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by Steve Carr
On the hot pavement of the shopping center parking lot, Rosalie opened the trunk of her car and pushed aside two sealed cardboard boxes and lifted out a third, larger one. She closed the trunk and walked down the middle of the aisle between the two rows of parked cars, straining to keep a good grip on the unwieldy box. She stepped onto the carpet in front of the doors, and felt a blast of cold conditioned air as they opened.
“Good afternoon, ma'am,” an elderly male store greeter in a blue smock said to her as she entered. “Would you like some help with that?”
“No, thank you, I've got it,” Rosalie said.
Passing by several racks of clothes with “discount” signs in metal frames affixed to the top of them, Rosalie stepped up to the returns counter and placed the box on the counter.
Without looking up from the register behind the counter, the very pretty and overly cheerful teenage girl, also wearing a blue smock, said, “Do you have something to return?”
“Yes, I have these plastic items I'd like to give back,” Rosalie said.
The girl looked up from the register, and seeing the box was a plain cardboard and had no markings on it, said, “Did you purchase the item here?” In black lettering on her name tag on her smock was the name, Tina.
“I bought all the items in the box here, Tina,” Rosalie said. “You can have them back.”
Tina swiveled the box around and lifted it a few inches off the counter, and then sat it down. “What's in it that you're not happy with?” she asked.
“Plastic stuff,” Rosalie said. “I've discovered I can live without plastic.”
Tina giggled nervously. “Could you open the box for me?”
“Certainly,” Rosalie said, and then peeled off the two long strips of clear tape that was holding the flaps closed. She pulled back the flaps. “There, you can see for yourself, all plastic.”
Tina sat the box on the floor behind the counter and reached into the box and pulled out a red plastic colander and placed it on the counter. She did the same with a set of six green drinking tumblers, a set of four bright blue soup bowls, a small white trash can, a dish drainer, a set of coasters with pictures of the Swiss Alps on them, three fly swatters with a fly shaped dot in the middle, four ivory colored 8 x 10 picture frames, and a rolled up white mat for the bathroom floor.
“This stuff looks used,” Tina said, rubbing her hands on her smock as if she had just been contaminated.
“They are used,” Rosalie said. “I bought them before I knew better. I'm giving everything back and have sent out dozens of emails to everyone I know to do the same with their junk.”
Tina wrinkled her nose. “That's all well and good, but neither you or anyone else can return anything and get your money back without having a receipt. ”
“I don't want the money back, Tina,” Rosalie said. “Losing the money is a way of teaching myself a lesson. I'm giving your store this stuff back because I bought into the false narrative that I needed to buy junk in order to feel good about myself.”
“The false what?” Tina said.
Rosalie leaned on the counter. “We're being brainwashed by corporations and the government into believing we need to buy things we don't need at all just so that a few can get rich while the rest of us struggle while filling our homes with junk.”
Tina tilted her head and looked at Rosalie appraisingly. “Couldn't you just donate the stuff you no longer want?”
“Certainly not,” Rosalie said. “I wouldn't dream of putting this stuff back into circulation just to feed someone else's misconception that they need more cheap junk in their home; junk that ends up in landfills and pollutes our land or forms islands of garbage in the ocean.”
“I'll get the store manager,” Tina said as she picked up the phone behind the counter. “The manager will be here in a minute,” Tina said after putting the phone back on its cradle. “Why are you just bringing stuff back here?”
“Oh, I'm not,” Rosalie said. “I have boxes of electronics and toys in my car and boxed up in my garage to be returned to where I bought them. I'm spending the day un-shopping.”
In a white shirt with a loosely knotted bright red tie, the bald headed manager came up to the counter and peered into the open box. Tina explained the situation.
“We simply can't accept the return of the items,” he said to Rosalie.
Rosalie looked at the name tag on the pocket of his shirt. “Roger, do with the items whatever you'd like, but I assure you I'm not walking out of this store with that box.”
Roger looked at Tina who was repressing a grin. She shrugged and said, “She's un-shopping.”
“You can't go around unloading junk,” he said.
“Why not? You do it,” she said. “The big difference is that you're part of a system that mass produces crap to unload on people who have been brainwashed by advertising and propaganda and I'm just someone with my eyes wide opened to having been a slave to your system.”
“I'm against slavery,” Roger sputtered defensively.
“Well, good, Roger,” Rosalie said. “When you get home tonight look around your house and see what a slave you are to useless possessions.”
“It was a pleasure meeting both of you,” she said to them, then walked to the door.
“I hope you enjoyed your shopping experience,” the door greeter said to her as she left the store.
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