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Big Box Love

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I can only imagine what the women are experiencing, when I see them gazing into the window of a store’s end-of-season clearance shoe sale. Is it like a version of my hyped-up feeling, as I walk into Ace Hardware for a single round-head lag bolt, and then spend forty-five minutes ogling power tools I’m never going to own or even understand?

Maybe it’s more like an intense, private version of what guys experience as “Big-Box Love.”

I live in a small Brooklyn apartment with limited storage. I don’t own a car. I live mere blocks from stores carrying everything I need in my daily life. I also have local shopkeepers who may not know my name but who definitely remember that when the nice crew-cut dude comes by, he likes to buy the smaller rib-eye steak, or a one-inch hunk of pancetta, or some obscure Chilean red that’s way south of $15 a bottle.

With that lifestyle and neighborhood, no kids, and my habit of eating out four nights a week, I’m a prime candidate for Euro-style, shop-a-little-each-day housekeeping. But that can get expensive. And I’m lazy.

I’m also a shameless, dirty, on the down-low, “big box” h—addict.

I can’t help it. Whenever I have to rent a car for work, I get it the day before the meeting and keep it overnight, or scheme to return it the day after the meeting. My precious auto-enabled hours mean I can plot a surreptitious trek to a mega-warehouse retailer. Jersey, Brooklyn, Westchester, Staten-freakin-Island—when you’re in the life, you know where to find what you need.

As I approach their huge parking lots, my shopping-averse persona goes somewhere on vacation and primal urges of acquisition-lust possess me.

I’m excited by the prospect of getting as much stuff as possible, as quickly as possible. Jockeying a huge shopping cart through the formidable opposition of heavy aisle traffic is a thrill. And the quantities! Great tubs of peanut butter, huge double-bags of raisins lashed with strong, adhesive handles, more Worcestershire sauce than an army could consume. I’m dazzled by jars of capers, stacks and stacks of canned tuna…massive quantities of fruit that will rot long before I can eat it all. Then—near the check-out, I see the holy of holies: massive bundles of paper towels and toilet paper in stepped pyramids, like an Aztec temple built for some smooth, albino god of hygiene.

Do I need all this stuff right now? Is it really cheaper? Where will I put it? Don’t distract me, dammit, I’m shopping.

What’s that buzz I feel?

For the next six months I won’t even come close to running out of dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, or those crappy, chewy, oversized capers. Who cares if the pound of dried porcini tastes a little more wooden than woodland, or if the olive oil is way more Wesson than extra-virgin? I won’t have to think about shopping again for a very, very long time.

Maybe that’s it. I’m not a shop-a-holic, I’m a binge shopper. Long dry spells pass as I hold the demon of Necessary Provisions at bay. When I finally succumb—man…don’t look, ‘cause it’s gonna be bad. The prospect of being overly well-provisioned for the foreseeable future, and thereby avoiding dozens of little shopping excursions, is irresistible.

It’s not the cheap prices that hook me, and certainly not the immediate need for such quantities. My hall closet was built for clothes, not canned goods. I must be getting off on the prospect of not having to even think about shopping until the next time I feel compelled to give in to my big-box habit. It’s not the economy of pricing that I’m responding to, it’s the economy of time and mental stress that draws me again and again to my big-box fix.

On my last big-box shopping bender though, I did see one very provocative sight. Perhaps gender unification is closer than we think. Not too far from the “lifetime-size” cans of chickpeas and the “never, ever again” multi-packs of mayo, there were…shoes. Rows and rows of shoes.


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