People rushing around. Filling shops and malls. Never stopping. Determinedly hurrying somewhere. Like ants on a mission we’re scuttling to get what it is that we need and take it home. Others leisurely going about their business with all the time in the world. It’s just not something I’ve ever considered relaxing or fun.
I’ve never loved shopping. Even as a child the hustle and bustle of lots of people in confined spaces that make shopping malls soon got to me. I’m not claustrophobic, I just don’t manage to be very patient in shops. Short, sharp and efficient trips to the shops are the solution. Go in, find what I need and get out is what works for me. I’ll admit to serious shopping-impatience and aversion and lack of perseverance in this department. Especially if there are lots of other things to be done. Spending an entire day going from shop to shop without finding what I’m looking for always got on my nerves, and still does. To complicate matters, I’ve always been very specific in what I like, so finding just the right thing can sometimes prove to be challenging and my mum used to show lots of patience as I’d inevitably get over it all long before we’ve found what I needed. I don’t have an aversion to buying something I like if I happen to cross paths with it though, such as gorgeous crystal or stone jewellery, I just don’t want to spend endless hours looking for it. Shopping for beautiful things in the fascinating Blue Souk (market) near Dubai was actually enjoyable, I have to admit, because you could buy the most exquisite and interesting things, from antique Omani silver jewellery (a hit for me) to Syrian tablecloths, Persian rugs and belly dancing outfits – I never did buy one of those – at very negotiable prices without it ever being packed with people. The Spice Souk in Dubai was amazing simply because of the alluring fragrance coming from sacks upon sacks packed in rows filled with spices that seemed to hold the key to take you to far away places and distant times. Browsing the odd craft market in a foreign place while on holiday or buying beautiful desert stones dug out by the local people in Namibia I manage to tolerate as well and I’d even go as far as to say I enjoyed it. But I’m definitely not cut out to be a serial shopper.
The Blue Souk In Sharjah (near Dubai)
A tiny corner of one shop in the Spice Souk (Dubai)
Crystals and stones for sale near Brandberg, Namibia
Grocery shopping is its own form of torture with people milling around, leaving their trollies mid-aisle and wandering over to the other side of the aisle to look at something while they block everybody else’s path and impatient me has to take several deep breaths and wait until I can pass. When we were first married my husband used to do the grocery shopping – from a very specific list that also included brand names where applicable – which was great except when he phoned me to tell me that something I’d asked for didn’t exist, and nowadays online shopping saves me spending so much time negotiating the supermarket trolley traffic. I don’t mind going to the shops before it gets too busy and getting a few things I need and getting out though, I just don’t consider wandering around shops to be a relaxing pastime.
It goes without saying then that I avoided going shopping with my babies in tow whenever I was able to as it all just ended up being too stressful but now that they’re older and actually able to help it’s a different scenario and it’s great having their help. Sometimes Child No 3 will go along to the supermarket to help me and at other times Child No 1 might hop in his car and nip down to the shop if I need something for dinner. Roles have started reversing in some cases and when they have to go shopping for something in particular they’ve already worked out that I’m not much help after about the second shop that we’ve been to because I’m too impatient, and sometimes they go on their own and search the shops for what they need, call me when they’ve found it and I’ll meet them, pay for their items and then we head home – everybody happy! These are the tricks of the trade for me.
Trying to find a year 12 ball gown for Child No 2 was a different kettle of fish though, as ball gown shops aren’t all conveniently located in one mall – so inconsiderate – and it meant driving from shop to shop, finding parking, paying for parking, walking between shops all on a day when it was 36°C by 9:30am. Not my idea of fun. To add insult to injury, my poor girl is also very specific in her taste and listed her requirements (no shiny fabric, no sequins, no pleats) before we left home. The only problem was that this year the going trend is shiny fabric, sequins and pleats but we stuck it out in a gutsy performance and after an exhausting marathon of patience and shopping, by the end of the day we found a beautiful dress that she loves and which makes her look like a million dollars.
My funniest shopping incident yet has to be the time I was trying on a dress and got stuck in it as it was halfway over my head. I was in a hurry to get dressed and out of the fitting room since there was an electrician working on the lights in the ceiling and he was making his way towards my cubicle. I had a very anxious moment or two as I had this frock stuck around my shoulders and then decided that as long as I was stuck, he wouldn’t be able to see my face so it didn’t matter that I’d made a complete spectacle of myself and suddenly I was free of it, changed back into my own clothes and rushed out at the speed of light. I never found out why the fitting rooms weren’t closed at the time – there were other shoppers in there as well – I was in too much of a hurry to leave the shop, and I can’t even claim to have been scarred by the incident, it was just too funny. I can’t help but wonder which one of us would have been the most embarrassed though, had I not managed to get myself unstuck!
My fondest shopping memory is of going grocery shopping – yes it’s true – with husband and Child No 1 tagging along when Child No 1 was a tiny little blonde-haired cheeky-grinned boy of about 3 and the two of them had wandered off and didn’t know where I was until our little boy put one of his hands on his head with the fingers sticking up and forward like a headlamp, swivelling it around and said: “I’ll put my Mamma-finding radar on” and looked for me with his hand on his head like that until they found me.