It's a quirk. And it's been mine since I can remember.
Basically, it comes down to this: I don't like crowds. I don't like being in them. I don't like being near them. I donít like the commotion, the jostling, or the noise and I do just about everything I can to avoid getting near them.
My wife puts up with this and has come to understand that, if there's an event that's going to involve crowds, it's best to just leave me home and go with friends rather than having to put up with the sour face and dour mood I'm going to display from about the time we close our front door until well after we return.
Even though this woman has stood by me for 37 years now, I know that there are times when this little quirk of mine has caused her to carefully review her reasoning for ever having married me.
I'm not alone in this, though.
I have a friend named Bob Campbell who lives in Twisp. I've known him for about 13 years and I hunt with him on his property every year. His wife Mary is a wedding planner at a popular resort near Winthrop and, as such, she has to travel to Seattle every so often to attend meetings and shows and whatnot.
When I once mentioned my aversion to crowds to Mary, she told me that whenever she brings Bob with her to Seattle, he's good for about half a day. After that, he starts getting really twitchy and generally leaves for home well inside of the 24 hour mark.
I think this is one of the reasons Bob and I get along so well.
One bit of fallout from all of this is that I don't like going into malls or large stores to do any shopping.
They're too big, too noisy and, as you might suspect, too crowded. This is why I usually end up in small, locally-owned stores whenever I need to go out and buy anything.
Lately, for example, I've been in the market for a new pair of hunting binoculars to replace the ones I've been using for years.
Minor aside: We wonít go into the price Iím about to pay for these things as that would needlessly set my wifeís teeth on edge.
Suffice it to say that I need a new pair since the ones I own date back to WWII and weigh about as much as my sonís VW.
That last has become more important since, with each passing year, I notice that the hills seem to be getting steeper and the candles on my birthday cake are becoming far too numerous.
Were I so inclined, I could go to a well known hunting and fishing store that's recently opened in Lacey. However, if thereís one thing to know about this new store, itís that itís extremely popular. Popular as in crowded.
So I began doing what I normally do. I started visiting small stores that I figured would have what Iím looking for. Birding stores, boating stores, camera stores, instrument stores. All small. All family owned. All local. All competing against the big guys.
Itís been fun because what you usually find in these places are people who opened them because they were so interested in their products that they decided to try and find a way to make some money at it.
Not only are such people extremely knowledgeable but, generally, they will also go out of their way to help you with your purchase.
So, I've found my binoculars.
Yes, they're going to cost a few dollars more. Yes, they'll have to be special ordered. And, yes, I could've probably found the same pair much more quickly in that big store in Lacey.
But I wouldíve had to put up with the crowds. And I wouldn't have had the chance to get into some great conversations regarding the trivia associated with eye relief, diopter settings, lens coatings and whatnot.
In other words, it just wouldn't have been as personal nor anywhere near as much fun.
There arenít as many as there should be and too many of the ones we still have are losing out to the big stores.