When I walk into a thrift store, I’m hit by a sense of self-consciousness and social anxiety. I usually drop by during my lunch hour. So I tend to be better dressed in my work clothes than the other patrons. Most people who shop at thrift stores do so out of economic necessity. Then there are folks who are interested in picking up vintage pieces for thrifty prices. I count myself in this group. Who else would be buying $8 Dylan records?
I’ve never felt more self-conscious than the time I visited the Beunas Vidas Thrift Store on a Friday. Every Friday, Buenas Vidas distributes free loaves of bread in the back room, where furniture and other large items are kept. I was back there one day checking out a manual typewriter. There was a steady stream of people, mostly ragged-looking men, picking up bread while I fiddled with the typewriter, checking out its keys and stuff. Here I was thinking of buying a totally useless thing because it was kind of cool, surrounded by people who lacked the most essential thing in life. The contraposition made me feel a little guilty of being on the fortunate side. I attribute this to a nagging liberalism. I ended up buying the typewriter. There are many good reasons for shopping at thrifts, chief among them is the money goes to a charity and the purchased item doesn’t go to a landfill. Sometimes, though, reason can’t overcome self-consciousness and an in-grained sense of guilt.