It turns out our mothers were right: You don’t know that you don’t like something until you try it.
I took the week off to spend some time with relatives visiting from out of state when someone suggested we go to Bell Buckle. I’ve avoided the trip in the past, figuring that the ride out there wouldn’t be worth the reward. But I didn’t have a better idea that would interest anyone else, so I joined my mom, three aunts and a cousin, climbed into my mom’s SUV and off we went.
All the other ladies rolling in “the biddy bus” were enthusiastically looking forward to browsing through the quaint little shops full of old handmade quilts, broken radios and rusty advertising signs. Some of them even got in the car with specific items in mind they were hoping to bring back. I was just along for the ride — or so I thought.
The whole idea of antiquing has never appealed to me and I’d sooner dip myself in honey and lie on a nest of angry fire ants than get up at 5 a.m. to be first in line at some random stranger’s yard sale. Sure, I like tchotchkes, and I’ve got a ton of useless junk I’ve picked up over the years just because I liked it. But I’ve got a thing for snarky fridge magnets, kitschy postcards and weird black and white photos, not beat-up furniture, carnival glass and creepy dolls.
Suffice it to say, I left the house fully intending to come home empty-handed. What I forgot to take into consideration is that this was a shopping trip and therefore, my petty cash was doomed. I can hardly go to the gas station without making an impulse buy. So I have no idea how I thought I wouldn’t be carrying a bag or two back to the car with me. It’s like I forgot who I was for a minute.
As I strolled through the stores, looking for stuff I don’t need, I saw plenty of things that I can’t imagine anyone ever buying on purpose — a hot pink flamingo made out of what looked to be pieces of scrap metal comes to mind. Perched on a table in the first store we entered was a slightly disheveled-looking blonde doll with one arm extended in what I’m sure was intended to be a welcoming gesture. The only thing it welcomed into my life was an unexpected case of the heebie-jeebies.
But then I found it. The thing I hadn’t known existed when I got out of bed that morning, but knew that I couldn’t live another day without after I’d seen it. Tucked away in corner of one of the shops was a page torn out of a dictionary onto which an Ernest Hemmingway quote had been printed in big black letters. “Write drunk; edit sober,” the print said. It’s like it was made just for me. I snatched it off the shelf, excitedly showed it off to my shopping companions, who all agreed it had to be mine, and headed for the register, happy to pay $9 for something I could have easily made myself if I had a little imagination and ambition.
After that, I was off to the races. And wasn’t just stuff for myself I was finding. I was decorating friends’ and family members’ homes in my head without anybody actually asking for — or for that matter wanting — my help. For the sake of my relationships, and my bank account, I settled for texting the prospective recipients of my good shopping karma photos of the items I thought they should have. The results were mixed, and it’s probably a good thing I managed to rein in my impulses, for the most part.
I did buy one gift for a friend, but I’m not worried about it not going over well. It really was the perfect thing for her and I know if she’d ridden the biddy bus that afternoon there’s no way it would have stayed behind.
N’uh Uh is a weekly column written by reporter Andrea Agardy. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.