Trained to shop.
Shopping wasn’t big in our growing-up time, although our government is considering scrapping the staple of our childhood shopping currency — the penny.
A penny in the Dirty Thirties was a good start! With the nickel saved last month, it’ll soon be a dime for the Flash Gordon movie to see if he kills those moon monsters with his rocket ships.
People, yes, men, women and children, would stop to pick up a penny, even out of the gutter. A penny mattered; and so did you when you entered a mom-and-pop store, penny in hand. They knew your name, or worse still your mom and dad.
Shopping with parents was fidgeting time, same as today. If you were a good fidgeter a penny sent you to the candy counter for half an hour of drooling along lines of jars filled with candy rainbows.
Astute penny candy shoppers chose jawbreakers, or an all-day sucker, which didn’t last all day. (Oh my, was that the beginning of spin doctoring? The ideas you get in a candy store, eh?)
A tradition came: shopping can be fun.
So it’s their fault, those mom-and-pop shops. They set up a generation with a shopping tradition, the personal touch.
It’s a tradition long since kicked out the door of the big store into the big bins out back for the big trucks to take away to the big dump, preferably in someone else’s bigger backyard.
That’s waxing nostalgic, which doesn’t always buy or sell well. It’s a cheaper-by-the-ton philosophy now, including people.
It’s “get ‘em in”, followed by the “egress manoeuver” — a move pioneered by circus owners Barnum and Bailey, demonstrably spin doctors par excellence, back in candy-store days.
One of their popular circus displays was always jammed with people; it was so good people lingered, money flow slowed, what to do? They put a sign over a door at the back of the display: “This Way to Egress.”
Those lingering folk were also curious. They went to see Egress.
‘Egress’, they found, put them back on the midway listening to a con man with a pitch more fascinating than any of today’s talk show hosts.
Today we have the con of cons, the ‘net, where we’ll egress to the just-received Wisdom of Hot Chocolate:
“A group of graduates, successful career folk were talking at a reunion and decided to visit their retired university professor. Their conversation with him turned to complaints about the stress in their work and lives.
“He excused himself, returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups, ranging from cheap to expensive, exquisite, and fancy to plain and simple.
“When all had a cup of hot chocolate in hand, he observed, ‘Notice all the fancy, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and the cheap. It’s normal to want only the best, but that’s the source of your problems and stress.’
“The cup adds nothing to the quality of the hot chocolate. It’s just more expensive. Some hide what we drink.
“What you wanted was hot chocolate, not the cup, yet unconsciously you chose the best cups. Then you began eyeing each other’s cups.
“Consider, life is the hot chocolate; your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are the tool to hold and contain life.
“The cup does not define, nor change the quality of life.
“Sometimes, by concentrating on the cup, we fail to enjoy the hot chocolate God has provided us. God makes the hot chocolate, people choose the cup.
“The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything they have.”
A tip of the hat to the unnamed hot-chocolate professor, to friendly first-person service, a penny for your thoughts on all of this, maybe a fond farewell to the penny, and this caution from your friendly, neighbourhood housewife.