SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Shopping for Unmanly stuff
By Dave Kiffer


March 17, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - The other day I was in the checkout line at A and P and I found myself explaining to the checkout clerk why I had all these little kiddie toys and games in my basket.

Natch, I was without the five-year-old. Otherwise, there would have been no need to explain.

The clerk smiled pleasantly as I droned on about having to buy little toys to leave in special lunch bags for my child for each of the days I was out on town on a trip.

She appeared interested, but about half way through I could tell that - behind her glasses - she was obviously thinking counting the minutes until her shift ended. She didn't really care what I was buying. It was only her job to help me buy. I could have walked up with three cartons of cigarettes, a keg of beer and 10 packs of condoms and said it was for my son's birthday party and she would have just smiled and said "that's nice."

It reminded me of that wonderful scene in The Fugitive (the movie) were Tommy Lee Jones (US Marshal) corners Harrison Ford (the fugitive). Ford turns to him and shouts "I'm innocent."

Jones looks back in complete exasperation.

"I don't care," he shouts back.

And he doesn't. It's not his job to care whether the fugitive is innocent or guilty. His job is the bring the guy in and let other folks sort it all out.

Just like it's really not the checkout clerk's job to be remotely concerned about what weird things you or I are buying. Okay, maybe they might raise an eye brow to a case of whip cream, twenty cartons of Jello and a box of pregnancy testers, but you get the idea.

Still we persist in trying to explain away the things in the cart that we make us feel uncomfortable

A while back, there was a guy in line ahead of me at Safeway buying eight twelve-packs of toilet paper.

"I work at a LODGE," he announced loudly enough for everyone within two blocks to hear him. Obviously, the salmon wasn't all that was running.

Another example, if you're a guy you can't be seen buying a People or an US magazine (even if that is what the wife requested) without throwing on a couple of more "manly" magazine like Trench Mortar Quarterly or Biggest Damn Trucks Today into the shopping.

Even in a rugged self sufficient place like Ketchikan - where is often assumed that the rugged man is out hunting and gathering (at Safeway) and the wife is home tending the cabin (okay, the $500,000 Clover Pass waterfront 'cabin') - you would think that no one, least of all the buyer, would care what was in the creel, err, shopping cart.

After all, when you have to slog through the snow drifts (literally, this week) to "get to town" then you stock up on every necessity. If that means a few "odd" items in the shopping cart, well so be it.

But that's the not the way it is. Some things just make folks uncomfortable. For guys it's buying "unmanly" stuff. For women it seems to be buying stuff that is extra "feminine."

I remember shopping with a slightly older cousin at Wingren's one summer many years ago. She was apparently just old enough to be concerned with buying "girl" stuff. At the counter, the clerk called out loudly to one of the clerk's for a "price check on Summer's Eve."

My cousin was red-faced for about a week after that.

Once upon a time, I had a brief career as a clerk in a drugstore. It was one of those large "we sell everything" kind of places. I was there about two weeks, before I got a more lucrative offer.

It was interesting seeing the excuses people used for the things they had to buy. Men buying feminine hygiene products always had to announce loudly that they were for their a) wife, b) girlfriend, or c) co-worker. ( and just when was the last time a female co-worker asked a male one to pickup some "heavy flows" at the 7-11?)

Women buying similar products would also make excuses if those products were the "extra-strength" or "super absorbent" variety. No one ever wanted to admit that it was really them that needed the Midol. Kind of like writing Dear Abby that your "friend" is having a problem.

One day, a teen-aged male came up to the counter with a pair of velvet handcuffs (it truly was a "sells everything" store).

He nervously slid them toward register.

I looked at him and paused, curious to see if I'd get a response.

He looked down.

"They're for my Mom," he mumbled.

Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2006

Publish A Letter
        Read Letters/Opinions

Write the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska