3 July

Thrift Shop People

by Jon Katz
Thrift Shop People
Thrift Shop People

There are thrift shop people and people who are not thrift shop people. I do not own a single piece of clothing from a thrift shop, although lately, I get all of the kitchen glasses and plates from thrift shops. It is creeping up on me.

I am married to a thrift shop person, she does not own a single piece of clothing that does not come from a thrift shop, save the ones I bought for her. Every few months, she gets the itch to “shop,” which for Maria means driving to the nearest thrift shop and buying a shirt or skirt. I browse for houseware.

I am at ease in the thrift shops – we went to Bennington, Vt. yesterday – and I feel at home there. I love to listen to the store workers and the (mostly female) customers that shop there and browse thoughtfully.  There are always some men there also, they seem to me to be very careful shoppers, they examine every item carefully and buy little.

Maria has a  genius for breaking glasses, she is a bit manic when it comes to chores and does the dishes so hurriedly and stacks them so haphazardly that they all break in time. So when we go to a thrift shop together – I love going with her and taking pictures and gossiping with the ladies – she drifts off to the clothing aisles, I replace the glasses, bowls and plates she routinely breaks.

Two or three times a week there is a crash in the kitchen, and we both laugh.  I try to to do the dishes whenever possible, it is not easy to find a chore around here that she hasn’t whizzed through and done.

Maria rarely, if ever shops, but in a thrift store, she gets very serious. No chatting, no distractions, we separate and i wait patiently for her to go through the aisles. She is uncharacteristically joyless in a thrift shop.  Yesterday she bought a lot of things for her – $13.60 worth of T-shirts, vests and one or two shirts.

If she doesn’t end up wearing them, the shirts may turn up in potholders or quilts. Nothing is wasted in Maria World, it is used until it disintegrates or she breaks it.

I have become fond of thrift stores, the real world, real people, usually quite nice and friendly, and often some clearly poor people for whom the stores have considerable meaning. Maria and I are alike in many ways, but a study in contrasts in others. We are so alike, we are so different.

Shopping really matters to the people in thrift shops. There are some people who clearly have money but who avoid the retail madness on which America runs. Others have very little money and choose their purchases with great care. It is always an interesting place to be, many people I want to photograph but I don’t feel comfortable taking pictures there, it could seem patronizing and people might not wish to be photographed there.

I think Maria has changed me much more than I have changed her. I wear pink socks and bracelets and I talk to trees and hug them every now and then. And I am becoming a Thrift Shop person.

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