Digital Slob

Curt Brandao

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Anything beats an
endless day at the mall

This week, we continue with Part Eight of "10 Stupid Things Respectable People Do to Mess Up the World."

No. 3) Analog shopping: When Digital Slobs sit even further back in our computer chairs than usual to ponder all the gifts technology has given us, right at the top of that list, neatly bubble-wrapped in a FedEx box, is online shopping.

Blissfully, in the Digital Age, we no longer have to get up off our backside in order to buy something to cover it up.

Still, at least a few times a year, Respectable People who are required (by blood, marriage or court order) to be in our lives trick us into tagging along as they acquire goods and services in the good ol' fashioned three dimensions.

Somehow they generate the guilt necessary to get us in the car. Maybe they bought lunch. Maybe they landed us a job. Maybe the stitches are still fresh from the kidney they gave us. Regardless, once inside the mall, it's clear we got a raw deal.

Slobs hate shopping offline for one single reason: Unlike work, exercise or listening to a blind date's opinions, it's the only human activity that's harder to fake than it is to do.

If you actually need something, and walk around looking for it, time flies and the retail world embraces you. However, if you want for nothing in the consumer jungle aside from it loosening its hold on the Respectable Person who's your ride back home, stores are nothing more than never-ending, standing-room-only, merciless mazes of polyester blend blouses.

These facilities can be thousands of square feet with millions of items for sale, yet they usually provide not a single horizontal surface substantial enough to maintain a Slob's bulky frame in our requisite sitting position.

Despite our sometimes well-rounded educations and partially accurate resumes, once we're in such a place, Slobs can't think up a leg-ache solution that's any more elegant than the 6-year-old boy who faked a seizure over in Women's Intimate Apparel. (His mom was ignoring him, rifling through lingerie with a single-minded glint in her eye because everything was 75 percent off. Then again, maybe the boy wasn't faking).

Once, amid such a 3D-buying hellscape, I got lucky. I found the mall entrance, and then claimed a nearby bench. After working the spasms out of my calves, I used my trusty cell phone to clear my schedule while my Respectable associate combed the clearance racks like a crime-scene investigator.

I canceled dinner reservations. I canceled movie plans with a friend. I informed my alumni association I'd be a no-show for my 2006 high school reunion.

For some reason, mail-order averse Respectable People insist that effective shopping requires at least three of the five senses for sound judgments. But the fact is, analog shopping is drifting further and further into the surreal.

I remember when mannequins at least tried to resemble real people. They looked like mortician masterpieces that broke free to live secret afterlives and wear cashmere sweaters.

But now, they're often completely featureless blobs, sometimes as shiny as a new car. Are these the body images we're shooting for? Are we all supposed to look like props from a SciFi Network Original Series?

So stop guilting us into wading through merchandise like the walking undead, Respectable People. The next time we need an organ transplant, we'll just bid for it on eBay like everything else.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.
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Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's production editor. Reach him at:


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