Dave Barry

Non-stop shopping

(This Dave Barry column was originally published July 18, 2004.)

I can't shop with my wife. The problem is that she almost never has a clear objective. I ALWAYS have a clear objective. Without a clear objective, you're just wandering randomly around a store, which is NOT the point of shopping.

This is not just my opinion: This is the opinion of literally thousands of Nobel Prize-winning scientists whose names are available upon request. These scientists have traced the origins of shopping back to prehistoric times, when ''shopping'' was called ''hunting'' and primitive man would make out his ''shopping list'' by drawing, on his cave wall, a picture of his objective, usually a large wad of meat in the form of, say, a yak. He would then go out into the wild, locate his objective, and make the ''purchase'' by whomping the yak on the head with a club. This primitive shopper did not dilly-dally. He did not ask whether the yak was on sale. He did not try to accessorize the yak. No, he just WHOMPED THE YAK, and then he dragged it home, stopping only to whomp the primitive sales guys who tried to force him to purchase the service agreement.

This is the biological basis for shopping. And this is why, even today, most men, when they shop, are yak-whompers. They do not wander: They go straight for the kill. I know I do.

For example, recently, in a surgical shopping strike so blindingly fast you would need slow-motion replay to even see it, I located and secured a new cell phone that, in addition to being a phone, receives e-mail AND takes extremely low-quality photographs. It has changed my life. Now, when I'm not using my phone's cell-phone feature (''Hello? Hello? Hello?'') I can use the camera feature to record precious moments that I can share with others. (''Here's a picture of my daughter's ballet recital. Or, the Grand Canyon.'' ) And thanks to my phone's e-mail feature, even when I'm away from my computer, I can receive the hundreds of urgent messages I receive every day from people wishing to enhance my manhood.

I have a friend named Robert who has a similar phone, and recently we discovered that, theoretically, I could ''beam'' my address and phone number from my phone to his phone THROUGH THE AIR. I say ''theoretically'' because we could not get it to actually work, although we spent a good 10 minutes standing about a foot apart, pointing our phones at each other and fruitlessly pressing buttons. Several women watched this with some amusement; they suggested that -- get this -- it might be quicker for me to just TELL Robert my address and phone number, which would have represented a wanton and reckless disregard on our part for the beaming feature.

But my point is that I acquired this phone via the standard guy method: in a bold, decisive, lightning-quick stroke. Whereas my wife, when she gets inside a store, routinely takes astoundingly long periods of time to accomplish, essentially, nothing. She just shops! With no objective! She can spend what feels like days just looking at -- without actually purchasing -- stationery. She's always in the market for stationery because she's always writing notes to her women friends, who are always writing notes back to her thanking her for her note, which causes HER to write back to THEM, and so on.

If I needed stationery, bang, I would grab some stationery and get the hell out of there. Of course, I don't need stationery, because, as a guy, I never write notes. If I ever had a message for one of my friends, I'd just beam it to him. Or I will, once I have mastered that feature.

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