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OtterSummer 8.14-Pshaw-Ping

I characterize myself as not much of a shopper, but I do love my routine. I’m primarily responsible for stocking the larder and I take this responsibility seriously. Being gone for the best part of two weeks meant that I first had to starve the fresh pantry before leaving, then restock uncharacteristically empty shelves upon returning.

The Muse took the rest of the week off, so she’d announced that she wanted to accompany me. The Otter, though she’s a champion shopper, opted to nap through the sultry afternoon instead. Fine. Alone time’s one of the prominent themes of every Otter Summer.

I suppose I stick to a typical male strategy when shopping. I envision what I want, plot where I’ll find that, then go snag it up. I do not browse shops, hoping for inspiration. I might stumble upon some surprising seasonal veg, for instance, but I’d never list ‘surprising seasonal veg’ on my shopping list in the rare event that I even make a list. I have an eternal inventory and shopping’s how I resupply.

The Muse and The Otter are inveterate browsers. I prefer to wait in the car when they shop, and their presence always intrudes on my normally effective shopping pattern, though I love having them along. The Muse does find interesting stuff. The Otter tries to find every free sample and taste twice, three times if possible; especially cheese. She usually asks for something unmentionable, something I didn’t even know existed from an aisle I never enter, so her presence broadens my experience, though I almost never decide to buy that unmentionable.

I have no problem denying The Grand Otter anything there, even when she bats her eyelashes and makes that cute pouty face, my “no!” remains undaunted. Her pout tends to be short-lived, and she usually walks out with something pleasing to her and to me. I am not half as exacting as I pretend to be.

The Muse shops so infrequently now that she seems to have pent up desires wrestling within her. She tends to over-buy, imagining a sudden need for Red Texas grapefruit when my inventory control manager remembers the last batch spoiled before anyone got around to actually eating them. These are small potatoes, though, compared to the satisfaction she carries through checkout. It’s the satisfaction of any hunter-gatherer returning generously laden from the hunt.

I completely exclude myself from clothes shopping, a ritual The Muse and Grand Otter observe at least once each Otter Summer. They carry out these expeditions in full browse mode, entering each shop tabula rasa, hoping to find inspiration, perhaps salvation, inside. The Muse, like me, tends to buy the same small subset of clothing over and over again, so the guided tour through the purchases when she returns feels deja vu-ish. The Otter, however, tends toward the outlandish. Jeans, sure, but electric, neon, day-glow ones with spangles. She usually spots some treasure she cannot live without early in the expedition, and the more practical Muse deflects the decision, guiding her toward the bargain basement, but they’ll return; once, twice, perhaps three times, and if that treasure isn’t ultimately purchased, it will become the reason for a story about a less than fully satisfying hunt.

Me? I either sit reading in the car or find a bench somewhere out of the primary sound blast of the shopping center. I consider shopping centers to be the bane of human existence, where convenience erases every practical consideration. Places, like cable TV, where choices are unlimited, and where each choice remains ultimately unacceptable. I despise these places. When possible, I feign illness and just stay home, wishing my intrepid summer family well as they try to reach the commercial equivalent of the South Pole: terrific if you make it, but why even go? There’s nothing there for me to discover.

On my usual market day, I can make the necessary rounds in a couple of hours. Accompanied, it takes me twice as long. It’s time well-invested, though, pouty-faces and all. We are what we desire and shopping’s how we seem to manifest our truest selves. Even when I’m waiting on the sidelines, I’m not nearly as cynical as I sound.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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