Yesterday I went to M.unich again because of my monthly writer’s meeting. I went early, as I’m wont to do, to get some errands run. I was totally set on spending money, and I had a list:
- iPod cover
- paper to print business cards on
You know what I brought home with me? A bottle of wine and two bags of chips, and this is why.
I had added the map at the last minute because as I was looking up the way to get to my meeting (new location this month) I found that our current map of the big city had a price tag that still read “DM”. It’s been Euros for nine years now, a whole new highway has been built since then, also about a dozen new train stations.
The one thing that I didn’t put on the list was “bottle of wine”. I forgot to but I still had to buy one because I had promised to bring one, then found that for reasons I can’t fathom we had only one bottle of red wine left in the house which – while very tasty – looks like a cheap bottle of wine. And while I can tell people to “Just go on and taste it, it’s really good.” at my house, it just doesn’t look good as a gift.
So I left the house with a full wallet and the intention to pick up a bottle of wine on my way to the train station at the local health food store. Which hasn’t gone out of business, woohoo, though it had been a close call. I went in there, looked for wine, couldn’t find the one I wanted, found that all the other brands were wines we had tried and found inferior and decided to just get a bottle of wine in the city.
I hopped on the train, and made a plan of how to buy everything on my list without having to go into too many stores, and without crossing back. Just like a puzzle, like you do. First thing I went to the yarn shop. I knew what I wanted, two balls of yarn to knit my husband another hat because he accidentally felted the one I made him before. (Our son is very happy with his very cool new hat, though.) I also wanted another ball in the same color and some turquoise or so to make matching mittens. I went into the shop, looked at the shelves, found two balls of the light grey I wanted, and then I started looking for a contrasting colorway. I stood there for about ten minutes, pulling out balls of yarn and reading labels because their yarn is sorted according to color which makes finding the same yarn in different colors really slow. In the end I didn’t find a color that I liked, there were only two balls of the grey though I need four, and so I left the shop without buying anything.
I briefly thought about going into another shop for the yarn but then I came to my senses again, and remembered that that’s always what I do, and inevitably the other stores have even smaller selections of yarn.
To relax a bit I then went on to find myself a bottle of wine, and succeeded, and then – because I was so frustrated already – the two bags of chips somehow found their way into my bag. I’m really proud that I didn’t buy any candy, though, I’m trying to go candy-free at the moment, and I thought that would be a bit counter-productive. (Whereas buying potato chips is entirely reasonable, of course.)
Next I went to the apple store where I had never been before in my life, and tried to buy a case for my iPod touch to use when I’m exercising. I wanted something with velcro I could fasten on my arm or some such thing. I entered the store, and thought, “Where is all the stuff?” I only saw a lot of computers on tables, and a lot of people playing with them. I started looking around for the accessories. I also would have bought a nice little cheap lightweight external hard drive if I had seen one that had caught my fancy. After a while I gathered that maybe what I was looking for was upstairs. So I went up, and right there were things to buy. And I have to say I even did find a case just like I had wanted but, sadly, about double the price I had been willing to spend. So I thought to myself, “I’ll just buy some velcro and make myself a case out of leftover fabric.”
I didn’t really want to go into the paper store after that so I tried to find what I wanted somewhere else – and failed. And I thought, “I’ll just use that old orange paper I have lying around, who needs fancy business cards anyway.” (I know the faulty thinking in that but I thought it anyway.)
Next the dreaded clothing store. I need to replace both pajamas and pants because of the two functioning pairs of each that I have one is falling to pieces. Literally. Both my comfortable jeans and my not-as-loved pajamas have big honking holes in them, and are not really fit for wearing anymore. What bugs me the most are the jeans because I bought them only about a year ago, and they were quite expensive. Now, I don’t mind spending money on pants, especially if they fit, but this amounts to 12.9 € a month I spend on jeans. And that’s not considering that I have been wearing this pair of jeans with holes in it for a couple of months now. They are my “home jeans”.
So I decided to buy some cheap jeans instead. Nothing fits me right anyway. One thing that quickly wears out on my pants these days is the place where I always grab them to yank them up. I’ve seriously considered wearing suspenders. It’s annoying. I get up from a chair – yank. I sit down – yank. I walk a bit – yank. It’s completely automatic right now but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to wear something that doesn’t threaten to expose my underwear. So, this time, cheap jeans.
I really tried. I looked at everything. I wanted this to work. Black pants would have been fine, jeans would have been fine, pinstripes, no matter, something that fit me. You know, in the end I didn’t even try anything on. I looked at the cut of almost every pair of pants they had in there and instantly I could see why I had started buying more expensive jeans.
Next to the pajamas. Pajamas are easy. They can be baggy, they don’t have to look particularly smashing, I’m content with everything if it has long sleeves and pants, is made from a stretchy, jersey material, and is not pink or has any cute animals on it.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t find pajamas either. Everything was pink or with bows or beige or had horrible things printed on. So I thought to myself, “I’ll just buy some jersey and make myself some pajama bottoms, and use the top that I have from the pajamas I bought last time where I didn’t bother to try them on first, and now I have pajama pants I can’t even pull up properly.”
The only thing left on my list was the map. I already felt quite dejected by the consumer culture, and so I thought the book store would cheer me up. One can always find a book, right?
Well, I went all through the store, I went to the section where they keep the maps, I looked into self-help books, and novels, and life style and whatever, and I left with – nothing. Of course, this might have had something to do with the two dozen or so books I bought in the past months but then it also might have had something to do with all the heaps of “I’m a bestseller, buy me!”-books there that I don’t have any interest in reading. You can’t really browse because the things they have in stock are mostly “the book of the day”, and that’s it. When I complained to a saleswoman at my local bookstore about how few books they had there she said, “But we can get every book within a few days.” Yeah, you can but I also can get every book through the internet in a few days, and then I don’t have to leave my house (twice, once to order, and the second time to pick the book up), it’s faster, and I don’t have to spell the title for somebody, or have a debate on whether this particular book exists or not. I was polite that time (that was a long time ago), I didn’t say, “I know it exists. I could have ordered it on the internet and have it here faster and cheaper but I wanted to support local business.”
It’s also worth noting that with all the time I spent in shops clearly looking for specific things to buy not one sales person talked to me. None. No one asked me if they could help me, or what I wanted or anything. I just wandered around on my own, getting more and more frustrated.
So, what have I learned through this? I really should never expect to find anything I need in the city. Or at most local stores. I used to love to go shopping with enough money. At least for a bit. But these days I always seem to come back empty-handed.
So now I’ll have to make another list. It’s titled, “Things I have to sew:” I hope I can get around to it before my one pair of pants, and one pair of pajamas wear out as well.
Oh, and an interesting fact: I couldn’t find a map of the city in the city. Well, not the one I wanted anyways. There are very small ones without some of the suburbs, and I found one of those. (Not in the book store, not next to the other maps, though. I could have bought one of Madrid, or Hamburg, or a travel guide to Siberia. All great things to have but a map of the city? Much more practical for me.) I won’t give up though. One day I’ll have everything on my list, plus a fabulous bottle of wine.