Born without a shopping gene

Published 5:28 pm Saturday, December 13, 2008

I have a confession. I am not as perfect as many may think. I was born without the shopping gene.

As others of my gender know, that is a significant shortcoming, particularly when those with whom we live decide to exercise their own proclivities in that area.

I’ve tried.

It just isn’t something I think I will ever be able to overcome.

Let me give you an example: When I first arrived in North Carolina and was still a resident of the Ahoskie Inn, I never once went to a laundromat. I took shirts and slacks and jeans to the cleaners. I washed socks and underwear on the two or three trips I made to meet my wife at her mother’s house in Mississippi.

The one time when those trips were spaced too far apart, I simply went to Belk and solved the problem. That “shopping” trip took me about 10 minutes. I walked in, found the kind of briefs and t-shirts and socks I wear in the sizes I needed them, hauled the stack to the cash register, handed the nice lady my debit card, wrote my name and left with my sack full of stuff.

That’s shopping in my world.

I know what I want and I go get it. Then I get on with my life.

Now let me give you another example: Shortly before Christmas several years ago, we were living in Navasota, Texas, and Sherry expressed a desire to go shopping in Houston. I guess my mind must have been elsewhere, because I agreed.

Houston is a big town and we went into every store in every mall there.

And Sherry touched every single thing in every one of those stores at least once.

Sometimes, she went back and touched something again.

Finally, long, long after we should have been back at home resting up, we found a Coldwater Creek.

We didn’t even know Coldwater Creek had actual stores, though they’d been sending us their catalog for many years and its offerings were among Sherry’s favorites. (Which is no big deal; Sherry has lots and lots of favorites.)

Anyway, we wandered into this store. To me, its most intriguing feature was a full-size, working waterfall that filled one corner of the store.

I went over and sat down on one of the rocks at the edge of the waterfall.

I sat and I sat and I sat and…

You get the picture.

Finally, I decided we had been shopping long enough. We had started before sunup and it was now far past sundown.

I stood up on the rock upon which I had been sitting and cupped my hands around my mouth.

“Hey, Sherry,” I shouted, “here’s something over here I don’t think you’ve touched yet!”

Soon thereafter, we departed that store and, to the best of my recollection, we never went back. The car was pretty cold and very quiet all the way back to Navasota, and the trip was three or four times as long as it had been that morning, but at least we weren’t shopping.

I’ll give you one more example, this one of a store that had its act together. It, too, was in an upscale store in a great big mall in a great big town – probably Dallas, Texas, though I honestly don’t remember for sure. It was a dress store and I’m not sure how I got tricked into going into it.

But as soon as we walked inside, two cheerful clerks met us. One greeted the shopper while the other focused on me. The one to whom I was assigned invited me to take advantage of a little seating area where there were lots of that day’s newspapers and lots of guy magazines. As I settled into a big, comfortable armchair, she asked me, “Would you like something to drink? I can get you a Sprite or a Coke or white or red wine.”

I’m not sure how long the shopper shopped, but I do recall that I totally conquered my usual impatience. I sat there and waited very happily for as long as it took.

Later, I told a doctor friend that story. His response was, “Heck, Sullens, you didn’t conquer anything. You were just self-medicating!”

David Sullens is president of Roanoke-Chowan Publications and publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald and the Gates County Index.