Soap Dispensers

Shopping Psychosis

Today I went to Bed Bath & Beyond to look for a bath mat. I should have known better. BBB has the power to induce in me a confusion and delirium unique in the world of retail. It surpasses even the weirdness of IKEA.

I discovered the trouble with BBB years ago, when my friend Roger and I nearly lost our minds in the SOMA store. We began with a manageable list of wants for his new flat, but within twenty minutes we had the spins. It was the menacing plastic deck chairs and the shifty, artificially-lit piles of bath towels stacked to the heavens. It was, we surmised, something they put in the air to disorient us and make us insatiably greedy for kitchen gadgets and picture frames, scented candles and pillow shams. We barely made it to the exit.

So what was I doing this afternoon, swaying unsteadily in front of the bath accessories? I just wanted a damn bath mat. But I’ll tell you, if you’re looking for a plastic monkey-head soap dispenser with a matching tumbler, you can find one at the Bed Bath & Beyond in Larkspur. And that’s just one of the 108 different bathroom accessory sets you can choose from. I know there are 108 because I stood there and counted them. I also know that 108 is a mystical and holy number in many religious traditions, but in that moment all I could think was “holy crap” — and a lot of it, too.

The man who rung up my bath mat, which I have to return because it’s the wrong color, told me he’s 63 years old and just two years away from Medicare. He said, “I get incredible healthcare coverage at this place — dental, eyes, all of it.” He had time to talk because the BBB computers were down and he had to complete the transaction by hand.

“But it’s retail,” he said, “you know what I mean?”

I told him I do know. I’ve done my time in retail. He looked relieved when I said that. So then I asked how he managed to work at BBB every day without becoming deranged.

“Sense of humor,” he said.

No doubt that will take him all the way to Medicare and a good deal further. The same thing may even get me through BBB tomorrow when I go back to find another bath mat.

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