Nothing doing

I’m sure glorious things were happening outside today, but I wouldn’t know, because I was stuck indoors. We had computer problems at work that kept me tied up through lunch, all afternoon, and well past time to go home. I finally got out of the office at a quarter to seven.

I need to put gas in the Starlight Express, but it isn’t the only one running on fumes this evening. I think I’m just going to finish this pan of pasta, drink a bottle of water, and go to bed early.

In the absence of a “what’s going on in the yard” report today, I’ll give you an update on the challenge I undertook earlier this month.

On March 8, I reported my plans to shun chains and franchises for a period of one month. I’ve been doing pretty well with that. I thought groceries would be a real challenge, but I’m doing Slim-Fast right now, so I’m really only fixing one meal a day, and the S&S Market has enough options to keep me fed. The S&S also sells gas, so I haven’t had to go corporate for fuel here in town.

I have cheated only a few times: Things got crazy one day last week, so I picked up sushi at Wild Oats instead of holding out for a trip to Asahi (which was on the opposite side of town from where I needed to be), and we didn’t have the option of getting picky when we went to Austin last weekend — we had to settle for a Super 8 because the Austin Motel was booked up, and our lack of familiarity with the route deprived us of the luxury of holding out for mom-and-pop pit stops on the way down and back.

Overall, though, this is turning out to be much easier than I expected. I have so little interest in fast food that it’s no sacrifice at all to sit down to a plate of tikka masala at Desi Wok or fill up a plate in the buffet line at Talking Drum, and our trip to Austin was only enhanced by our trips to Rosie’s Tamale House and Threadgill’s.

I needed a new coat the other day, so I went straight to Grumpy’s Garden and bought that cute little Janis Joplin coat I’ve had my eye on all winter. Even after you factor in the half-hour I spent shooting the bull with Shawn, I spent far less time (and probably less money) in the store than I would have if I’d gone to the mall.

And as I expected, the slightly higher prices at mom-and-pop businesses — which don’t have the advantage of buying in megaquantities the way Wal-Mart and the other behemoths do — have been offset by the fact that I don’t have a million unnecessary objects and diabolically clever advertisements scattered in my path to manipulate me into spending money on things I don’t really need.

Could I avoid chains entirely for every purchase I make for the rest of my life? I doubt it. Sometimes you just can’t find what you need anywhere else. But am I finding it much easier than I expected to adjust my schedule and my habits to put a much higher percentage of my disposable income in the hands of Mom and Pop instead of McCorporateMart? Absolutely.

Stay tuned. I’ve got a couple more weeks left on this experiment. I imagine I’ll learn a few more things and make a few more adjustments along the way.