After a week of no frivolous shopping, on Day #8 even when I tried to spend money I couldn’t.
Today I was actively discouraged from buying a $29 battery (regularly $79) at the Apple Store by an Associate who bent my ear for 30 minutes telling me the story of electricity instead of selling me what I’d come for.
I earned this special attention by admitting my college boyfriend was an electrical engineer and yes, I understood how current works.
As he went on and on, I nodded my head earnestly, secretly wondering if I thrust my fingers in his beard, would I be electrocuted? It was so alive and flowing and literally sticking straight out of his face, I swore it must be conducting an electrical current. He might have been hiding some sort of capacitor under his floppy ski cap, or whatever millennials call them. It was possible. Or maybe hairspray held it up and out.
I liked him, he was helpful, and when the Apple Store sent me an email with the subject line How was your experience with Mackenzie? I gave him a good review.
But while in the store, at the mall WHERE I COULDN’T SHOP, I felt I’d been lured into a bait-and-switch. I’d been promised I could buy a $79 iPhone battery for $29 but he assured me there was no need, my current battery ran at 89.67% efficiency, it made no sense to replace it.
Yes it does! I wanted to shout. It will satisfy my overwhelming need to buy something! Help me out bro! I’m in a bad way — I need a fix!
AT THE BAR
But of course I’m a nice suburban lady and I can’t be causing a scene at the Apple Store. Since I had nothing better to do — because I couldn’t BUY ANYTHING — to kill time and not make my drive to the mall totally uneventful, I asked a million questions; and though it wasn’t as entertaining as say 30 minutes browsing Nordstrom Rack, I learned a few things.
- Your iPhone will shut down when it’s too hot.
- Your iPhone will shut down when it’s too cold.
- Facebook sucks up a lot of power from your battery.
- The Facebook app is one of the worst apps ever developed.
- Delete the app — you’re better off viewing Facebook in Safari.
- If you grow your facial hair from the time you’re 17 and it gets so long that you look like an old rebbi from some ultra-orthodox synagogue, no one will card you.
- Some women like that bearded old rebbi look, namely Mackenzie’s girlfriend.
- I don’t, not at all, but I appear sympathetic enough to elicit that personal detail and others.
- Men are willing to spill their guts to me at the bar.
- The Genius Bar is no exception.
In this case, my helpful Apple Store Associate seemed glad to spend extra time with me for another reason: the place was swamped. Like Christmas-is-in-20-minutes swamped. All around me were upper-middle-class upper-middle-aged suburban dilettantes who had read the Washington Post (like me) and then booked an appointment (like me) to replace a battery that doesn’t need replacing (like me), all because it was at a bargain price. The fifty pluses were exceptionally well groomed and spiffy in a moneyed way. The thirty belows were hipster louche in an I-blew-up-my-own-startup-and-now-I’ve-retreated-to-the-rust-belt-where-I-might-open-a-craft-beer-pub kind of way.
I wanted to take copious notes on everybody but didn’t, so I’m doing this from memory.
If I remember a great deal, it’s because I was desperate to find some form of entertainment at the mall since spending money is now taboo. (I don’t think I mentioned that, did I?)
And if you can’t spend money at the mall, being there is torture. TORE-CHURR.
ILLEGAL TO BUY OR OWN
As I walked by many a glittery store window, it was hard to see the percentage-off signs and all the red tags and not make a pre-emptive first strike to beat out other bargain hunters.
It physically hurt me to be frugal. Why window shop if you can’t buy? I started to people watch (no temptation there since they’re illegal to buy or own). When customers were scarce, I stooped to associate stalk.
On my way to Apple, I passed the Microsoft store where three green-shirted employees moved in slo-mo through an empty store. One employee in a wheelchair had the energy of a Walmart greeter — a goldfish new to the retail fishbowl — but the other two appeared to prefer browsing the web and playing videogames to actually making eye contact with humans. Like fish, they were trapped in a clear box.
I briefly pondered — but eventually resisted — the urge to rap on the glass, startle them, and see if they moved.
AXE TO THE HEAD
Yeah, clearly getting hangry. But I couldn’t eat because of Rule #4 – I will not buy prepared food while away from home unless I am going to keel over from starvation
So when I passed too close to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, I distracted myself by inventing storylines about the counter help. That ginger-haired guy with the horn-rimmed specs reeked strongly of eau de living-in-my-parents’-basement-while-writing-screenplays; it was worse than a cheap bottle of Axe to the head–or to the nasal cavity. Still hangry. Feeling guilty, I gave him a meet cute in which he’d be interviewed by an eager 17 year old high school student for a series she hoped to write for her school newspaper, “Hopes Rise, Dreams Fall: At the Mall.”
FIRST TIME IN YEARS
Then I thought, Why don’t I write that story about that 17 year old girl interviewing her slightly older peers at the mall?
Because I’m too busy trying not to shop and not to eat and putting it all down in this blog. And because even when I’ve made an appointment to spend money in advance — and cleared it with my conscience — I can’t.
On the way out I ran into the Pope who gave me a big smile and a thumbs up. You did it, my child.
I grinned back.
So what if his sentiments were only cardboard-deep? His encouragement turned everything around. I walked to my car, feeling great about being empty-handed — for the first time in years.