Column: Most shopping trips I returned home empty-handed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I grew up in a &8221;we’ll see&8220; family.

We made do.

I would follow my mother down the aisle of a store.

Email newsletter signup

I’d keep a sharp eye out for something I needed.

I’d keep an even sharper eye out for something I wanted.

I was little boy. I didn’t just want things. I needed things.

I wanted and I needed. I needed and I wanted.

The good thing about me was that I only wanted the things I didn’t have. That only made sense to me.

I was like most children my age, I thought everyone else had everything that I didn’t.

In reflection, I know that it just seemed that way, but I was sure I had a deprived childhood.

My mother would always pick the worst shopping cart in the store.

One wheel would tend to the right, another wheel would move to the left and two wheels refused to turn at all. All they did was squeal. The four wheels worked like most committees.

I had to ask for money because I didn’t have any money of my own. I blame it on my accountant.

I would try to pick something good to ask for, because I didn’t want to waste a good whine or a theatrical temper tantrum of Academy Award-winning quality requesting something I wouldn’t really care to have once I got it.

That was the worst thing; to get something that I had asked for and then once I got it home, discovering that I really didn’t want it. I didn’t dare say I didn’t want it at that point because such an admission could be held against me in a later campaign for a desired object. I would try to hide the unwanted plaything, but parents notice things and then use that knowledge against a guy.

&8221;Why should I get you that? Remember that frammydeuce that you just had to have and then once you got it, you never played with it?&8220;

Things like that could put a real crimp in a fellow’s begging style.

There were so many things to want. Stores seemed to be filled with desirable items.

Much of the good stuff was situated on store shelves or displays that were right at eye level for a youngster. They were typically adorned in bright colors and dazzling packages that seemed to scream, &8221;You need me! That’s right, you, Allen Batt! Your life will never be complete without me.&8220;

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was targeted by advertisers. I was the target audience.

Highly-paid advertising agencies knew much better than I did what I wanted and needed. I was just a kid. I didn’t have a prayer against some of the greatest marketing minds of the era.

I wanted a lot and what I didn’t want, I needed.

Money was never in very large supply around my ancestral home, so beggars really had to be


I’d ask, &8221;Mom, could I have that?&8220;

I am the baby of the family, so my mother knew that her first line of defense was to pretend that she didn’t hear me.

I’d say a little louder, &8221;Mom, could I have that?

If you get me that, I promise I won’t ever ask for anything ever again.&8220;

The last sentence of my plea was of course a lie. I didn’t think of it as a lie.

I thought of it as a survival technique for the toy-impaired.

&8221;Oh, you don’t need that, honey,&8220; my wise mother would say.

I wouldn’t give up.

Hope springs eternal.

I’d whine out something like, &8221;Oh, please, please, please, please, please, please, please!&8220;

I had a limited repertoire.

Not having what I wanted was like not watching a movie, but watching people go into the movie theater instead.

My mother would usually reply with a smiling, &8221;We’ll see.&8220;

&8221;We’ll see.&8220;

That was a couple of words that chilled my young bones.

I could feel my heart sink.

Those two dreaded words would practically knock the wind out of me.

Those two words meant the same as one word in my family.

&8221;We’ll see&8220; was just another way of saying &8221;No.&8220;

Because of this, I seldom asked for anything in the first aisle or two that were a part of our shopping road.

That would be bad strategy.

If I got a &8221;We’ll see&8220; early on, I wouldn’t dare ask for anything else. This was because a minor miracle could happen and I might get that first thing I asked for.

Many a shopping experience ended with me carting home nothing but a &8221;We’ll see.&8220;

I made do.

(Hartland resident Al Batt writes a column for the Tribune each Wednesday and Sunday.)