Monday, January 16, 2006

shopping with betty

Shopping has never been my forte. Online shopping, my usual method, is repugnant enough, but the brick and mortar variety actually nauseates me after the first 15-20 minutes. Yet somehow I managed to give birth to a male shopper.

Every time I hear him croon, in his best sing-song," Oh, mama, I feel like doing something special with you today..." I know I'm in trouble. Big trouble. "Something special", to this alien of mine, means shopping.

He did inherit the stubbornness gene from me. We lock horns for a while, he pouts, he wins, we shop.

If you want to be a shopper, you pretty much have to follow the herd. We followed the herd to shoppers' paradise. We walked. He drooled at iPods and asked for Cinabonns. We walked. I watched.

The place was bustling with apparently happy, moneyed people who were out to improve their lives, or at least their possession tally, on this day. I was impressed that the traffic actually STOPPED at intersections to allow the many pedestrians to cross leisurely. It was highly unusual to see so many people out walking. So that's what sidewalks are for.....interesting.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, all of those PEDESTRIANS had driven vehicles, some of monstrous SUV proportions, to this shopping mecca. This thriving pedestrian "neighborhood" is devoid of housing. Not one living soul is able to walk to this desination. It exists in a suburb, far from downtown. This shopping center and one in another suburb have seemingly conspired to ruin this city's downtown, which until recently was itself a shopping destination.

I must have been a city planner in a past life. I am inordinately troubled by this phenomenon. I know there's a better way. My Serbian friend tells me his family led a very happy, car-free life. Carefree and car-free. Vehicles pollute, vehicles kill, vehicles maim, vehicles reduce our level of fitness, and vehicles have caused the elimination of those glorious streetcar systems which graced our cities many years ago.

We drove away from today's shopping experience along with hundreds of other vehicles. Why did we all seem to be leaving at the same time? The number of cars was staggering. I shuddered as I realized the odds of at least one of these many drivers making a mistake, especially as our world goes more and more high tech. The driver next to me could have been watching one of those video iPods my child had been drooling over. My tiny subcompact didn't stand a chance against one of those looming, imposing behemouths.

I panicked, gripped the steering wheel for dear life, and pressed the gas pedal, dispersing my exhaust into our precious air. It just seems so wrong.

17 comments:

ME Strauss said...

No worries. Your imagination would start doing the same thing about the PEDESTRIANS, I suspect were you walking down the street to go shopping. I know mine would. If I ever did win the lottery that's the one thing I would do for sure . . . hire someone to do all of my shopping and errands for me. Gosh wouldn't that be cool?

garnet david said...

Oh Betty- To be honest with you, I like to shop. Once in awhile, I enjoy driving in my volvo tank to a good shopping area and sauntering around dreaming about all the wonderful things I could buy. Then I buy maybe one thing. sometimes I even buy something for someone else.

Shopping is not bad. The problem is that we use it to escape and justify so many serious environmental and political and social problems.

Anonymous said...

Oh Betty, you write so eloquently about our dubious addiction to the automobile. It does kill, maim, pollute, congest,orstrasize and utterly destroy whatever comes in its path. What happend to the bicycle? Today I'm not going anwhere and I am going to be content with the things I already have. Thanks for reminding me!

Sideways Chica said...

After reading your post, and smiling, then laughing, then nodding my head in agreement, I have but one question: How were the cinnabons?

Ciao...

Teri

Betty said...

Liz,
I'm glad that you seem to share my aversion to shopping. However, if I have to do it, I'd much rather do it without driving. I managed to get by without a car until I moved to the city I live in now.

Betty said...

Garnet,
It sounds as if light shopping brings you joy, and you certainly do enjoy manning the volvo. The time I shopped with you recently was tolerable, come to think of it, even though when it was time for me to make a purchase I couldn't go through with it.

Betty said...

anonymous,
Yes, it really is an addiction, isn't it? I'm trying to break that addiction in my life, which is not easy in a car-oriented city.

Betty said...

Hi Teri! According to the child, who would not share, the cinnabons were out of this world. I figured I could do without the trans fat. Do you suppose I'm becoming known as a party pooper?

taikochan said...

I utterly and totally agree! I, for the first time, went to one of those fake neighborhood shopping areas that one drives on freeways (which happen to be the number one cause of death of people my age...) to get to. Ugh. I felt like I'd fallen into some particularly awful animated Disney movie: life with all the disturbing bits edited out. I almost expected little animals to start singing happy, cheesy songs.
I do like some kinds of shopping, however: Used book stores, and really good plant catalogues (like, ooooh, Plant Delights Nursery or Chiltern Seeds). I walk to the first, and do the second curled up on my couch with a cup of green tea.

Betty said...

Taikochan,
I understand your reference to Disney. I had thought of that shopping mecca as a Disneyland for adults, where we can all show up and have "fun" spending money we don't have. I'm not sure what upset me more- the concept of shopping, the shopping center itself, or the driving. The combination was unbearable.

Keep on biking and walking and shopping for used books and good plants! You are the most wholesome human I know.

jordan_wildpirate said...

It's not just the power center shopping that gives me the heebie-jeebies, but it's the herd mentality that really shivers me timbers.

That shopping experience is akin to going to Home Depot the day after a new episode of "Trading Spaces", or going to a mall the day after an episode of "What Not to Wear". It's just one big creepy event. It's almost a semi-religious experience.

Sideways Chica said...

Betty...

Passing on the occasional cinnabon hardly makes you a party pooper. But if you continue to do so on a regular basis, we'll have to reevaluate the situation. (smiling)

Ciao, Teri

Betty said...

Jordan,
I agree. The marketing industry is surely thrilled by our increasing herd behavior. Scary.

Betty said...

Teri,
I'm sure I've offended some people by speaking out against SUV's, driving, materialism and technology, urban sprawl, mass marketing, shopping, suburban pseudo "neighborhoods" and the trans fats hidden in our fast food, including cinnabon. Fortunately, you are the forgiving sort! I appreciate that.

Ms Bees Knees said...

i try to be a conscious shopper... but damn! sometimes i just want to consume and be reckless ya know!? its just feels so cathartic to be a mindless zombie with a credit card. LOL.

Betty said...

ms bees,
You are forgiven for enjoying mindless zombie behavior now and then. Those of us who read your blog are well aware of your regular, though unlawful, contributions to society. It all balances out.

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