The Insanity of Pointless Indulgence: 10 Things I Learned at Crate & Barrel Today

Ah, that time of year when the desperation factor intensifies as you search for perfect holidays gifts, venturing into stores that you don’t normally frequent…

1. I clearly don’t make enough money in my life.

What do people do for a living that are able to afford paying $250 for a simple white serving bowl with a single, tiny flower painted in the middle of it? I’m assuming that Michelangelo must have done the diminutive artwork, because otherwise there’s just no reason. And a coffee maker that costs $500? An ugly coffee maker that looks like someone took a hit of peyote in the desert and then made some very poor decisions.

2. Wireless phones are the new black.

Every single person in the store was talking on one. (Except me, of course. I politely chose to keep my communication device holstered, shoved into my jeans pocket where it would firmly remain during my visit, unless a startling but strangely-pleasant buzzing alerted my genitals that I had an incoming call.) I don’t think it’s right to meander around a store with a possibly unhealthy chunk of slim metal spewing radiation into my ear, babbling loudly about unimportant things that no one else wants to hear.

Besides, you need to pay attention to what you are doing, which is, theoretically, shopping, and not analyzing skanky footwear that this store doesn’t even sell, on the phone with your friend Brenda that hasn’t had a job since computers were invented. Do you see that towering stack of limited-edition cocktail glasses, signed by somebody in Sweden who might actually be important some day? If you knock that crap over while distracted with texting your boyfriend from three relationships ago, about tofu of all things, you are never going to make enough money the rest of your life to pay for the damages.

3. How have I lived my entire life without owning an appliance specifically designed to toast your individual miniature marshmallows so that your cocoa is just right while you watch polo being played?

How? The shame is overwhelming. I am incomplete.

4. There are still actually people named “Muffy” in the world.

At least I think that’s what her name was. Things were a bit unclear. She might have been drunk, based on the application of her makeup. In any case, we became fast friends whilst perusing a display of enameled cooking tongs, trying to decide which of the 400 available colors would be appropriate after Labor Day. She babbled constantly. I grunted. Somewhere along the line I learned that she raises Berkshires. Or lives there. Something like that.

5. If you really, really like something, you can’t afford it.

This scenario happened repeatedly: I would turn a corner, spy something incredible and moving, race up to fondle it delicately, envision exactly where I could place it in my home, timidly flip over the little price tag, and find myself staring at a figure that matched one I had paid for a semester of college.

So, I learned to not even bother with the most attractive things, because there was no point in setting myself up for that kind of disappointment. My mood-stabilizing medication can only do so much before we must up the dosage. I lowered my expectations and I only became intimate with mediocre and less-attractive things. Which also reminded me of college.

6. You would never know that the economy was in any kind of trouble based on the merchandise piling out of the store.

Entire fleets of trucks were backing up to the loading dock, with service people scurrying about, transporting the 144 place settings that one of the Kardashians had personally picked out whilst getting a hot-stone massage in Tibet. CEO types were marching in the door, barking take-over orders into the phone in one hand, and waving their other hand at the 15 hand-carved armoires that the Missus needed as door prizes at the next meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Our Money.

7. The workers in this place can tell if you have money just by one look.

I was constantly being shoved to the side by bustling employees who had noticed someone behind me with a higher credit-card limit. I was relegated to one of the new trainees, who didn’t know any better, and certainly didn’t know where anything was in the store. I had to assist her with another customer who was looking for the jewel-encrusted fondue prongs. She later asked me if I knew where the bathroom might be.

8. Rich people have a different accent.

It’s not a real accent, by any means, merely something they came up with during their spare time when they weren’t working for a living. They also like to add extra syllables to words like “really” and “darling”. It’s completely annoying. Then again, if I had enough money to spend the equivalent of the entire national budget of Algeria on a shot glass hand-blown by Monica Lewinski, I might find it imperative to come up with my own language as well.

9. The checkout people don’t care for it when you buy multiple small items.

Oh, they pretend to be all polite and everything, but they find it incredibly tedious to actually count things, especially lots of things that don’t cost very much. Sorry, folks. I can only afford these pointless tiny spoons over here, that one might use for ladling small amounts of caviar or feeding Barbie. I’m going to give one to all of my friends and purposely leave part of the price tag on it so they can get the impression I shop here all the time. After all, it’s the Holidays, when people try to impress one another with their gift-giving, and it is imperative that we uphold pointless traditions whilst ignored homeless people just want a warm place to stay at night.

10. It’s apparently a social blemish to refuse a gift receipt.

I told the little man manning the check-out counter at least three times that I didn’t need one. (They’re stupid little spoons. If they don’t work out, people will just throw them in the trash and then lie about the disappearance, claiming burglary or some such.) The little man made small, exasperated noises each time I rebuffed his advances. Clearly, this man was completely worn out, not impressed with my inability to respond in a manner that corresponded with the three minutes of training exercises he had suffered through during his orientation.

His little friend, the Gift Box Lady, was also troubled by the lack of a gift receipt. As she swathed each spoon in crackly packing materials and then shoved them in gleaming white boxes, she inquired on the status of the gift receipt for every single spoon, hoping each time that there might actually be one, and therefore the world could be a better place.

