Dec 02

REI v. Globetrotter, part deux

by in We are thinking of you, Writing

It’s OK for rich people to go bananas in at Globetrotter. It’s OK for people with an American Express Gold card to buy rad stuff that’s from the future at REI. But for backpackers or bobos or the insecure middle class, these places can wipe an entire city off your travel map.

What they tap into, I think, is a deep-rooted human desire for safety, comfort, happiness, longevity, mildew-resistant textiles, dehydrated foods, and rock walls. They sell the illusion of control for situations that aren’t controllable. We have an evolutionary yearning for protection from dangerous animals like bears, sharks, snakes, bugs, scorpions, piranhas, jellyfish, gigantic venus fly-traps, and pigs. We therefore buy products like bear spray or shark strobes. We pick up that brand new cobra whip or a hippopatomus whistle. We completely blow our budgets, both on the defensive as well as the offensive. I bet there are more than a few dry suits out there that have never been wet. I bet there’s a SCUBA diver here or there who wears rock-climbing shoes instead of fins, just to use them.

Because Homo Sapien, god help us. We have a few known weaknesses. Our operating system has “bugs”. One common example is that we cannot hold dry spaghetti in our hand and know with any certainty whether that quantity will satisfy or disgust in ten minutes’ time. Another is Jerry Springer. REI and Globetrotter are weaknesses, too.

Some products that will probably exploit this weakness in 2020:

* Self-activating thermal gel for waterfall face dampness.

* Moss Glue.

* For extreme rainy hiking on slippery mountains, the Poncho-Parachuteâ„¢

* Hiking boots that look like angry male skunks.

Take Antje’s brand new travel backpack. It’s a wonderful backpack, it was made in Colorado. But at the register it took us and our cashier (two adults and a senior) ten minutes and a phone call to find the complimentary rain sleeve. (Hidden in a pocket inside a pocket.)

Now, I like pockets. But not fifty pockets, not pockets inside of pockets. It’s tiring, unnecessary, and just like that tiny pocket in your jeans, you end up losing stuff that’s physically on your person, which causes double-anger. The backpack company’s called Osprey, and at some point, I believe, they had a Powerpoint presentation called “Pockets, pockets, pockets, pockets, pockets!” and the chairman applauded heartily with his big strong hands. Or maybe it’s just a Chinese manufacturer gone rogue.

Our most recent discovery was a secret compartment containing a five-liter plastic camel-pack that’s connected to a self-sealing hose which emerges from the backpack in a place I’ve now forgotten. Still, it’s pretty amazing. Five liters. Easily enough for an emergency bidet.

That’s not the only upside to pocket proliferation. We’ll be spending Christmas on the road, as well as Antje’s birthday. That makes for some tricky present situations. But you can bet where I’ll hide them!

Besides the backpack, the boots, and the seamless socks, we did buy a few other things. We now have water bottles and mosquito repellant and a first-aid kit. We have plastic cutlery and an inflatable travel pillow and one of those river bags that folds in on itself. We have a small pile of itty-bitties that will make our life more pleasant on the road. But, to the best of our ability, we restrained ourselves in la-la land. After touching more than a few sleeping backs of dream-like puffiness, we walked away.

So, a final warning to all travelers who’re planning to go to these stores: Be wise, be prudent. Don’t watch documentaries or drink coffee before you go, they’re too inspiring. And last, a little anecdote:

On the day of the typhoon simulator disaster, Antje’s parents were also there. But someone you might not have expected was there, too. He’s a chihuahua named Pipo*.
I don’t think he saw what happened inside that simulator. In fact, I don’t think he wanted to. But afterwards, as I was looking down at the pool, he came to my side.

He was trembling violently.

Because unlike us, Pipo knows that wind + rain in a box = 100% asinine. He knows that a little portable dog bowl made especially for trekking is not worth 29 euros. He knows that if you’re standing four stories above a pool then you should having walked up something to get there, damnit, that if you’re a believer in gravity, elevators are a blasphemy. He recognizes the superabundance of faux-dangers and real dangers at these stores for what they are: a danger cocktail. And so he trembles.

You can never have things under control. Just when you think you have things under control, your toenails fall off.

It was time for us to evacuate the store, and Pipo, his bladder.

I’m happy we did.

* Named after a Russian clown.



3 Responses to “REI v. Globetrotter, part deux”

  1. From Esther:

    love it, conor. just love it!!!!!

    Posted on December 2, 2011 at 16:25 #
  2. From Brooke/mom:

    Holy cow, Con. This is awesome. It deserves multiple readings, even if I am your mom :-).

    Posted on December 2, 2011 at 20:59 #
  3. From Laura B.:

    Brilliant, Conor! Looking forward to reading more posts.

    Posted on December 4, 2011 at 07:57 #