The Brooklyn Bulk District, home to Costco, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, is a place where mass and variety are the watchwords. These so-called “big box” stores are in fact brimming with big boxes.
I went to Lowe’s just to bask in the excess: 85 varieties of work gloves, 30 types of doormats, 54 styles of toilet seats. As I wandered around awestruck, I fondled scatter rugs and appliances; I picked up cedar hangings, tiles, a “double hook Madrid half pot rack,” a “telescopic gutter blaster,” and basically luxuriated in the textures of commerce. Continuous pop hits from the eternal present played (“My Eyes Adored You,” “If She knew What She Wants,” etc.) . . . “Special assistance needed in the pipe-threading area” . . . The Fork lift beeps . . . sight and sound, touch and smell: a cornucopia for the senses.
Lowe’s is a wonder of mercantile giganticism and represents the transformation of the shopping experience. There’s nothing I really need there, but I like the idea that it exists, as an ideal of plenitude.
I set out for Costco late in the afternoon on a Thursday. The weekend was approaching and I needed to stock up. I also had to replenish for the following week (and the one after that). It was my maiden voyage to the “membership warehouse club,” which I had joined only the week before. It would be a lie to say I wasn't excited, in fact I was giddy.
After only a few minutes wheeling my cart through the bulging aisles of condiments, snack foods, and staples, I realized this was no mundane trip to the grocery store, but rather a journey to the threshold of bloat.
Costco is a retort to scarcity and an icon of abundance. It also epitomizes the downside of affluence. Casualties of over-indulgence abound there, listless and corpulent, object reminders of how the promise of America has been reduced to the promise of self-gratification.
There was too much I wanted, in quantities well beyond my needs, at unreal prices, too. I became paralyzed by so many tantalizing options, so I fled empty-handed. Outside I saw the aftermath of one family’s trip to Costco. Apparently too excited to even get their goods into the car (let alone all the way home), they scarfed them all up right there in the parking lot.