Saturday 24 Sep 2016

Favourite Store
David Simmonds

I’m just as much a fan as the next person of your bookstores, bakeries; art galleries and craft stores. I’m also a big fan of the small town department store, Stedman’s. I’m sorry to see it close up shop in Picton.

The store I’m a big fan of and this probably separates me a bit from the next person. That’s because my absolute favourite store is the County Farm Centre. 

I was in there earlier today, as a matter of fact. Just dropped in briefly to check out the action, and picked up three pairs of underwear (six dollars), a kilo of frozen diced onions ($2.99) and a kilo of frozen sliced mushrooms ($4.99). Thought about, but didn’t get, a nice purple T-shirt to add to my collection of four-for-$10 shirts. I was pleased by my abstemiousness. So, I think, was my friend behind the counter: “Is that all you’re getting today, sir?” he asked querulously.

There are two things I like about the store. The first is bargains. I think I’ve already made the case. Just to bolster it, during my previous visit, I got a fantastic pair of blue jeans for $7.77. Now, I admit that in order to find them, I had to wade through a pile of jeans on a table, at least two dozen pairs sized in the range of a 52-inch waste and 32-inch leg. This suggests that a platoon of patrons from the Tim Horton customer training school were expected shortly. That’s just part of the fun; the thrill of the chase. 

Of course, the other thrill is to have someone notice them. That is often made possible by comments to the effect that I have spilled ketchup or relish on them; to which I am able to reply, quite nonchalantly, “oh these, don’t worry about them, got them at the County Farm Centre; as a matter of fact, I only paid $7.77 for them.”

One day, when I am old and famous and have my own television show, I dream of the credits rolling and some announcer stating, “Mr. Simmonds’ fashions by County Farm Centre.” Just to show them they can take their Giorgio Flavori and their Perry Vittoli designer duds; catch me spending the difference on County produce. 

The second thing I like is variety. I can go in for, say, some frozen bagels, and suddenly realize I need some winter socks, or some chain link fencing, or an axe handle. At least, I may not need them in the technical sense, but they are in the store on display, they are a good price, and I have decided to come to the store, which caters to me. So I must be a farmer! Or at least, I can pretend I’m one by buying thirty feet of chain link fencing, which will certainly come in handy when I do go rural. I assure County farmers that this is just wishful thinking on my part and I pose no real threat to them.

Or to be more practical still; let’s say I’m looking in the freezer case for unlabelled Haagen Daz ice cream bars, and I happen to notice the pocket LED flashlights on sale for $3.99, regularly $9.99. What does any responsible adult do in such circumstances? Of course! He plans for emergencies and buys six of them; so that when he comes home, he is effusive about the great protective saving he has made for his family; and might barely even mention,  if at all, the Haagen Daz ice cream bars, and just slip them into the freezer so as not to detract from his moment of glory.

I have yet to work up the courage to make a really large purchase on my own initiative, because the stakes are somewhat higher; although I have been sorely tempted by off-season barbeques and patio furniture. But, as the life philosophers say, it’s probably best to adopt the life approach of going for the small victories - the well hit single, rather than the swing-or-miss home run. And my small disappointments, such as buying a shirt on an extra-large sized hanger only to discover I have brought home a boy’s medium - only temper my resolve to be a flintier surveyor of the bargains that await me.

I’m sure other people get the same sort of kick from garage sales and surprise sales at shopping malls. But give me the County Farm Centre any time. I’m headed back soon to check those insulated winter overalls. And maybe I should get my wife one of those ball caps with a picture of a tractor on it: it’s on special, so how could she object?

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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