There are two philosophies on eating at the buffet. One philosophy is to get your money’s worth by stuffing your mouth with as much “high value” food as you can. It doesn’t matter that the crab legs might be gangly or the steak filet is too dry, you must eat them. The other philosophy is to eat whatever you feel like regardless of how filling or cheap it is – rice, potatoes, salads.
Similarly, there are two philosophies on shopping. One philosophy is to buy in bulk. Shop at Costco and buy 360 Advil tablets for the price of 20 tablets at the drugstore even though you will probably only ever eat 20 before expiration. The other philosophy is to buy what you need when you need it. Go to a CVS and pick up a tube of toothpaste instead of stocking your cabinet with a Costco five-pack.
One philosophy is “value”-oriented, the other is whimsical. Both have their pros and cons, and I believe that we are predisposed to a particular philosophy based on how our parents raised us in addition to one’s current financial situation. I’ve been financially comfortable enough for a while to be a whimsical type, but despite that, I’ve endured stomach cramps from overeating shitty food and tired arms from carrying twelve cartons of rice milk from the store to the car and the car to the apartment.
However, one particular experience changed all this. It starts with a TSA agent, who was heavy-set and filled out her uniform with as much body as authority, asking, “Whose bag is this?”
“Mine,” I said, as I rushed forward with a raised hand. Going through a security check before my flight home, my bag was flagged for review.
“Can you open the bag please?”
“I’m running really late, and I’m going to miss my flight. I know I forgot to take out my iPad, so can you just let me go?”
She managed to avoid rolling her eyes behind a pair of rectangular glasses and gave her gum a few more unsympathetic chews. “Just open the bag, sir.”
“All right.” I unzipped my duffle bag, which was as good as opening up Pandora’s Box as a sense of dread then draped over me. It was one of those moments where you could see everything unfold before your eyes in a painfully slow fashion, as I remembered what I had packed into my carry-on, which I had forgotten about in the whirlwind of rushing through the airport.
The lady proceeded to methodically pull out t-shirts, an eye-glass case, and my computer adapter, setting them aside. Then out came a pair of neon-pink furry handcuffs. She held them up and announced rather than asked, “Are these yours, sir?”
That bitch made a good show of it. I could see her arm straining to raise them high above our eye-level to make sure other on-lookers behind me could also see what I had in my carry-on.
“Yes, they are,” I meekly conceded.
Then she pulled out a clear plastic bag that contained two hundred condoms, which I had purchased from Amazon to bring back because it was on sale and seemed like such a good deal to me. God knows I would never go through that many condoms even with a generous three-year expiration date…I was a married man! The TSA agent had the courtesy to not raise that bag o’ condoms above her head and instead just set it on top of everything else, but I suspected it was because it was too heavy.
In any case, that thoroughly demoralizing experience served as the catalyst to my philosophical evolution from that of a value-driven consumer to an on-demand one. I now pick my spots with value deals and allow my wife to get her baked potato at buffets. I think we’re both happier as a result.