I Shop, Therefore I Am Not

Is shopping fun?  It’s certainly a ridiculously popular activity all around the world.  I wonder why so many people love it.  Are we crazy?  Or just crazy about buying stuff?  At least we know that everything gets recycled and doesn’t end up in the dump or the ocean–

–or does it?

Hmmm. . . Well, according to the December 12, 2014 issue of The Korea Herald (the world’s greatest newspaper), “269,000 tons of plastic litter chokes the world’s oceans.”

“There are plastic shopping bags, bottles, toys, action figures, bottle caps, pacifiers, toothbrushes, boots, buckets, deodorant roller balls, umbrella handles, fishing gear, toilet seats, and so much more.”

It’s nice to know we can share mass production’s never-ending bounty with all the fish, octopi, sea turtles, terns, manta rays, sharks, whales, dolphins, and the rest of our aquatic brethren and sistren.  How magnanimous of us that we deign to do so in light of these poor creatures’ inability to drive down to the local strip mall or department store and stock up on clothes and robotic toys paid for with a credit card.

(In Korea there’s a store called Plastic Island.  They know how to plan ahead here.)

Anyway, my wife Jina compelled me to go to the combination supermarket-department store yesterday for what she said would be a short visit.  We ended up spending four hours farting around in the damn place.

Lately she’d gotten out of the habit of dragging me to the supermarket, but must have remembered how effective it is as a torture device after forcing me to go to church with her all these years (when will I see the goddamned light?  Does it always have to be so dark in here?  I can’t even see my beer).

Then again, I should be grateful, as she immediately asked me to try on several parkas to help survive Seoul’s brutal winter.  I’ve lived in a lot of places, and this one has to have the most inhospitable climate of any.  No wonder so many of the people who live here are so grumpy (including me, in case you hadn’t noticed).

The clerk who helped us was a tall, elegant woman who wore lots of jewelry and too much make-up, but she had an engaging smile that made us open our wallets.

The funny thing is that Jina has been on my case about not having had enough teaching hours over the past several months, implying that we’ll soon have to acquire a taste for cat food if we want to survive, but as soon as she enters one of these places, frugality goes out the window.

Jina made me try on about five different coats before helping me make a decision, then tried on several herself.  I was pleased to see her buy something for herself for a change; she usually just spoils me (maybe to compensate for the lack of other kinds of affection I receive from her) and martyrs herself like her hero, J.C. (Hello there, birthday boy!  And what would you like for Christmas?  “Anything, Santa.  Just please don’t nail me to a cross.”)

While I was holding the coat she’d worn into the store, a few objects fell from one of the pockets into a box of packaged T-shirts arranged vertically at my feet.  I hunched over to pick up what had fallen out–her phone and a set of keys to her school.  When I handed them to her and asked if there was anything else, she said no.

Meanwhile, adventurous shoppers filled their carts with shoes and Transformer toys and Leggos for their semi-Americanized kids, who accompanied them on their heroic mission.

Jina and I went downstairs to the supermarket region, where she bought several boxes of cookies, and also some muffins, to distribute to her students on Christmas Eve.  We jockeyed past the hungry young couples to grab a plastic container of sushi; Jina persuaded a nearby clerk to mark it down for us.  I wanted to get some sashimi instead, but Jina said it was too expensive, and I couldn’t argue with that.

Maybe we’ll win a prize if we eat the last bluefin tuna ever caught!

She found a box of mandarin oranges she liked and put them in the shopping basket.  We went to the cashier’s lane where the one of the store’s humble representatives tallied up our goods, then Jina found she’d lost one of her credit cards (she has several; I have none).  She panicked and started to freak out.  The clerk kindly told her to just type in her phone number on the device provided for the customers instead of using her store card, so she did.

Afterwards, she told me to go and wait for her in the food court while she tried to track down the missing card.  I found an empty table and parked my butt on one of the plastic chairs next to it after putting all the groceries down, heaving a mighty sigh.  I unwrapped the box of sushi and filled one of the little wells built into the shiny speckled black plastic base of the box with soy sauce, emptying a packet of ginger into the other.

There were several pretty young women roaming about, and I suddenly had a craving for a burger from the fast food joint in the corner (not that I connected the two types of cravings).  I decided to wait till Jina returned so I could get clearance from her.  I also figured it would be wiser to buy something from one of the other counters, since they sold more healthful, traditional Korean food.

So that I wouldn’t be too obvious about ogling the breathtaking beauties and mistaken for a slightly younger, white version of Bill Cosby, I closed my eyes, sat up straight, and breathed.  When I opened my eyes a few minutes later, the bright colors of red, yellow, and green filled my perspective–not so much a vision of Christ as an artificial epiphany.  Thank God there are so many fetching, beautiful colors in our world that don’t exist in boring old nature.

Jina appeared, empty-handed, and ate a few pieces of sushi.  When I asked her about getting a burger, she frowned.

“We had a big lunch–remember?” she said.

She had a point.  We’d eaten spaghetti and pizza at an Italian restaurant.

I asked her if she wanted me to go look for the credit card, but she went instead.  She re-emerged several minutes later, saying she’d decided to cancel it.

Back upstairs, she asked me what had happened with the other key.  I didn’t know what she was talking about, but suggested we go look at the place where I’d dropped the stuff from her pocket earlier.  Sure enough, I found it tucked between the T-shirts.  She chewed me out for being so careless, evidently unable to see how hypocritical that was, considering she’d just lost her credit card.

(The key she’d been referring to was the one to the locker where she’d left her pocket book.)

I sat down in a massage chair that refused to be activated by the remote control while Jina went to pick out a winter cap for me.  She returned with several caps, none of which I was crazy about, then asked a store clerk for the time.  Since it was nearly 10:30 pm, Jina said we could buy some discounted sashimi.  She told me to go back and wait for her again.

When she returned, she asked me to come with her to check out the rest of the display.  I went and tried a few on, quickly making a choice, but she wanted to continue, as if we had all the time in the world and weren’t mortals subjected to the laws of dissolution and decay.

She directed me to the bus stop, and I suggested daftly we walk down the median strip of the busy street along the tapered white stripes that indicated where the buses went, between the two lanes of car traffic going in either direction.  A driver honked at Jina on her side and a bus driver nearly made road pizza out of me.

We stopped at Jina’s school to eat the sashimi.  She dropped off the cookies and muffins and brought the new clothes and oranges with us on our bus ride home.

As we were walking towards our apartment, Jina asked me to put on my new cap, which had a pompom at the top she’d offered to cut off for me.

“You look cute!” she said.

“So you like it better with the nipple on top?”

“You’re bad man!”

I burped sonorously in reply to prove her point.

By the way, when I wrote yesterday’s entry, I forgot that there were several female guests at Stephen Colbert’s sing-along, including legendary feminist Gloria Steinem, Arianna Huffington, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Pardon the oversight.  And apologies to those male celebrities I neglected to mention (nothing is sadder than a neglected celebrity), including, but not limited to:  Dave Barry, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Clinton, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and–and–I forget who else.  I was going to go back and watch the clip again, but life is too short, as I’m sure you’ll agree, unlike this long-winded blog post.

I appreciate your patience.

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