More Hummus Than You Require: My Admission of a Costco Addiction

 

So I was going to write about “The Man From Uncle”, Guy Ritchie’s film adaptation of the 1964-1968 spy series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum—a television show by which many of the Boomer and Vietnam era cut their teeth on the small screen.

But during the whole length of the movie (short review: dumb but fun, eminently stylish) I found that I was unable to concentrate, because I kept thinking about Costco.  

The way that you think about a lover when they’re not there, sort of planning what you’ll do the next time you see them, that’s the way I’ve started to think about Costco.

I imagine that by shopping at Costco I have become the sort of person whose life is so in order and yet so damned adventuresome that I could buy a liter of humus, an ultra-HD TV, and a fiberglass canoe with a single cavalier swipe of a card.  

Or, to switch metaphors even more, I’ve become like an addict.  In many cases, like someone in the grip of their preferred drug’s high, I am already thinking about how to get my next fix.  As infatuation and addiction are linked, perhaps you’ll grant me that those two metaphors aren’t all that distant anyway.

To wit:  yesterday I bought nectarines.  

Forgive me, I think I haven’t provided enough background, in case that didn’t register as shock.  As I said in my first column, I’m an elderly millennial, maybe even the first ever born.  At the advanced age of 28, I have my choice of being one of them or the youngest Generation X-er (if there is anything between Gen-X and Gen-M, please tweet me or send a telegraph and I will be happy to switch to that).  As such, I am not too ashamed to admit that in many ways I still live like a kid.

I live in an apartment with four other guys, for instance.  Dishes pile up, laundry gets done in the small hours of the morning so as to avoid competition, and when said competition for the living room gets fierce we retire to our rooms.  There are something like seven TVs in the house, although to be fair, only four are plugged in, the others strewn about the rooms like a giant baby’s blocks.  None of us are poor, exactly, but we aren’t quite comfortable either.  Thank goodness for student loans.    

So my addiction to Costco, and the reason I was unable to focus on “The Man From Uncle” is because, for me, Costco represents an Aspirational Lifestyle Goal, henceforth ALG.  And the reason why the purchase of nectarines is surprising is because, secretly, I’m still stuck in the frozen pizza stage of my life.  This is not a point of pride for me.  Rather, it is a sort of dirty secret, only to be revealed to close friends like you, Dear Reader.  As an ALG, Costco represents something to me, something to aspire to.  Something that comes terribly close to providing just the high I desire.  It’s a high comparing the euphoria of plenty with the kick of variety.  Its not that Costco is upscale, exactly, but it sort of is.  You can get a giant bag of Tyson chicken tenders as easily as you can buy a $120 bottle of wine, where you could decide between a $15 block of unpronounceable European cheese or a package of pre-sliced yellow “cheesestuff”.  Costco is the post-modern American dream.

Which is: the dream of order, of “having it all together”.  

I imagine that by shopping at Costco I have become the sort of person whose life is so in order and yet so damned adventuresome that I could buy a liter of humus, an ultra-HD TV, and a fiberglass canoe with a single cavalier swipe of a card.  Some part of me desperately wants to be the guy who buys salmon burgers in bulk because he knows he needs the Omega-3, and because it pairs well with an arugula salad and a hip-ly unpretentious microbrew.  

Instead I am the guy who is reduced to doing laundry only after his last Star Wars t-shirt got pizza-stained.  Whatever caprice of fate delivered me here, Costco is a fantasy escape.  Because in the world of late-capitalism, I imagine my savior as a store.

But what a store it is.  To me, Costco is like if someone made a jigsaw puzzle entitled “The Good Life”, shook up the box and then poured out the pieces, duplicated them and then set them all on industrial shelving.  If only, I seem to think, I could collect all the pieces I’d be able to call this the good life without fear of self-delusion.  And to that end I assemble a refrigerator full of what I take to be the accoutrement of adulthood: a gallon of hummus in case I ever feel like having crudité, a two-liter bottle of something called “cold-pressed greens” in case I feel like drinking something so adult and responsible that it is literally disgusting, and that aforementioned recent box of nectarines.  

The problem is not just that I’m a man-child playing at being an adult.  As Monty Python said, that’s a fair cop but society’s to blame.  

Because in the end I suspect that my Costco addiction is a symptom of the growing income inequality in Bozeman, the most conspicuous residents of which are often several tax brackets better off than I am.  A year or so ago I was talking to someone at least one bracket up the ladder and mentioned that I lived on  a particular street.  Which side of Durston, she asked, and when I told her she said, “Oh, the bad side,” as in, “of the tracks”.   Just one woman’s opinion, of course, but kind of a jarring thing to hear because I always thought Bozeman was a small town.  Since I don’t think it was crime that made mine the “bad side”, I imagine she was referring to income.  

And it’s true that the other side of Durston looks like they’ve got it more together than ours, and I sometimes imagine that they are who I see buying gluten-free superfood bars at Costco.  

But I just don’t seem to be able to do it.  I’ve got two quarts of ‘Balela’, which the carton informs me is a traditional chickpea salad of Asia Minor turning as fuzzy as the tangerines.  It caught my eye on the shelf because it looked like the sort of thing that the best version of myself would be eating like ancient-grain crackers as he deftly navigates the growing income chasm like a rafter on the Gallatin.

My failure to transform into a more picturesque Bozemanian doesn’t mean that I don’t go to Costco all the time.

I found myself there just this morning, although I couldn’t quite remember how I’d gotten there.  Here I am again, I thought, as I spent a little more of my school loans on a bag of hothouse peppers.  Their color was just so lovely, so autumnal.  I could so easily see myself in some nicer apartment than my own, chopping them up to put in a frittata. 

Beguiled by the dream again, I got them and hurried home.  When I got there my roommates were watching Sportscenter and drinking Old Milwaukee.  I washed one of the dishes and one of the knives and chopped one of them up and ate it raw, wondering if I could make some kind of nectarine pepper salad with old hummus.  Maybe the problem is that I don’t have a nice enough cutting board, and I recalled that I saw a pack of three at Costco.  Then I sat down in my broken office chair I found on the street one day and tried to remember “The Man From Uncle”.

As I recall, it was pretty good.  You probably ought to go see it.  

 

You can read Joseph Shelton’s last column here.


Editor's Note: Joseph Shelton is a freelance writer working on his Masters in English Literature at Montana State University.  The only thing better than watching movies, he avers, is arguing about them with like- or unlike-minded folks; drop him a line and tell him just how wrong he is.