Opportunity Knocks

Being between jobs has afforded me an abundance of our most valuable resource. Time.

That time has been spent working on my charity, cleaning the house, “minimalising” my possessions (after listening to too many “The Minimalists” podcasts) but also some less noble pursuits, more loosely determined as leisure.

I am best man at a mate’s wedding later this year and this Friday is his Bucks Party. Without giving too much away I knew I needed an item that could probably only be sourced from an “Op Shop” (Opportunity) – or “Charity Shop” to my UK friends.

So after grabbing my post-gym almond latte (a small hint to my increasing eco-aware state) I wandered into a well-known brand of Op Shop called Vinnies. I have passed this shop many times in several years of being in and around my home suburb and this was the first time I entered. In the past I glanced in the window and saw a more mature clientele and some suspiciously (read hilariously) dressed mannequins so never had the desire to go inside.

You see, when I grew up in the UK, going into, near or being sighted at an Op Shop was a death knell to your social status. Even as a child that had zero inclination to enter one (or a very unimpressive social status like me), there was always an occasion your Nan or Mum dragged you in for a browse on their way to the bakery or corner shop. I still wonder why this was seen as so tragic, but as we know, kids will be kids. Furthermore we grew up mostly in a fairly socially-deprived and economically-challenged area so again, why this was such a disaster seems ridiculous now.

Much like being intelligent at school and getting good grades it was not cool in the eyes of your peers (at least in my experience) . You did not want to stand out too much as the class “geek” and have to deal with the inevitable bullying. How times have changed. Perhaps I am just viewing the world through a different filter but being a good kid and student is far more attractive and popular than it seemed to be 20 years ago.

Back to the Op Shop. Entering the store I felt that nostalgic shot of worry that someone I know may have seen me go in. This lasted just a second as I looked around and saw all ages and demographics hunting for bargains.

I headed towards the back and rummaged through some obsessively (and impressively) neat racks. Within seconds I found what I needed. I chuckled to myself (or “LOL’d” for the younger kids) and excused myself as I tried to navigate around a corner of the shop that an older lady had setup camp in, sitting on a stool eagerly going through DVDs and books one by one. I smiled thinking she was probably getting them for her Grandkids.

And then out of the corner of my eye I noticed the men’s pants section (trousers or jeans for the Brits). For months I had been searching for a particular pant, just the right fit, just the right blue and in just the right size. Not even in London could I find it.

I dived straight to one pair of pants, almost in disbelief. These were THE pants. And they were in great condition, the right style, colour and waist size.

The usual cost of this pant? Around $150-$200. These were $10. The price of a pint of beer in Sydney if you are lucky (my wife knows I strictly and exclusively use beer as a comparison point for the price of anything and everything).

Ecstatic with this find, I headed to pay and then realised the horrific item I bought for the Bucks Party was MORE than my pants, even with its obviously well-worn in “character”. But never mind, I could not wait to show my wife the $10 pants and wax lyrical about the ecological benefits too, despite the huge element of luck.

As a podcast I listened to recently chanted as a mantra: Buy better, buy less, buy local. But more importantly, release those (sometimes self-imposed) shackles and let opportunity take you where you need to go. You may be surprised at what you find.

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