Around the Bend: Frivolous shopping trip unravels

Being both a homebody and a tightwad isn’t always as fun as it sounds.
Last Saturday, for instance, I had to run an errand in Essex. Two hours of driving for a one-minute chore seemed like a terrible reason to leave the house. It took all my powers of positive thinking — plus persistent glares from my family members —  to convince me to look at the drive as an opportunity. I’d make a day of it and have some fun in a busy part of Vermont I normally avoid.
Great. So what do people around here typically do when they head to Chittenden County?
I had no idea.
But I had heard stories. Apparently, they go out to eat. They go to the movies. They go bowling. They shop. In other words: They spend money.
So that was the plan: I was going to break up the tedium of driving for two hours by blowing cash — not because I had something in mind worth paying for, but because that’s all there is to do around Burlington.
Some plan.
And it wasn’t just the money. Take the movies, for example. I can’t sit for that long with nothing to do; I abhor idle hands. (To be clear: I have no problem with an idle body, but if I’m not knitting or otherwise releasing my nervous energy, I twitch like a coked-up squirrel.)
Surely, there was free stuff to do. Maybe I could find one of the local libraries up there and hang out and read. Read? You mean that thing I can do at home with my shoes off, on my own couch, not far from a fridge?
Next idea, please.
Maybe I could visit a friend. The only person I actually knew in the Burlington area, though, was the nephew of a coworker of mine, and while I’m sure he and his roommates would have been nice enough, I had only met him once or twice. I don’t excel at first-person shooter video games, so unless he liked to discuss early American home textile production, we wouldn’t have much to talk about.
Then it came to me: What are two of my favorite hobbies? 1. Knitting. 2. Not spending money.
Yes. I would shop for a high-quality but unattractive thrift-store sweater to painstakingly unravel and re-knit into something else.
Inexpensive? Check. Interesting and challenging (to me)? Check. Borderline eccentric? Oh, I don’t know.
To people who enjoy going to the mall (yuck) and purchasing (ugh) new and expensive (gah) clothing that is no good for anything but wearing, I suppose I’m an oddball. But to people who like to spend their time tying fishing flies under a microscope or fashioning historically accurate chainmail, I guess I’m just your average hobbyist.
So on Saturday on my way back from Essex I stopped at the Goodwill in Williston. I spent a relaxing hour poring over the knits, reading tags and examining construction methods. I came away with two well-made but outdated pullovers, both in fine cashmere. Total cost: $14 (plus $2 for an energy bar I had eaten on the way there, because you can’t make good yarn-recycling decisions with low blood sugar).
And, unlike with clothes shopping, where the remorse starts when you leave the mall and the joy ends after the first wearing of the new item, for me the fun hasn’t even begun yet. Soon I will gather my implements — a seam ripper, a pair of strong reading glasses and a bright light — and get to work on the first sweater.
With any luck, I will pull a thread and the whole thing will unravel in cartoon style until I have a giant ball of cashmere yarn at a fraction of what it would have cost in a shop. Eventually I will knit it into a soft and luxurious scarf or shawl, and when I get compliments, I will brag about all the work it took and how much money I saved (because that’s what we cheapskates do).
There is a slight chance, however, that I will run into knots, and that the yarn will come apart in short, unusable segments. After an hour, I will find myself jabbing away at the sweater with the seam ripper, surrounded by clumps of cashmere spaghetti that are good for nothing but making a soft and luxurious lining for the trash can.
Frankly, to this tightwad homebody, that still sounds like more fun than bowling.

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