It was a personal triumph of sorts for me. I recently made it
all they way through a big discount store, cartless.
It was a personal triumph of sorts for me. I recently made it all they way through a big discount store, cartless.

Ordinarily I set my standards for personal triumphs a bit higher than this, but it seems that whenever I innocently enter a store to buy, say, a bottle of glitter glue, I reappear several hours later the new owner of sixteen pairs of panty hose, a hibachi, three packs of double AA batteries, a gold lame purse, and salad tongs.

Oh, it’s not like I do this on purpose. Afterwards, as I emerge in the parking lot squinting in the bright sunlight, I’m never quite sure what happened. So I cling to the hope that perhaps it isn’t my fault. Maybe the smell of freshly popped popcorn had hypnotized me into buying a new exercise bike. Or maybe the Musak version of “Strawberry Fields” compelled me to hurl a flowered hat into my cart. Or maybe, just maybe, the lack of oxygen in the windowless building deprived my brain into thinking I needed a set of pink blow-up chairs and a fluorescent lamp.

Whatever the reasons, I wasn’t really worried about my problem, until the day my husband found out.

“Honey,” he said, waving the check book. “Why is there an entry for 200 dollars in here? Did you make some kind of mistake?”

“Of course not,” I say. “What do you take me for? I spent that on my trip for the dry erase markers.”

“What about this one for 57 dollars?” he asked.

“Scotch tape.”

“One hundred and eight-two dollars and sixty cents?”

“One beach towel and a five-pound bag of puppy chow.”

“But we don’t have a dog!”

I could tell by the way he was yelling that he was a little upset. At first, I thought about telling him all about the popcorn and Beatle’s music and all that, but I had a feeling he wouldn’t understand. So I called my friend Julie instead.

“Oh, it happens to me all the time,” she said. “All you need to do is to focus on the item you need, go straight to it, then immediately take it to the register without stopping. And for goshsakes,” she hissed, “don’t get a cart.”

That was when the tide turned, so they say. The next time I went to the store I bypassed the carts, picked up a bottle of shampoo then headed towards the register. And I would’ve made it if, too, if it wasn’t for a porcelain carafe that I saw out of the corner of my eye. So I grabbed the glass bottle with my free hand and kept walking.

Then I spotted an espresso maker that happened to be on sale. I held it in the crook of my elbow. Then I quickly stuffed a magazine under my left arm and wedged a pack of gum underneath my chin.

When I arrived at the register, I piled my merchandise on to the counter and said loudly to the cashier, “just hand me the bags when you’re through. I don’t need a cart. No-sir-ee.”

She nodded knowingly.

And I would’ve congratulated myself right then and there on being a savvy shopper, who cannot be manipulated into spending money by cheap marketing ploys except that my total came to $97.32.

I blame it on the popcorn.

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