I headed to the upper level I thought about what to get first. A rain jacket. It would rain, I was sure. And then I would be cold and angry. My dollar store poncho would not protect me as I hoped it would. So it was off to buy a rain coat. Up first was the “on sale” rack where I looked at the Torrent Three, with it’s rainguard technology. Yes, there is technology. And then I viewed the Deluge 3, because what if I was caught up in something far worse than a torrent? What would I do then?
Just as I had my hands on the one for me, an employee stopped me. This regularily ninety dollars, on sale for only forty-one, jacket would not be right for me. Oh no, what a fool I must be picking it off the shelf. How lucky he was there to point me in the right direction – across the shopping floor.
The Hydrofoil 3 (100.00) jacket was the one for me. For it was breathable, and in the potentially hot climates I’d be visiting, that was important. I sighed, and agreed. My friend, beside me all this time, claimed that the slightly harder beak was well worth the extra sixty dollars! With that type of technology to allow for rain rolling gracefully over your head, rather than down onto your face, what could be better?
And it was breathable! This breathable nature just meant it had zippers that opened up under my arms, creating a giant hole. I could just take a knife to the forty dollar… but no. What’s fifty dollars to stay dry? So that was that. Rain jacket purchased. Onto the gloves.
The Windstopper N2S Gloves (25.00) that found their way into my bag promised to be lightweight, breathable, and windproof. I could wear these in the rain, and keep my hands feeling dry and cool. Plus, they had enough movement to allow me access to camera controls. The only problem? One size: medium.
I have large hands. I needed large sized hands. Not goliath large, just regular large. The type that wouldn’t pinch. The type I wouldn’t mind wearing for days on end, until they fell apart. Off I sent my minion to survey the landscape. Strangely enough, over by the raincoats – where we had been previous to checking out the gloves section – a new display was discovered. There hands of all shapes and sizes could be accommodated. Large, medium, heck – even small could attend this fashion party.
And since I was already looking towards getting, and staying, warm – well what could be better than some new long johns? For years - five years - I have wanted long johns. I just, you know, never got around to picking them up. Things get in the way. Life happens. And I, oh so rarely, feel cold. But today I had the perfect excuse. Browsing through all number of styles, I decided on the MEC Expedition Stretch Long Johns (37.00), as they promised to trap warm air, while remaining breathable. I know nothing of this fabric magic, but I’ll trust in the company’s write up. Why ever would they lie?
After so much traipsing through fabrics, and trying on / trying off raincoats (only five times being stuck not understanding how zippers works, much to the delight of the store employees) my hair was standing all on end, emanating out in multiple directions due to the magical power of static electricity.
Everything I touched hurt me. Loud, audible, shocks ripped through the air. I was laughed at. But I was not without recourse. For, every five steps I took, I was once more super charged. With but the lightest touch, I could sparks from my own fingertips to whomever I touched. As rapidly as it began, the laughter ceased. Apparently only my pain, and not their own, was humorous.
At this moment, only two items were still needed. The most delightful items ever. What every child hopes to unwrap on Christmas morning. The biggest of the big, the baddest of the bad, the most exciting of all that is excitable! Socks… wait for it, and, underwear!
WrightSock Double Layer Coolmesh Socks (8.00 x2) were purchased. They are made with CoolMax technology. Technology! Who knew clothing could be so intense? Who knew I’d have to read the labels of over twenty different styles before reaching a final decisions? Who knew there were labels on socks, let alone twenty different types? I did. Now. After the face.
There was only one thing left to buy? Boxers.
There were Wool Micro Light things, and other such ridiculousness for thirty dollars a pair. But I had no time for this, and as much fun as it was for me to spend hours looking at all manner of equipment, for my friend – I could tell that his attention was waning. And the GO Bus at Union station only comes once an hour. Miss it, and all manner of terrible would befall.
So I grabbed myself some Seamless Boxer Briefs (12.00 x3) in each of the available colours. Colours that I once thought were simply Grey, Black, and Green. But no – I was misinformed. In reality the boxers I bought were Ivy, Dolphin, and Black. At least I got the black right. For all I knew, it could have been Onyx.
So with purchases in bag, and bag in hand I headed to the check out. All those items scanned, and one five dollar life time membership later, I was good to go. Final total, after taxes? About three hundred and sixteen dollars. Hey, at least it was under three fifty. All in all, not a bad trip.
Sure I need some more things – but broken up like this, it won’t seem too terrible.
Despite all of the trendy new items I purchased, none of them could compare to what I was given by my buddy outside the store. The most practical of all gifts, and perhaps the most useful too. Something I never would have, in all my time, thought of. A ring. But any right? Nay. For this is not some tale of friendship gone array. This is no awkward and misbegotten proposal. What this is is an invitation to drink. Think Geek’s Original Ring Thing.
It’s a ring, it’s a bottle opener. It’s very magical.
Chicago Eats: Outdoor Neighborhood Gems
5 hours ago