What Shopping In New York City Looks Like Now

Shopping in New York City, at least in the Before Times, was all about the schlep. The schlep—heaving heavy shopping bags across the city, often between boroughs and on several forms of public transportation—was rarely a planned activity. I think of the time, a few summers back, when I saw the most beautiful, jumbo-sized aloe plant in the window of a gardening supply store in the flower district as I was on the way to meet a friend for a drink. I ended up carrying it with me to the bar, balanced on my hip like a chubby toddler. It rolled along with us to a second location for dinner, and then rode the 7 train home. Shopping for me has never been only about the thrill of accrual (I eventually end up purging half of what I drag home); it’s about the pleasure of roaming the city, of long walks with drooping bags, of swinging your new purchases into the back of an idling cab. I did not expect to miss the schlep when nonessential retail stores first closed down, in mid-March, as the coronavirus took hold of the city. Anything I needed I could summon to my doorstep; anything I didn’t need I was scared to let pass the threshold for fear of contamination. Self-quarantine felt, for a moment, like an opportunity to recalibrate my consumer habits. No more impulse-purchasing bodega flowers that would wilt inside my tote bag before I could get them home. No more splurging on a pair of shoes, on sale in a SoHo shop window, only to wear them once. (Remember wearing shoes?) Read more at The New Yorker.

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