Three Kinds of Shoppers

Posted by Jill Chivers in My Story

Welcome to Blog #20…. My average seems to be slipping — reckon it has something to do with the Waiting for Inspiration that amateur writers might be stricken with. This is just me hallucinating, but I wonder if that’s the thing that separates professionals from rank amateurs — professionals like inspiration, they prefer to have it, but they keep writing even if there’s none to be found (did you look in the sock drawer? behind the couch? in the fridge? no inspiration to be found? none whatsoever? ah well, sit down and write anyway…).

I’ve been waiting for inspiration to knock on my door or hit me on the head or in some other way make its presence known, over the last week or so. I even sat down on Friday and gazed longingly at the screen for a few minutes, hoping that if I simulated a writing situation, inspiration might fly in the window and sit on my shoulder. Nope. So I’m writing anyway.

On the weekend, I found myself in a huge shopping centre and was observing the shoppers I encountered. I talked about this before (see blog #4) and I’ve refined the categories into which shoppers seems to fall:

1. Taskers. These are people who know what they’re there for. They are coming to the shopping centre to find and purchase The Thing. They prefer to shop alone and therefore like to avoid bringing shoppers #2 or #3 with them on their shopping expedition, but sometimes it can’t be helped. They have a goal – they are coming to get It, they will not be deterred or distracted from this task, and once they have It, they are going home (or at least, away from the shopping centre).

Taskers can be identified by their purposeful walk, their laser-like eye movements, and their uncanny ability to avoid the physical pitfalls that can befall other shoppers, such as bumping into one of those triple-baby carriers, or getting caught behind very slow dawdling shoppers, or being snared by one of those temporary stall holders who want to sandpaper and massage your hands with some fantastic new product dredged from the bottom of the Red Sea (that never seems to ever get used if you fall into the trap of actually buying it). These people are not actually fixated but they are focused.


2. Day Trippers. These are the people who see shopping as an outing. They are almost always clustered in groups of 2 or more and fall into two sub-categories:

(a) teenagers. Groups of girls, groups of boys, or mixed groups is how you’ll find the teenagers who day-trip at shopping centres. You wouldn’t really want to have an up-close-and-personal encounter with any of these groups, as they all possess rather green social skills and their interactions can leave you wondering if you, yes you, were quite that awful when you were their age (yes, you probably were). If you actually spot any of these people interacting with one another, as opposed to interacting with their technological devices, you should stop and capture the moment in your memory. Often they are texting one another, with such profound missives as “OMG!” and “LOL!”. You wont find them in stores such as Robin’s Kitchen, Howards Storage World, Godfreys Vacuum Cleaners or the Cigar Store. You will find them in abundance in anything selling technology, anything selling cheap nasty disposable clothing made by under-age workers from third world countries, and anything selling food with zero nutritional value.

The other group in the Day Tripper category is (b) women. Often these are women who are bringing a shopper from the third group (below) — because their good-for-nothing husband couldn’t babysit for a day, one lousy morning with the girls, I ask you! — or they may be older women who are having a Day Of It… some morning tea, some meandering, some lunch, some meandering, maybe a movie, some meandering.

Heaven help you if you get stuck behind the older women Day Trippers – it can take you hours to get out from behind them as their sensory acuity for other shoppers seem to decrease as all their attention is focused on each other and the lovely time they are having of it.

 3. Prisoners. These are people who do not wish to be at the shopping centre at all, and are only there because they are with one of the aforementioned groups, usually a person who falls into Category #1.

There are two kinds of prisoners: (a) children under elbow height, often incarcerated in a wheeled device of some sort, from which their faces turn radish-red as they bleat out their protests to an unyielding (and seemingly unhearing) ambulatory person. They can sometimes be found being tugged along in a shoulder-wrenching action as their feet drag along the floor. The other day, I heard one such prisoner denounce her captor thus: “I don’t like you anymore!” to which stony silence and an even more intense scrutiny of the magazine he was reading was his austere response. This was shortly followed by cries of “Mummy! I don’t like Daddy anymore!” as a harassed-looking woman approached this sad huddled mass and proceeded to whisk them away to places unknown. Away from me was all I really cared about.

The other kind of prisoner is (b) men, usually husbands (what boyfriend would put up with this?). The experienced ones will be wielding a newspaper and are adept at seeking out the seating provided by some shopping centres for such occasions. The inexperienced stand around in loose disconsolate groupings outside clothing stores, shoe stores, kitchen stores…. well, all stores really except perhaps Godfreys Vacuum World and the sports stores.

These prisoners wear a facial expression connoting slight despair coupled with mild resentment — I imagine the soundtrack inside their heads runs something something like: “will this ever be over, and how did I get myself talked into being here, again, on a crowded Saturday morning? I can’t decide if I hate her, me or my life at this moment more….”.

So, that’s my wrap on the kinds of shoppers you often encounter in large, fakely lit and aired, Gruen Transfer designed shopping centres. It makes for an interesting sociological study, even if it just a cursory one as I got in, got The Thing, and got out. Right?

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