Upon entering the first mega-discount shoe mart, Sarah took my limp hand and gently guided me to the men's section, where I slowly regained consciousness and started to find an amazing number of fun, funky shoes. All on sale! 30%, 50%, 70% off. Even those not on sale urged me to notice that the $69.98 price tag isn't so bad if I "COMPARE WITH $110.99." It's all cheap, really!
The first hint of irrational behavior I noticed was that I looked at the price tag and savings first, then the shoe. Wow, this one is only $29, regular $89, what a great deal! My assessment of the shoe itself was already wildly biased by the time I noticed it's puke-green toe or 1985-ish leather fringe.
Next I moved into brand-name land. I could buy Merrill, or Timberland, or even Clark's. Surely those are the best, will last the longest, make me happiest. When I got down to the two top contenders, I ended up choosing Keen because Sarah had just told me that they're the new Chaco's (which used to be the new Teva's). I don't even own a TV or read enough magazines to know the jingles, but somehow the branding is still in my brain.
Then I forgot all about what I already owned or truly needed. These shoes would look great, though I couldn't think of what occasion I'd actually wear them on. In reality, they'd look great collecting dust on the shelf right beside the fun funky pair I bought at this same store 2 years ago and have worn about 3 times.
Finally, I succumbed to the most dangerous temptation of all - the Browse. In addition to the one pair of Crocs-replacements I came for, I bought new jeans and underwear, and seriously fondled dress shoes, a pair of amazing pink-purple-powder blue runners, purple slim-fit Deisl jeans, fancy kitchen gadgets, a bright yellow suitcase, and a purple hat with white polka-dots. All, of course, by great companies at incredible discounts.
Overwhelmed, I flopped on a chair in the sunny entrance-way - no doubt provided for overwhelmed husbands - but closing my eyes was no escape. The rhythmic, seductive muzak kept a subtle but persistent buzz going, calling me to buy more, drums rising up occasionally to excite me to sit up, sometimes a dim chanting to remind me that the rest of humanity was in on this hunt, counting on me to do my part. I have no doubt that the muzak has been designed and tested by psychologists like me to optimize consumer buying. I could feel it, feel pulled by it.
So my simplicity and low consumption isn't about my strong will and superior moral temperament after all - it's just lack of exposure. I could feel today how easy it is to be convinced that buying things will bring happiness, and that sale prices make it all OK.
So I'll get back to Vancouver Island thankful for the our life choices that remove us from this daily assault of advertising and temptation. I suppose with more personal work I could get to the point of not even being tempted by fancy shoes and shiny gadgets - in a normal grocery store I quite easily walk down most isles without the slightest temptation to grab anything (except the stale icing donuts, which I know I'll regret even before I pick them up) - but for now I'll cut my losses and stick with abstinence.