Friday, November 29, 2013

The art of shopping (apologies to Sun Tzu)

It's the season of frenzied shopping, which in Vancouver means it's time for the annual "Warehouse clearance sales". I suspect they're not clearing old stock at all and it's all a sinister experiment, which I am the unwitting (or not?) subject of. But anyway, the most notable sales are Arc'teryx, Sugoi, and Icebreaker and I'm not the kind of experimental subject to ignore the chance to own made-in Vancouver things at sub made-in-Vancouver prices. Icebreaker of course isn't made in Vancouver, but it is made from sheep. Having had my fair share of being buried alive under 1000 pairs of extra-small Capri-pants (not as much fun as it sounds) and having had to tear people limb-from-limb to secure socks in my size, I don't enter these endeavors lightly.

I know my limits, and I only have enough fight in me for one warehouse battle-royale per year. This year I skipped Arc'teryx entirely, which is the most fearsome of them all. It's like the Somme of warehouse sales: people clambering listlessly over mounds of purple ski-suits in the hope they might find that special soft-shell jacket that will make existence tolerable. There's probably already a line of people waiting in the rain waiting for next years sale in order to buy... raincoats. But I escaped by the good fortune that I already have a raincoat.

Next, Icebreaker. Now this is a tough one to miss as sheep's clothing is some of the finest (and best for disguises according to legend). I managed to contract my shopping list out to Kala, who's deft rummaging skills netted me a few fine new woolies. Two down, one to go.

The Sugoi sale is for me the softest target of the sales. It's somewhere in the darkest recesses of Burnaby, starts on Friday lunchtime, and invariably falls on a day when it is raining cats and dogs. This makes for a somewhat civilized opening day. For me, it's also easy to stay focused on the prize as the only thing Sugoi make that I want is bike shorts. Of course I've been tempted by fluorescent triathlon singlets, but I'm not sure I can really pull off the tri-geek ensemble without a torpedo helmet and some disco slippers. I did make the rash decision last year to ride my bicycle to this bike-clothes sale, which turned out to be a mistake. There was nothing handy to lock it to and my damp arrival-state caused me to freeze to death several times before my part of the line made it to the door. My conclusion is that cyclists shouldn't ride bikes. This year I did it right (?) and drove the car. Even better, I ran in to two consecutive groups of people I know in the line, scoring me cutting-in opportunities. Yes, I am that queue-jumping person. Pour down your hate on me.

Once inside the "warehouse" (or as I suspect, experimental shopping environment) I located the "ugly" rack and started the search for the finest ugly-shorts. I should probably explain ugly-shorts. Sugoi make custom logo'd stuff for whoever wants it, so in the "warehouse sale" (or as I suspect, human battery-farming experiment) there's a special section reserved for all the leftover goods, usually festooned with awful corporate logos and nonsensical slogans. "Be incredible". But, they're really cheap. The browsing was good and I managed to locate not only ugly shorts for all the people I'd agreed to buy for, but also myself. I'm usually a loser in these retail experiments, what with being a medium-sized male in a warehouse full of spandex-crazed medium-sized males. However, I made my escape with satisfying sack of chamois.

I did have a moment of weakness, influenced by Marc, where I ended up buying my first ever pair of bib-shorts. I've always regarded these things with suspicion, but they have their devotees and I'm not afraid of trying something new, so long as it's cheap. I was swung by their availability in my size, cheapness, and their pure embodiment of ugly-short-ness (they're asymmetrically pink). Then I got home and tried them on. Other than making me look like a long-lost member of Kiss, they're ok I guess. I'm not sure I really "get" why bike shorts need braces, but whatever. If it's hot enough next summer I might go for a ride on the the Shore wearing just these... and my full-face helmet and goggles (to avoid detection).

The spoils of war