DH had been out of town for a week and was flying east in time for a school heads’ conference in southern Vermont. I was to catch a ride with other conference-goers, meet him there for the event dinner, spend the night, and drive home with him the next day.

Now, driving six hours round-trip to eat dinner and sleep in a strange bed was not high on my list of priorities. But I was committed. Moreover the weather was so foul at home, my boots and coveralls wet and heavy with snow and dripping mud, that I told myself a 24-hour break would be worth the effort.

As it happened, DH’s plane was delayed in Detroit and I ate dinner at a table of strangers. However it was fun to be slightly dressed up for a change. I do it so seldom I always feel a bit like I’m wearing a costume, impersonating someone from the well-to-do Connecticut town where I grew up. And since two of the pieces of my outfit were thrift-shop finds, I felt even more secret pleasure.

In the morning while DH attended meetings, I went window-shopping in the town. There were many upscale outlet stores. Though I am not much of a shopper, I decided I would keep my eye out for a handbag. On our trip to Florida I’d helpfully stashed packets of honey in my purse for the girls’ bagels on the train, and somehow one of the packets had exploded. I’d done my best to soak and scrub it, but my purse would never be the same.

Hmmm… where in all these fancy stores to look for a handbag? Well, Coach, of course! My mother-in-law had loved Coach bags. I knew Coach was an expensive brand. They’d probably be something outrageous, $89 or thereabouts, but I would look anyway. Maybe I’d find something on sale.

The shop was tiny and the purses, leather dyed in a rainbow of bright colors, were set out like rows of jewels on display tables. I went straight to the sale section and turned over a price tag. Gulp! $298!

I smiled weakly at the saleswoman and let myself out.

My next stop was Brooks Brothers. Surely they would have something classic, simple, and understated.

I mentioned my experience at Coach to the salesman. Three hundred dollars for a handbag on sale was out of my league, I explained with small laugh.

He murmured agreement. I would find their bags much more reasonable. He led me to the handbag section. My eye fell on a tag. $229!

Oh, dear. Was there by any chance a clearance section? Indeed. The bags in the far back corner were 70% off. I sighed with relief and made my way back.

There were only two bags on the counter. Though the smaller one was rather more elegant than my taste, perhaps I could accustom myself to an upgrade — and 70% off the original price of — I turned over the tag. $498.

At this point my brain froze. There were people in the world who routinely paid $500 for a bag to carry their wallet and comb?

I reeled back to the hotel to pick up DH for the drive home. I told him all about my failed shopping expedition.

“Maybe check out Carhartt,” he advised kindly.

It was nice to get away briefly to another world, but I was happy to get home last night to the mud where I belong.


One Response to Rube

  1. Michele says:

    I have had the same experience with sticker shock when hunting for a new purse. I have pretty much given up the habit in favor of a wallet type card carrier that keep in my pocket.

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