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

Note: It’s the holiday season, which means it’s also time for me to drag out some of my admittedly over-shared “Christmas” posts. Let’s start with this one, a reflection on priorities. And yes, “Crate & Barrel” is a real chain of fancy-ass emporiums.

Ah, that time of year when the desperation factor intensifies as you search for perfect holidays gifts, venturing into high-end 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 the same amount 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 aura. I was relegated to one of the new trainees, who didn’t know any better, and she 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 that I could 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 national minimum wage hasn’t been raised in this country for more than a decade. And the governors in some red states have signed laws that actually make it illegal to raise the minimum wage in that state. (Can you hear me now, Oklahoma?)

Could you survive on $7.25 an hour? Hell, I made six bucks an hour when I started my first “real” job 35 years ago. It’s heartless, and it’s cruel.

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


Previously published, multiple times (as noted). Slight changes made, but the sad song remains the same. Story behind the photo: Slats in a park bench, although this particular park is in my back yard. (The artistic side of me envisioned the slats representing the barriers between the lower and upper classes, but really, they’re just slats. Sometimes you just have to wing it with the creativity and hope for the best.)

If you squint, you can see that there’s no snow in the background, which somewhat negates the intended Christmas flair. We don’t get much snow in Texas, which is kind of surprising, as the Trumpicans here love the color white almost as much as they love the color green. That aside, if you still gift during the holidays, make sure it’s the right things for the right reasons. (Tip: Sometimes the best gift is what you can give to someone who will never know who you are.) And under no circumstances should you ever buy a Berkshire from someone named Muffy…

Cheers, Part Deux.

31 replies »

  1. But what tightwad wouldn’t cough up for a signature shot glass?
    Seriously, trying to address your final comments. An economy that ‘survives’ on tips is Capitalism at its worst. Why should you pay full extortionate price for the meal which is made by those on minimum wages out back, working for some greedy living high-on-the-hog restaurateur AND then feel obliged to tip the sad eyed server who relies on you to keep her/him off Poverty Row by your generous gratuity? Come the Revolution…

    Liked by 1 person

    • The mess with the tipping concept is ridiculous. Making things worse is that many states allow businesses to pay “gratuity compensated” employees an hourly wage that is considerably less than the minimum wage, claiming the employees can make up the difference with the tips. Trouble is, there are a lot of asswipes out there who don’t tip at all, regardless of service.

      This is why I always over-tip if the service is decent. And I pay the tip separately, in cash, so the employee can make up his own mind on whether or not to report it as income. (Besides, if you add the tip to the credit card after it’s already been run once, which is when most people add it, they have to run the card again, and the transaction fee is generally deducted from the employee’s tip) These folks are getting screwed, and I’m going to do my part to minimize the screwing.

      Sorry about the detailed rant. I just get worked up about certain things…

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m terribly saddened by this news, sobbing uncontrollably. How can I win you back? Wait, I know. A toasted marshmallow tip! Well, sort of.

      The next time you are planning a marshmallow-roasting event around a campfire (I’m sure you do this all the time, yes?) try using Peeps instead of marshmallows. (You know, those bunny things.) Not the traditional yellow ones, though. Track down some of the flavors that would roast well. Some of my fave slightly-burnt flavors: Caramel Apple, Hot Chocolate, Coconut and Dark Chocolate, and Cinnamon Roll. You can even shove the hot gooey mess between two graham crackers for a modified S’more.

      Seriously, you’ll die. Do it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And such was the state of the world, the year compassion died. 😢 It had been lonely, so it was glad to go. Common sense and good will toward mankind had given up the ghost years before. The mother in the park stares at the shoppers streaming out of Crate & Barrel and wonders what happened. So do I. Nobody seems to really know either. And the world continues on, darker and more bleak than before, but nobody notices that either. (sorry for the downer comment. The list was great, funny and spot on. The sequel part made me cry (don’t feel guilty, I’m tending to be weepy at everything just now). I hope the mythical woman with her mythical children finds that one piece of humanity left in the world. Sounds like she could use it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand where you’re coming from, really do. The holidays make me giddy with delight over certain things yet equally sad that so many certain things are still going wrong, when they shouldn’t be at this point in our supposed societal progress. I don’t know the answers, but I yearn for them. Still and all, I think MOST people are decent. The downside is that too many people who have lost their humanity are in positions of power. We just have to figure out how to right the balance…


  3. Most provinces here have raised their minimum wage to $15.00 (28,800.00 per year) which is 11.73 (22,500.00 per year) US. That’s really low, no matter what country’s money you’re using. And these states are yipping about 7.25??? These people make Scrooge look like Croesus.
    This is a wonderful post, Brian. Thank you for the laughs and the reminder that for far too many, life is very, very hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lynette. To be honest, I’ve been in desperate times before, at one point losing almost everything I had and not even having a permanent place to live. Eventually my life got on a better track, but I will never forget how hard it was/is for powerless people to turn the tide when so much is stacked against them…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I could still get additional posts out of this. (The eventual fate of Drunk Muffy alone is a siren call for further exploration.) But you’ll be happy to know that the Monica Lewinsky shot glasses have been moved to the Clearance Aisle. I guess her fifteen minutes of fame are up….


    • Thank you! It always amazes how much money and time some people spend on things that don’t really matter. Let’s make sure that everybody is having a decent life, and then we can worry about that other mess…


  4. Many years ago my husband and I walked into a store looking for something for our son. It wasn’t even a high end store, but we were basically ignored. He grew frustrated and we left. A couple of days later we went back as we still needed said item. that time I was wearing an ankle length, leather coat that I had been given by an elderly friend who I had helped out in an emergency. (She had been painting, fell off a ladder and ended up covered in white paint. I helped get that mess of of her and the coat was her thank you. It had belonged to her daughter.) Anywho.. when I walked in wearing that coat those folks all but fell over themselves trying to help me. I guess sometimes their radar is off doing a reset or that looks can really be deceiving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is one of the things that makes me cranky about “modern” society. Not just the “book-by-the-cover” snap judgment, but the way some people instantly dismiss those books. It didn’t use to be this way. (Well, not in most circles.) Granted, there has always been bigotry and prejudice and disdain of difference. But, for the most part, at least in my youth, people kept that mess at home. (Or in the privacy of a voting booth, of course.) When you were in public? You were polite, even if you didn’t really care for somebody, especially if you worked in the customer-service industry. You don’t have to like people, but you can play nice. It’s not that hard…

      Side Note: That ankle-length coat sounds like a treasure, what with the thoughtfulness behind the gift. I hope you still have it…

      Liked by 1 person

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