Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Skipping Ahead...to May

     How did April slip away? Thirty days, into a morass of decrepitude, overall laziness, insufficient energy - to do what?  How does a person mark monthly achievements anyway? A short memorable excursion to the Big Apple in ideal spring weather, celebrating the long ago passing of a friend from Covid most likely pneumonia as a cover. Consult the wee datebook and find no discernible uptick in enlightenment or possibly even what might pass for joy among the living. But joy often is transitory and barely discernible. It can happen in the most unexpected ways.

Which brings me to what many some people might consider an entirely superficial pleasure that can take up time without any conscious notion of time passing - going shopping. What's more, shopping in a superbly equipped Goodwill emporium. The word emporium is used judiciously and correctly - for such outlets, many of them, sell used goods operating in a very formal fashion under their own terms. On a single ground level are arrayed clearly the items for men as separate from women, though often the two are mixed. (As in: extra large t-shirts perfect for women wanting a loose feeling over swim suits or even as substitute  sleepwear.)  

The back of the store is a well regulated jumble of miscellaneous home and hobby goods - the usual mix of frames, dishes, TVs, utensils, what-have-you. Everything you didn't think you needed until now. There is no need to rush through the place, barely even any need at all when you first enter with a friend, taking an hour out of the day to  browse with nothing in mind but the filmiest goal of all: to buy something at a bargain price, to feel somehow free of the overpriced commercial marketplace. A treasure hunt - a game women play best.

We see few men the morning when a friend and I walk into an especially welcoming Goodwill store just off to Route 50 in Arlington, Va. Shoes to note are placed above the racks of, well just about every item of clothing a person could want. Signs point to the bargain color of the day - lavender strings are 50 % off, we see. My friend has an especially astute eye for worthy purchases; her sense of style is innate. It is admirable and not transferable.

 We both have a casual incentive for prowling widely here: she is about to travel late spring to a cosmopolitan city where temps can be cooler than average. Probably she could find suitable duds in her own closet but the thrill is finding one 'extra' that will mark the trip as special. Besides there is satisfaction an ego jump, in choosing a treasure out of all the mayhem spread before us. The mingling of garments is such that seasons don't matter. She can pick out like a flying gull going for a fish in the sea the singular perfect enhancement to her wardrobe, which she always does. This time it is a light wool black and white top that registers 'designer' even though the label isn't  well known name. Sometimes the thrill is pouncing on fabric that is above and beyond the polyester norm. Other times it is casing the aisles long enough to find two unrelated items -  Merino wool sweater and heavy cotton Adidas trousers, for example. Casual wear elevated with that interior gleam of 'I've just invented something, just for me.'

It helps to have that motivation. In my case I  was intent on sniffing out the right color top to match the multi=colored silk scarf that had inspired the previous purchase at a high-end well-branded women's clothing of a boldly colored linen trouser suit and jacket. No real style but what I challenged myself to create on my own. It was never a question of real need - maybe only the need to brag  about buying a skirt for 6 dollars, a sweater for 3.

You cruise the aisles anonymously. There is no pressure to buy, to try. At the end of the hour you might well end up, as I did, with seven items costing a mere $40, including tax and a wee donation to round out the sum. The receipt tells me of the special savings - how I somehow managed to save $3.75 on each of two items mysteriously listed as 'women's sweater and women's pajamas. Never mind that original purpose is entirely irrelevant. The cashier stuffs my lot in a large plastic  bag and tells me to 'have a good day,' or a familiar pleasantry that somehow cheers us on our way out the door with a sense of gratification and a sense of feeling time well spent.

Besides, it's all going to a good cause isn't it?  The stacks of donor merchandise piled up outside the building under big tents, handled by employees in blue short with experienced efficiency: a reminder of how (but really?) the stuff can be recycled or somehow reinvented into funds for the less fortunate, as the saying goes. Money for training and rehab. Whatever. The name Goodwill says it all.