I can’t walk into any retail establishment and come out with only what I intended to buy. I must have inherited this trait from my father, because all of my immediate female ancestors were great with money, even frugal. My maternal grandmother thought that she was splurging if she bought her bread fresh instead of a day old. My mother would never buy more than a dollar’s worth of gas at a time for the car. (This was miserly, even in the 50s.) My father’s mother once repaired one of my broken sandals by sewing it up with her own hands. It didn’t look very good, but it held the shoe together.
My father, on the other hand, knew what money was for – to buy stuff. Buying stuff on impulse made it more fun. It was I Love Lucy in reverse. Instead of the woman being the one who was scatterbrained with money, it was the man. I take after him in this, with just enough influence from the female side to feel guilty about it.*
My typical shopping trip goes something like this:
It’s early evening. The subway train pulls into my stop, and I get off and take the elevator down to the street (it’s an elevated stop). “Ooh!” says my brain, “I’m out of toothpaste. Better stop in Walgreens.”
The Walgreens store is next to the subway, so I push my way in through the door marked “Out.” I take a shopping cart, not because I need it for one lousy tube of toothpaste, but because I can lean on it while I push it around. I do the same thing in supermarkets.
The toothpaste is all the way over on the other side of the store. I now have a shopping cart and many aisles to pass by or go through to reach it. What happens next is inevitable.
By the time I’m finished, the cart contains a bucket of soft peppermint candies, a bottle of Softsoap Spa Radiant Body Wash, four bars of Irish Spring bath soap (on sale, saving me a whole dollar and twenty-five cents), two bottles of chewable acidophilus, two pairs of white diabetic socks (so comfortable because they are so loose), two pairs of black diabetic socks, four deodorants, and, finally, TWO tubes of toothpaste and a big bottle of ACT mouthwash (because I can’t remember if I am running out of mouthwash or not and I don’t want to take a chance).
On the way to the cashier, I have second thoughts. I put the black diabetic socks back. I have so many pairs of socks at home that I have to fight to get my sock drawer closed. I never wear most of them.
I need three bags to carry home what was supposed to be one tube of toothpaste.
After many years of this, I have finally come to the conclusion that I am a hopeless case, and I might as well just give up and enjoy my bad shopping habits. Life is too short to spend it without those extra bars of Irish Spring soap.
*But not guilty enough to stop doing it.