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I guess it's safe to tell you now that it's ended, but over the course of the past 10 weeks or so I suffered through a secret addiction. It started small as such things often do. I was walking across the street at lunchtime to grab a pack of gum from the hardware store when I saw an old acquaintance on the street corner. He motioned me over with a nod and said, "If you're headed to the hardware, you need to see this."
He opened his jacket to reveal a lunch-sized paper bag, but I could tell right away this was no peanut-butter-and-jelly-on-wheat affair. The brown paper strained under the bulging weight of product. After a quick glance left and right he shoved it into my hands.
"Open it," he said.
I did as he asked. The bag was filled with batteries.
"Batteries?" I said.
"Not just batteries," he whispered. "Lithium batteries. Alkaline batteries. A, AA, AAA, even AAAA! Did you even know they made AAAAs?"
"I don't get it, Bill," I said. "What's so special about a bag full of miscellaneous batteries?"
"It's not the batteries," he snarled. "It's the price. They were 20 percent off! EVERYTHING is 20 percent off! The store has been sold to another hardware and they're unloading everything!"
I instantly understood. An entire hardware store at 20 percent off! An opportunity like this comes along but once in a lifetime. To a gadget-loving man with a 100-year-old house and a "honey-do" list the length of a roll of toilet paper, it was like hitting the lottery.
"Best of all," said Bill, hushing his voice back to a whisper, "the longer it takes to sell-down the stock the lower the prices will go!"
I walked into the store like a chameleon that had been dropped into a tank full of crickets. My eyes rolled wildly about as I tried to remain calm and focus first on needs rather than wants. I walked out of my first trip with a string of vintage-style decorative lights. I never got any closer to "needs" than that. Over the course of the next few months, I made at least a dozen raids on the store, returning with progressively more obscure items. What started with a pack of gum progressed to work gloves and then garden tools. I now own a pitchfork and an electric chainsaw. I bought a hoe handle -- and I don't even have a hoe!
Finally, as the discount clicked to 80 percent and the days dwindled down to a precious few I ended up pushing a motorless, reel-type lawnmower through the snow and ice across the street to my office. That's when I knew I had a problem.
Mercifully, the sale ended the next day and the store was shuttered while they work to fill it with a whole new world of full-priced hardware. Obviously, it will never be the same. And I will never be the same, but I feel like I've come away from the experience, if not a better person, at least a more well-equipped man having lived through it all.