Image by twenty5pics via Flickr
I don’t own an iPhone… partly because I don’t use my phone enough to warrant paying inflated monthly contracts, but mostly because I don’t like Apple’s restrictive business practice of tying customers to a particular network provider and locking them in to proprietary software and services. But the January sales are starting to change my mind.
Wherever you go in town during the sales you’ll find a particular breed of sorrowful creature: laden with carrier bags, wandering aimlessly outside fitting rooms, trying desperately not to look like a pervert in the lingerie department, and generally milling about on a never-ending quest for non-existent seating.
I’m talking, of course, about the long-suffering shopping-husband… a cross between an over-laden pack mule and a rabbit caught in headlights.
These people are usually so far outside their comfort zone that you’d expect them to be in a constant state of panic. They’re not, because the edge of that panic is dulled by the mind-numbing monotony of trotting from shop-to-shop behind a credit-card wielding spouse. That, and the preoccupation of juggling an ever-growing mountain of shopping bags, combined with the mental anguish of totting up next month’s credit card bill.
But something has changed. Every now and then you’ll spot one of these shopping husbands who’s broken free of the brain-numbing tedium of post-Christmas retail. These individuals look bright, alert and engaged. What’s caused this striking transformation? Look closer and you’ll find the subject of your scrutiny is clutching an iPhone.
They could be playing the latest game, engaging with their friends on social networks like Facebook or Twitter, looking up yet another left-over-turkey recipe for tonight’s dinner, or using one of the gazillion iPhone apps to work out exactly how much this shopping trip is costing. Or perhaps they’re doing some virtual shopping of their own.
Whatever they’re doing, they’ve managed to transcend the state of vegetating outside fitting rooms, and I’m jealous.
Yes, I am a self-confessed gadget fiend, but the appeal of the iPhone transcends the basic longing for a sexy piece of technology. It’s also about utility — and having the means to escape the overwhelming tedium of shopping in my pocket is a very compelling argument for signing on the dotted line and selling my soul to Apple Inc. and O2.
But envy aside there are other pieces of technology that could come in even more handy than an iPhone when you’re traipsing around town behind the other half… a decent gas mask, for one. Heading down Patrick Street, for some reason my wife took leave of her senses and decided to duck through Brown Thomas. As the doors slid shut behind us we were engulfed in a cloying miasma of fragrances that made breathing impossible.
I’m sure individually each of them was the “must have” fragrance of the moment… or at least a moment… but together they were an assault on the senses that would surely incapacitate a rampaging elephant. How they expect anyone to stick around long enough buy the stuff I’ll never know.
Shopping, to put it bluntly, is torture to most men.
Somewhere during the course of human evolution, while we were out clubbing dinner over the head, selection pressures where hard at work honing women’s ability to be choosy about what they were gathering for the family table, and what their children would wear. Back in the day that was all very well. Hunting around for the most nutritious berries would make you and your clan stronger, and the best animal skins would keep you all warmer and aid survival.
Today, the remnants of that particular strand of human evolution is a combination of genes that makes the female a superlative shopper. Spending hours mooching from shop to shop only to return to the first one to buy the very first thing they looked at is second nature to them. Not so for men — we’d still rather be out clubbing dinner.
For the family man though, shopping is a fact of life, and with four females in the family I guess it’s one I’m just going to have to get used to.