The other day, I was wondering about the first time I made a dollar transaction in the US. In other words, what was the first thing I bought in the US? It was the day after I had landed here. My first (and my longest) flight did not prepare me for the basic hazards of travelling in compressed, dry, and closed compartments for hours, and I had left my cosmetics behind for fear of unwarranted security harassment. I had not taken into account how cold and dry it would be inside the airplane, and how it could affect my lips. I had barely crossed Mumbai when my lips started to get dry, itch, and irritate. I tried taking sips of water to keep them moist, but that only increased my frequency of restroom visits, much to the chagrin of my fellow passengers. My lips just got worse with every passing hour. By the time I had landed here, I could barely smile at the friend who had come to pick me up, or at G (my host). My lips were sore and bleeding, and looked as if some monstrous insect from Africa had hatched out of the eggs inside my lips. The next day when I went to visit my department for the first time and introductions were made, I could only exchange hugs, but not smiles. It was then I knew why people talked about stiff upper lips.
Anyway, G decided to relieve me of my miseries of severely chapped and bleeding lips, and took me to the nearest Walgreens store. It was my first time in a store as well, and just the sheer variety and quantity of things neatly arranged in aisles amazed me. There were so many choices for something as simple as lip balm that I did not know what to choose.
“Hmm…. Seems like you will need quite some quantity”, G remarked at the sight of my battered lips. I spotted this big jar of petroleum jelly, debating whether to buy it when G read my mind and told me that store brands were cheaper. The jar alone weighed 368 grams, and I wondered if I would need that amount. $3.49 each, it said, or 2 for $5.
I had barely been in the US for 10 hours and before I knew it, the consumer bug had bitten me. It was the phenomenon of buying in bulk whether I needed that much or not, just because it came much cheaper. And right there, I fell into the trap. The first thing I bought in the US was 2 jars of petroleum jelly, costing me $5 and weighing 736 grams in all. “Good buy”- G had remarked.
It has been 2 years, and I am still struggling to finish off the first jar. I can’t get rid of it, not just for the sake of old memories, but for the fact that there is so much of it all remaining to be used. And every time I go to a shop and see cute little chapsticks and lip balms of different flavors, I resist the temptation to buy them, just because I want to finish off these monstrous sized things first. It’s no longer a matter of wasting something worth 5 bucks, it is a matter of wasting half a kilo of petroleum jelly.
My first buy in dollars- 750 grams worth petroleum jelly ! God knows what I was thinking.