Maybe being a writer allows me to be alone more than other people. Unlike most folk, I spend hours alone in my office imagining the world in different ways. I also blog everyday at Redroom.com, which keeps me from playing ball outside with the kids, too. However, I do have to go out into the world twice a week to teach three classes in person. I go to meetings. I do readings at book stores—currently I’m out and about with my new novel Intimate Beings.
So I don't think of myself as a misanthrope. I've seen the Moliere play, and I'm not as angry and irritated at the human race as the main character Alceste. I love people and am willing to be with people pretty much all the time. Sure, they piss me off on a regular basis, but I am always happy to give them another go because where else could I get such amazing entertainment? People crack me up. People are exciting. We are all so ridiculous and bizarre and strange. We say and do the most electrifying and funny things, and I want to be there to catch them.
But I do not like this: driving into a crowded parking lot on a hot Sunday afternoon, just barely finding a space, and then looking out across the thronging throng of cars and people, understanding that I have to get out and mingle with the masses. That I have to mix it up with all of them. Stand in line and buy a half pound of shrimp with them. Push, move, stand in line some more.
I don't want to do it. I don’t want to budge. And then, for god's sake, don't make me go into Long's and Trader Joe's, too. For the love of Mike or anyone else, could you let me stay in the car? But could you pick up some hair conditioner and tampons while you are there?
Maybe I have a very specific form of agoraphobia, the kind that strikes at Macy's, Whole Foods, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, strip malls, 4th Street in Berkeley. I have to gird my loins, force myself out, put on my invisible battle armor and go. Into the stores I forge, carrying patience and amnesia. I don't want to wait for anything, but I'm going to have to, so I want to forget it.
But some stores are too much of a threat, and I abdicate my responsibility of walking one inch in their doors. Berkeley Bowl—an immense, crowded, poorly aisled store--sends me into catatonia. I have been whapped my shopping carts in the thigh, shin, and elbows, while trying to find the apples and bread or waiting at the meat counter. No one seems to follow the rules of traffic there, and you know what? I’m not going in there unless forced to by hunger.
Costco gives me claustrophobia even though the ceilings are 100 feet high. Home Depot makes me want to wear a helmet and shoulder pads, so sure am I that a toilet will fall from the towering racks.
The problem is that I need things from these stores. I want the new sweater at Macy’s and the incredibly fresh produce and the glasses I can only find at Sur La Table. Somehow, in both of my long term relationships, I've found men who actually like to go into places like Costco and Home Depot and Sears. If I put things on the list, things magically appear.
Sometimes I did and do find myself having to go into the stores as well, but I try to do my "share" of the shopping at times when the throng is a thong instead of big girl panties. One-thirty pm, Whole Foods Oakland. Twenty parking spaces available on the lower lot. Perfection. Trader Joe's, Monday at 2 pm. I can park right in front of the store. Ideal.
No one whaps me with their shopping cart. The man behind the meat counter actually begs me to buy up something because he has nothing to do.
Online shopping cures my holiday list anxiety, and I have been buying already, knowing that between now and the end of December, I have four birthdays and two major religious holidays to deal with, one of which goes on for a number of days and involves more presents.
Shopping is a euphemism. I've been clicking. And imputing credit card numbers. And clicking some more.
I have my consumer capitalist hat on, even though I need to take it out and prepare for the apocalypse. But I'm not ready to stop yet, despite what my anarchist son Mitchell tells me. I want to buy things for people. And I want to enjoy living, and I want to enjoy people, just not in parking lots and packed stores. Instead, I want them all around my table eating the food I've bought at convenient times, and opening presents I've purchased online.