Saturday, December 7, 2013

Killing the Consumer Spirit in our Winter Wonderland

On Thursday, Justin asked someone in the coffee shop if we ever get snow in Portland. They said no. So of course Friday morning I awoke to head off to work at Kaiser and looked out the window to see large fluffy flakes and a white ground. Snow in Portland means accidents galore- all the retro rear-wheel drive Volvos and BMWs with hipsters behind the wheel spinning out and sliding around. The overconfident AWD Suburus and SUVs are no better, flying up to stop signs as if it were dry pavement. I take the side roads and drive slow, hoping to avoid skittering hunks of metal. Luckily I made it to work and back without incident.

This morning, a frigid twenty-eight degrees and fortunately no fresh snow, I pulled out of the garage and headed off to work for one of my final days at Costco. Frigid is relative and this would be balmy in the midwest but here we're accustomed to above freezing temperatures except for the 33 days of the year that are supposed to drop below freezing. I'd guess we're ahead this year on the cold weather. 

I pulled into the Costco lot toward my regular spot and noticed it was caked in snow and ice. I imagined a Portlander pulling into the icy spot and ramming my car. I decided to select another that was dry. I may seem extra paranoid but I've seen a lot of idiots here in the winter. It's best to assume nothing, take extra precautions and stay home, if possible, anytime they mention snow. 

Unable to keep the cold outside, inside Costco the staff was decked out in scarves and parkas. I scurried back to my little white box in the back. TVs and radios blasted outside among the plethora of cart-pushing shoppers. I walked around for samples during a break and wondered who actually bought the home foot bath and massagers and all the other obvious Christmas gifts. 

We've mostly sworn off presents in our family. I'd rather get a card than gifts and I just feel like all the presents smear the meaning of Christmas. I keep remembering the interview my sister Molly posted with my grandma Hazel where she said they got oranges for Christmas and the special Christmas I had in Germany with my landlords where they had only one gift under the tree. Christmas was about family and conversation, not consumerism. I still keep wondering how we lost our way.

My time at Costco has been a blessing- peaceful, drama-free, and lovely staff. I'm going to miss the laid-back nature of the place, but I won't miss the constant stimulation of the carts, TVs, stereos, and people milling about. Fighting through the hoards of carts to get to the restroom. I don't mind Costco as far as a big-box store goes, but I probably won't be back there shopping after I leave. The overstimulation and hyper-consumerism of American stores is enough to keep me away as much as possible. 

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