09 February 2008

The Darker Side of Thrift

After deciding not to buy a Toyota Prius today, my wife and I decide to celebrate our utter frugality (in keeping the same car that is worth $400 and needs $700 in brake work) by going to Unique Thrift. It's an ex-Frank's Nursery and Crafts location in Burnsville that is filled to the brim with all sorts of goodness. Simply put, if someone on this planet makes it, Unique has had it at one time or another. Some examples seen today: the bottom half of a chemical warfare suit, numerous pairs of snakeskin boots, a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a very nice looking accordion. My wife found some stainless steel coffee cups, and I found a green sweater from the GAP and an exercise bike.
I paid all of $4 for the bike, and it worked like a charm when I used it in the basement while watching the movie "Hot Fuzz" with the director's commentary on. I worked up a decent sweat after 35 minutes of riding, and decided to call it a day after that. I moved the bike back into a corner, where it has sat, out of sight and out of mind until I decided to write about it on this blog. This bike must be at least 20 years old, but it seems to be rather well made, with a steel flywheel in front, and a feature that allows the user to row the handles back and forth while riding. I tried doing this a few times, and nearly tipped over. I think I will be leaving the handlebars in one place from now on.
As good as my fortune was today, I realized something about my $4 exercise bike. Someone probably bought it new with all the hopes and dreams that come with the sweat less pre-exercise/shape-up-your-life program, and found that dreams didn't amount to much over the course of day after day of working out. Eventually, the bike (judging by it's condition) got put into a corner, where it gathered dust until someone found out they could get rid of it for free by taking it to Unique.
In short, I was able to get this bike in my basement because someone gave up.
Thrift stores are full of items indicating people have given up. How many times have I seen those blue ab machines that would slide across the floor and "tone up every area of the body," as claimed on TV? How many complete sets of Billy Blanks Tai-Bo tapes have I seen on the shelves of my local Goodwill? How many bikes, Nordic Tracks and generic Nordic Track knock-offs have I seen in various states of neglect? These things didn't end up their by themselves; they ended up because whoever bought them gave up on whatever dreams motivated them to purchase the (sometimes very expensive) machines in the first place.
This phenomenon isn't limited to exercise, but it ties into it. How many of those Banana Republic pants are hanging on the men's clothing isle because someone gave up and decided not to have a 32-inch waist anymore?
Thrift stores are one of my favorite things on the planet - but if looked at too closely, they don't speak well for the motivations of the average man, and just how far someone will go to remove evidence that a once-noble experiment has come crashing down in the form of dust on a Nordic Track.

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