I get a very bad feeling when I walk around downtown Walnut Creek on a Saturday afternoon. Let me try to explain it: it's a claustrophobia of need and desire and intent, something I feeling I'm sucking in from the very air. There we all are, walking around, looking for what we can buy. We need. We must have. We have to find it.
But wait! None of us need it, anything. We don't need the new wool rug or the soup spoons or drawer pulls or sweater set. No one in this mall--no one I can see on the sidewalks--needs a damn thing. But there we are, carrying the shopping bags that have killed an entire forest and made our carbon footprint the size of King Kong's.
I've been to markets in other countries, countries without out big box,upwardly mobile shopping playgrounds. People actually buy things they need to have for the day. In Mexico City a few years ago, not far from Frida Kahlo's house in Coyocan, my former spouse and I took our children to a marketplace to find lunch. I'll never forget the pig's head in the window. Chorizo and longonisa drying on lines. Clothes, produce, shoes. People buying what was useful to get up in the morning and live. I know those markets exist in the United States, but the farmer's markets I go to these days sell expensive coffee and are overpriced, carrots the price of carats. I can't see the true need any more, at least around here.
Costco is worse. I have actual anxiety feelings the moment I slip through the mouth of that animal. There we all are, pushing around enormous sleds full of shit we don't really need. 12 packs of paper towels, four cases of plastic bottled water, plastic that will eventually be floating around in that plastic mushy mass in the Pacific. Sides of beef, couches, potted palms, 50 inch screen TVs. What are we doing? What is wrong with us? And by the way, move along. This is my check out line.
Home Depot. Scary. IKEA--oh, Jesus Mary and Joseph. A mall in general? I don't even want to park.
But I need my wool rug. So what do I do?
I'm not trying to sound high and mighty better than thou because I do buy things. Last year, I actually purchased a 32 inch HD television, going to Best Buy and Good Guys and all those electronic places to do it. Do I need a 32 inch HD television? Not really. I could have lived with my little Sony. What else? Oh, couches and chairs. I've bought those recently, too. Window "treatments." Bedding. Rugs. A new espresso machine, a purchase that lead me into Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
But here's my thing. When something comes in, something goes out. Espresso machine came in, older machine went to a nice woman in Hercules (freecycle.org--though the Oakland chapter has mysteriously disappeared). I posted an ad, and she came to get it. I've written about freecycle.org before, but it makes me feel like I'm not playing into the worst part of our shopping issues. Buy and throw away. I buy and give away, someone using my old item for awhile or selling it to someone else. I don't really care as long as it takes its time getting to the dump.
Online shopping. Yes, it's risky. But I almost never buy clothes in person. Maybe this doesn't save much in terms of the world. UPS does have to deliver. There is gas involved. But theoretically, my UPS carrier is making multiple stops from a closer distribution area. I am not driving by myself out to Walnut Creek and back with all the other people driving alone to Walnut Creek and back.
I don't know. Buying things simultaneously depresses and excites me. I like the new thing but I don't admire my need for it. I don't like to see the acquisitiveness in all our faces, the shining idea blooming on our faces that this next purchase will be the thing that makes us happy. Maybe I'm getting too deep about a Saturday out shopping, but I don't know.
Oh yes. I bought a tablecloth and napkins at Crate and Barrel. Sigh.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org