This is one of the newest ethical questions of my rock life. Hoard for self-preservation? Or not hoard for the greater good?
You see, though island life is wonderful, you quickly begin to live within limitations – particularly with if (and when) you can buy something you want or need. You often need to balance your desires with the noble action of restraining yourself for the whole (everyone else).
Here is a simple example: Dawn dishwashing soap. You non-rock readers are probably shaking your head, Dawn? Really? Yes, Dawn. REALLY! Local dishwashing soaps, like Squeezy, look a lot like Dawn but are thinner and not as effective. This means you use 3 times as much soap and still don’t get quite the desired effect: squeaky clean dishes.
In the absence of Dawn, I started trying all the brands. One day, I saw Ajax. It sounded like the great soap I remember from the States, so I triumphantly marched from the store to try it out, only to find that it is a heavily watered down version of what I know and no better than the local brand.
And then, one day, right there on the shelf, there were five (!) beautiful, big bottles of Dawn. Since I’m a newbie at island life, I only bought one bottle. And boy, was it SWEET! Clean dishes, a bottle that lasted, etc. You get the idea. Then, disaster struck. The bottle of Dawn was almost empty, so I went to the store and, of course, there was a big hole where the Dawn bottles used to be sitting. I pawed at the empty space, trying to conjure up a bottle, but no luck.
Then came The Hunt. There are four stores on my rock that could possibly have Dawn. I started at the more touristy/expat store and then circled out to more local stores. Of course, none of them had any Dawn. Some might never have had Dawn to begin with. But a girl can hope. I’m used to having to go to multiple stores each week to get everything I need anyway. Though I truly hate this runaround – it makes shopping a half day excursion – it’s an inevitable part of island living. Even though each store is a fully functioning grocer, they don’t necessarily carry the same products, and it’s a hit or miss proposition if the product will be in stock. So I added Dawn to the bottom, permanent section of my shopping list – to be checked for each and every time I’m at any grocer.
Then, when I was least expecting it, Dawn appeared on the shelves of the expat store once again – and not one bottle, but multiple bottles! As I did the victory dance right there in the aisle, my conscience kicked in. How many bottles could I buy without looking like the hoarder I dreamed to be? Could I get away with three bottles? Should I only take two? Past experience had taught me that only one bottle is NOT an option.
Taking two, I comforted myself that I wasn’t being too greedy, but made a mental note to buy more, if I could, as soon as the first bottle was near-empty. Each time I went to the store in between, I checked the shelves for Dawn like an obsessive-compulsive addict. How many bottles were there now? Have any new shipments come in? Should I get an extra one now, just in case? The never-ending debate in my head is both embarrassing and exhausting.
Besides my Dawn obsession, there is a non-perfumed laundry detergent I prefer. This is a HUGE step up from years ago when I could only find powdered, local detergent that makes your clothes stiff as a board. With my detergent of choice available for months at a time, I got complaisant – BIG mistake. Every time I went to the store it was there, so I let my guard slip, just a little bit – enough to run out of soap. And just when I needed it, it was nowhere to be found. Now, I always have a spare stashed away. Triscuits, large kitchen garbage bags, good wine – the list of things I want to hoard goes on and on.
I will confess to one item I do hoard compulsively without shame: Schweppes Tonic Water. For years, it used to be readily available in multiple stores. My husband, Michael, loves gin and tonics, and Canada Dry just doesn’t make the cut (except in dire emergencies). When I asked the grocers, they had no idea why they were getting less, said they couldn’t order more, and never seemed to know when more would come in. So Schweppes is permanently on the list along with Dawn and every time (and in every store), I look for tonic and buy up whatever is there – a jackpot is 6-8 bottles, sometimes it’s one or two, but mostly it’s just empty space. When I come home with a few bottles clutched to my chest, you’d think I’d just won the lottery or killed that big game animal that will feed the village for weeks. Crazy, I know, but you’ve got to take pleasure where you can.
If you came to my house, you would see a bunch of other things you’d think I am hoarding – good olive oil, gourmet balsamic vinegar, Good Earth tea, and plastic containers – but you would be wrong. This doesn’t mean I don’t have 10 CASES of tea, 9 quart sized bottles of oil, or a closet full of plastic containers. All true, but none of these things (except plastic containers) EVER get to Grenada’s shelves. I’ve brought them all from the States. So you see, I’m not really hoarding island stock at the detriment of my fellow islanders, so it doesn’t really count, right?
Anything plastic is ridiculously expensive here. For example, a Brita filter and container that is $29 on Amazon is well over $100 USD in Grenada. Simple food containers can be $30 or more. So every trip back to the States is packed with “goodies” I can’t get here. I happily stand in the red line at Customs, declare my stash, and pay the duty and VAT. I then head on home to fill my cabinets, satisfied that I’ve got a few luxuries to get me through another year on this wonderful rock I now call, Home.
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Does this struggle sound familiar to you? What do you secretly (or not so secretly) hoard on your rock?