Building An Earthship In Darfield, B.C.

We are a family of five living in Darfield, BC.
Our house is six hundred square feet in total and we are feeling cramped.

We have decided to build an earthship!

So starts the adventure ...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A trip down memory Costco!

Today while in Kamloops, I found myself with 40 minutes to kill before an 11:00 am appointment. I found myself flashing my expired card at the smiley door greeter and entered the world of Costco.

We let our Costco membership lapse several years ago because a Real Canadian Superstore opened in Kamloops and we found that the prices were much better.

In fact, our initial decision to let the membership lapse was financial but over the subsequent two years, we remained committed to this decision because of the extreme "big box" mentality we felt Costco represented. There was no bulk buying opportunity and at the time, a smaller produce section. I always felt overwhelmed there because there was so much variety, I ended up spending more than I wanted or should. Every time I went in I found something I didn't know I "needed"!

Before anyone points out the obvious, I realize the Superstore is a big box, but at about the same time as we shunned Costco, we were buying differently at the Superstore. More bulk foods, less packaged goods, and more whole foods. We tend to do a "big" shop every few weeks and frequent our local grocery store in between. The owners of our local AG Foods store in Barriere are well aware that this is the shopping pattern of their customers. I had a conversation with one of them many years ago about it. Barriere is just close enough to Kamloops to make a grocery shopping trip (coupled with dentist appointments, etc.) worthwhile, but far enough away that shoppers aren't going to zoom into Kamloops for a jug of milk or loaf of bread.

As I entered the enormous doors of Costco the smiley door greeter tried to give me the weekly coupons. I've become very good at turning coupons and flyers down with a simple, "I won't take that today, thanks." I didn't need to discover I couldn't do without a five-in-one foot massager today, thanks very much!!!

As I hit the laptop, camcorder and ipod section at the entrance of the door, I inexplicably felt the old "pull". I immediately headed for the laptops to figure out how much a new one would cost once mine died (still using an external USB keyboard on mine; works great so far!)

After convincing myself that the $900 unit had to be better than the $500 one, I woke up and started putting one foot in front of the other. I walked up and down the aisles and, except for a magnetic dry erase board (perfect for a quote of the week or inspirational snippet from a poem or book, $32.99) I managed to make it down one length of the building without touching anything. Through the bakery where I saw they are still selling the ciabetta rolls I use to buy in packages in 24...

Then I hit the laundry detergent. Holy crap. There were brands I'd never heard of and it went on for rows and rows. Now, I've been experimenting with laundry detergent. Because we haven't hooked up our new washer to hot water, I'm trying to find which detergent works in cold water the best for the least amount of money. I yearned for my calculator until I realized the price per mL was posted with each price. After walking down the first aisle with my eyes raised to the prices and my mouth hanging open I reached the farthest corner of the building.

With every ounce of resolve, I turned left and kept walking away from the detergent. I decided to pass on the freezer section as it was mostly processed foods. I did notice that Alcan aluminum foil was being sold in ENORMOUS boxes but realized that at the rate I used foil (three or four times a year), it would be decades before I'd go through a box as big as the one on the shelf.

I peaked down the aisle sporting cereals (we gave up packaged cereal several years ago) and stepped into one aisle where a skid of maple syrup was positioned. Beyond this and into the next aisle I could see the Chipits chocolate chips and quickly backtracked and zipped down that aisle. I spent a good 30 seconds fondling the plastic bag (ziploc closure) and reluctantly set it down. I can dream but as chocolate is my downfall, it is never a good idea in the quantities that Costco sports.

As I turned around to head into the Pharmacy I bumped into a pallet jack handled by a Costco employee. "Whoops! Sorry," I said. The gentleman handling the equipment smiled at me and asked "what is the weather like outside?" I had trouble understanding him at first as his speech was slurred, but I realized quickly that he also had a physical disability.

It was raining as I pulled up and I told him so. He pulled a face and made a comment about the coolish spring weather. I assured him that the forecast was for sunshine in the next few days. But ahh, I said, you're probably working. No, he said, he only works until noon, but he has been spending his afternoons in his canoe paddling down the South Thompson river and it had been a cold couple of days for him on the water.

An avid paddler myself I asserted that any day on the water was a good day. He smiled charmingly in agreement and we chatted a while longer. He didn't seem to mind that I had to ask him to repeat himself a few times.

We parted company and I walked towards the exit, weaving my way through the extraordinarily long lineups for the cashiers, reminding me again of why I disliked shopping there.

I felt a lot like my mom today. She was really good at connecting to people. She was never in a hurry and befriended the most unlikely people. I resolved after her death in 2000 that I would try to be more open and friendly and to seek out connections with others. I think I do a lot better but today pointed out to me that I don't do it often enough, and that other people, like my new friend in Costco, are much better at it.

Part of it is that often our shopping experiences are much like trains with schedules. I still do find grocery shopping at the Superstore a chore to get through as quickly as possible, best done when the crowds are small. It occurred to me today that when Chris and I traveled through Europe, we often shopped in little villages where you meandered down the street and popped in and out of stores and saw people and chatted. In Toronto we shopped a lot in Kensington market and it was a similar experience (although very noisy).

Many Canadian towns and cities once had downtowns that encouraged community. In our busy lives we have eagerly embraced big box stores and their conveniences, even if it meant actually driving to them instead of walking. I have read articles that predict that with the end of cheap oil, our communities will return to this kind of shopping experiences. I'm not sure if this is so or not. But it would be nice, wouldn't it?

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