Why did I ever forget about the 99¢ store? Or maybe it just used to be more forgettable. That and less applicable to my own life. As a college student, I didn’t really have a need for a two-pack of crappy dishtowels when I didn’t even have any dishes to be toweled anyway. Anything that required liquid-absorption could be obtained in the manner of fistfuls of napkins at fill-in-the-blank fast food chain or stolen from the toilet paper dispenser at work. (Okay. Well, I did pay for tampons.) And at that time you could get a pack of 10 ramen noodles for a dollar so I had no use for a specialized establishment.
I actually forgot all about the store until a few months ago when a friend offered me some 99¢ beef jerky. 99¢?!? How come the beef jerky I stare at and drool over and can’t afford to splurge on is $4.99 and this perfectly good (well…) beef jerky is 99¢?! I was deeply intrigued.
A few weeks later I got laid-off. This should have triggered an immediate call-to-action response of résumé revision and frantic Craigslist searching, which, in time, did – just after some well-deserved mystery meat for under a buck.
Of course, Plan A was a simple grab-my-grub-and-bounce operation. (What else could I possibly want for a dollar?) However, Plan A was aborted the moment I stepped through those once-upon-a-time-automated doors.
There’s a seductive power that overtakes you when you walk into a fluorescent-lit superstructure packed wall to wall with 99¢ inventory. “I can afford to buy anything in here,” I breathed incredulously. I had to stop myself from spinning around and around, arms outstretched, Sound-of-Music-style.
But you can. Buy. Anything. They had nylons and Cheetos and hair products and…condoms? Whoa. Now I can justify buying 99¢ dehydrated meat (and a huge bag of jelly beans and what I’m pretty sure is a shoe horn) but condoms? Protective material designed to prevent pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases? Sounds like saran wrap and a pair of crossed fingers will work just as good.
Thus was my snap back into reality. Don’t get me wrong. If the place had a membership, I’d be getting my tenth stamp on my little card right about now and my apartment is starting to look like Ariel’s treasure trove of crap. But frivolity has a line, and buying a 12-pack of condoms for 99¢ (trust me, you’re gonna need the extra dough for baby furniture in about nine months) is crossing it. So if you’ll just ring me up for my David Hasselhoff calendar and Jr. (not Junior) Mints, I’ll be on my way.