To my knowledge, I had never stepped foot in a thrift store prior to September of this year. If I had, it was by accident and probably against my will as I generally regard shopping as a necessary evil to be performed only as a drastic last measure once I literally have nothing to wear on my person or feet. Think I’m kidding? Before my nephew could walk, he owned more pairs of shoes than myself. This is not because he had an exorbitant amount of shoes, it’s because I literally had four. A pair of ballet flats, a pair of rain boots, a pair of gym shoes, and some flip flops. I hate wearing shoes and would walk around barefoot 24/7 if given the opportunity. Same with coats. As previously mentioned, I hate wearing them. If there is a remote chance that I might be hot at some point while wearing the coat, I will rip it off and take my chances on getting frostbite.
Regular clothes pose a bit more of a challenge as it’s illegal to go outside without pants – I think – and once it’s too cold for me to pull off sundresses, I have to figure something else out. Left to my own devices, I’m perfectly happy to wear leggings, mismatched socks, and a hoodie. But some people – TONY – refused to leave the house with me a few weeks ago so I was forced to consider that it may, in fact, be time for some new clothes.
Of course, me being me, once I decided I needed to new clothes, it distracted and bothered me to the point that I was in near tears every morning as I schlepped along in my outdated dress pants, scowling at the girls waiting for the train in their a-fucking-dorable skinny jeans and leggings. It morphed from “Hey, I should probably get some new clothes,” to “OMG I NEED AN ENTIRELY NEW WARDROBE AND I HAVE FORTY DOLLARS AND I HATE EVERYTHING UNTIL I HAVE SKINNY JEANS AND BOOTS.”
Enter the thrift store. There is a giant one in my new neighborhood, and a few weeks ago decided I would check it out. Just figured I would take a look, see what I could see, maybe get lucky with a couple of new things. Four hours later, I was walking home with a vintage Band-Aid dispenser, a wooden black cat statue Halloween decoration that scared the shit out of my cat, two t-shirts, and an obsession. It. Has. EVERYTHING. I was a little daunted the first time around, as it’s giant maze of humanity; the kids clothes are by the vacuums, the bathing suits (fucking ew, absolutely not, there has to be a line somewhere,) are by the electronics, the furniture is by the shoes, and the coats are mixed in with the dresses.
In addition to the disorganization, it’s simply confusing. There’s these random, unwritten rules; for instance, you are supposed to take the clothes off the hangers when you get to the register and if you don’t are ostracized by fellow thrifters and the cashier alike, which – especially for the faint of heart like me – can be relatively tough on the self-esteem. Also, the clientele at this particular store, due to its location, is comprised of stupid hipsters that are simply looking for the most ironic thing they can find, families that are there out of genuine need, and big, scary soccer-mom types who will muscle past you while talking on a cell phone and somehow traveling the aisles with three carts. (Note: they’re the ones to watch out for. Trust.)
All of that being said, there’s somewhat of a party atmosphere; there’s a guy with a cart outside selling elotes and tacos who inexplicably has balloons, and they play the most random, fabulous soundtrack of any store I’ve ever been in. The last time I was there, in succession, they played the Spanish version of “Unchained Melody,” Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” and Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” It was fucking amazing.
Certainly, you have to go in with an open mind. You have to be willing to pretty much look through everything; clothes are grouped by color, not size, so there are size zero jeans next to size 22s, size smalls next to XXXL. But here’s a secret – nothing will open your mind faster than getting six pairs of brand name jeans, two pairs of boots, and five shirts/sweaters for a grand total of $37.00. I have gotten more compliments on my thrift store finds in the past three weeks than I have gotten since I began my job almost two years ago. And thus, an obsession has been born. Almost without my realization or intent, we seem to be propelling ourselves there every Saturday morning (it’s HALF PRICE DAY!! HURRY!!) and coming home only ten or fifteen bucks lighter, but with new clothes.
Downside? It’s actually cheaper to buy new clothes than to do laundry in our building, which for two extremely lazy people will likely become a problem in the very foreseeable future. Upside? Aside from the obvious, it’s possibly the greatest people-watching on the planet save for Las Vegas, and it’s a lot cheaper and less stressful to go to Village Discount.
Case in point? When we were there Saturday, the lines were outrageous. This is obviously not a big surprise and again is part of the whole “open mind” part of the experience. Expect to be there awhile. Anyhow, we were about seventh in line once we finished shopping and settled into our favorite game which basically consists of mocking others for sport. While we debated the purchases of the three – seemingly unrelated – men at the register who were buying, among other things, a badminton racket, a dollhouse, four towels (fucking ew again,) and a VCR, when something caught my eye.
Or rather, someone caught my eye. This girl a couple carts in front of us, all hundred and twenty pounds of her, wearing leggings with cute little patterned leg warmers under her knee high boots (seriously, I don’t even want to talk about how difficult it is to fit my pants inside my boots; you have to have a special kind of tiny baby-giraffe legs to wear thick knit leg warmers underneath them,) a teeny-tiny shirt, and super cute jean jacket. She had curly hair all piled up in a bun in that way that is meant to look messy but takes most people three hours to accomplish. She was pretty much stunning and what I pretend I look like when I am putting outfits together in my head, and she was hurting my feelings just for existing.
I looked down at my yoga pants and big comfy t-shirt – perfect for shopping! – and, noticing a stain, remarked to my husband, “Life’s not fair.” Without missing a beat or taking his eyes off of her, he replied, “No shit.” A couple of minutes later, he nudged me. “Yeah, this is probably more our speed,” while pointing down another aisle where a woman was trying to knock a shirt down from a high rack by waving a Halloween scarecrow at it wildly, muttering, “Come on, come ON,” prompting me to burst out laughing so hard I couldn’t compose myself and he nearly sent me outside.
So yeah. The thrift store pretty much has everything; entertainment, music, people watching, and every possible item you could ever imagine wanting for under five dollars. Grab some friends and forty dollars – I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Is that your grandma’s coat?