Often a bargain, always a surprise.

I’ve always been a committed bargain shopper. I love finding the twice-reduced item or the slightly damaged piece of goods that the store manager will knock down to half-price. Part of the pleasure I get is in saving money. But as any discount shopper knows, there are other, more subtle and more philosophical pleasures involved.

Reverse snobbism is one — to boast about how little one spent on something when others like to boast about how much. A swipe at capitalism is another — diverting profits from the coffers of rapacious moguls. But most of all, I am motivated by the pleasure of the hunt: sifting through racks of undistinguished merchandise for something that has escaped the tar brush of cheapness and shoddiness; glimpsing the elegance of a garment underneath the deforming overlay of smocking, ruffles, and bows. If shopping is a sport that requires stamina and practice, it is… More…

Last summer I got a ticket for riding mass transit one stop outside of Fareless Square without fare. I went to court hoping to use the “I was wearing my iPod and didn’t hear the announcement” defense, but when I came before the judge he was pissed at the big group of defendants, and he just scolded us and gave us the choice of paying a $90 fine or doing eight hours of community service. Someone had carved “This judge is a fucker” into the bench I stood by, and that made the scolding bearable. I was also glad the fucker was offering us the eight hours of community service, because I didn’t have $90.

When I got to the used clothing store I’d been assigned, the manager was already exhausted with me. She told me not to hide, and that she could tell “when you guys try to hide.”… More…