Eventually, I was allowed to leave the establishment, despite my awkward country ways and gift-receipt illiteracy. I trotted out the door, lugging a bag loaded with spoons, wrapped in boxes that cost more than the actual contents. Before climbing in my car, I turned and waved at Muffy, who was standing on the sidewalk and wondering why no one was bringing her another cocktail.

Just down the street, in a tiny park that had seen better days, a single mother sat on a bench and kept a careful eye on her children as they played. She hoped to finally get them something nice this year, but she wasn’t sure how she could do that since the minimum wage hasn’t been raised in this country for nearly a decade. And the Republicans in Congress just voted for a Tax Bill that benefits the rich and denigrates anyone who isn’t, a soulless and inexcusable action.

Let’s work on our priorities, shall we? Decency is so much better than pointless spoons that nobody will ever use.



Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 12/15/10. Some changes made, but the song remains the same. Story behind the photo: Slats in a park bench, although this particular park is in my back yard. Sometimes you just have to wing it with the creativity and hope for the best…


39 replies »

  1. Wow! I had a good laugh.😆 But you’re right, this is reality. For those of us who don’t make too much money stores like this make us wonder what we’re doing with our lives to not be able to throw money around.😅

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post reminds me why I opted to stop gifting at Christmas, much preferring to occasionally gift someone I care about randomly during the year. No one that I know well enough to exchange gifts with needs anything more really.
    How can you speak about our Congress in that manner? I remember the president saying he was going to take care of the “forgotten” people – oh yeah – he didn’t specifically say HOW he’d take care of them, did he? He and they oiled the slide down to the black hole, I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree with the concept of “unforced” gift giving, and I try to follow that route whenever possible. Most of my family does not exchange gifts at Christmas, agreeing that the money can be better spent. (The young uns still get things, of course; we’re not completely unmoved by the spirit of things.) And yep, that chute to the black hole is slicker than ever these days… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This post reminds me that I have yet to breech the shove and bustle of the local nut store (well nut store doesn’t cover it…they sell nuts (squirrel fodder lest someone with an unsavory imagination is reading this) they also sell chocolate, fudge, ornaments, place settings, lights, candles, music, and a host of other things that are extraneous to common place life, but are nifty to give to someone else, thus winning them over with one’s impeccable taste in choose giftery. I stick to nuts. It was a unique gift, well until my sister in law horned in and claimed she thought of it. First. Bitch. If my head ever stops pounding and I feel it is safe to drive again, I need to get down there (local is a mere descriptive term…loosely fitted to the fact that the nut store is at least 50 miles south of me). I will have people dropping by, unannounced, laden with homemade goodies and good will and cheer, none of which I have, those things having been out of stock since 1987…

    Liked by 1 person

    • While I do try to avoid physical shopping during the holiday season, I still have a fondness for “Christmas” stores, when they are done the right “old-timey” way. There are several really good season stores like this in the DFW area, and my favorite is one that concentrates on the “Victorian Christmas” theme. I just love that time period when it comes to yuletide, as the ornaments and decorations have such a magical, innocent quality to them. That’s also why I used to be so invested in building my annual Christmas village (I believe you’ve read my “Village of the Damned” series, though you might not have). Sadly, I haven’t done the village in a few years, and I really do miss that experience…


  4. Erratum of above comment: It SHOULD read impeccable taste in CHOOSING giftery. And can we hold a vote to send all cell phone offendees to that desert island, populated with people like the Kardashians, Lindsey Lohan and other minor tempests in the current media teapot? They deserve each other!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I’m standing in a checkout line and the people around me are screaming into their cell phones, it’s all I can do not to grab the phone and shove it down their throats. But I’m not bitter…


  5. I refuse to engage in Christmas shopping madness; majority is done online, rest is either charity donations on behalf of or a small but tasteful gift from a favourite independent shop on our high street that has lovely friendly and helpful staff. All our family have really scaled down this year and it’s a relief. We are more relaxed and have more energy to enjoy the family visits.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your experience sounds remarkably like mine, whenever I’m in the vicinity of Scottsdale Fashion Square. You know how fancy that place is? It’s a mall, but it doesn’t look, feel, or act like a mall. You don’t so much walk into shops as suddenly, inexplicably, find yourself within one.
    And you know how in Ross or TJ Maxx, every item, including the pillowcases, has a security device attached? Not so at Scottsdale. Nuh-uh. Not even the $250 washcloths or the gold-rimmed hydroflasks. I’m told the shops have just as much theft as any other place, but they don’t want to take the chance of offending their clientele.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Fashion Square sounds remarkably similar to a destination in Tulsa, known as Utica Square. (I’m assuming it’s still there. I haven’t bothered to check in the last few decades of return trips home.) It’s an “outdoor” mall, but otherwise functions the same. You aren’t sure if you’re in a store or a set piece for an opera. Everything is very high end, including the attitudes. (Don’t you go up in the grill wearing flip-flops and cut-offs or the smell of Broken Arrow. It’s just not done.) When I was a young gay fledgling just breaking into the employment phase of my life, I yearned to work there. I have since adjusted my priorities… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Muffy? Haven’t heard that in years. As bad as (holy shades of Marin County) Biff. The Monica blowing kinda jumped out at me but do agree it’s a gifted bit of wordage. Now if I could just expunge the images. Oye.

    Liked by 1 person

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