Right now, I have 3,696 Pampers wet wipes, in forty-eight plastic packs of seventy-seven, stacked like white bricks of cocaine in my baby’s closet. They’re wedged in by the diapers – some 615 in total, Hugs and Pampers and Luvs, all bound in bright astronaut-white-bundles. I just have one baby, but my closet is stocked like a fall-out shelter at an orphanage. (If Brooklyn was suddenly struck by a giant Al Qaeda shit bomb, the New York Post would sing of how I saved the day: “Crap Attack Wiped Up by Poop Kook.”) With the supplies I’ve overstocked, I estimate that my baby could defecate in complete isolation for nearly three months before requiring reinforcements.
I think it starts with that standard dad-anxiety: I work a lot, and worry about getting home in time to see the baby and run errands. So I started shopping on Amazon.com, 1-clicking commands to their little elves, demanding that they FedEx me some Infant Tylenol, pronto. And then I signed up for an Amazon Prime membership – which is to online shopping what heroin is to a mild caffeine habit. For just $79 a year, they zip everything to you second-day (and with no sales tax, since I don’t live in Washington state). Since free shipping is cheaper than a two-buck ride back-and-forth on the subway, it wasn’t long before I began looking at that box of baby cereal I could buy across the street and clicking: yes, that too.
At first, I thought I’d just stock the house for the baby. I bought a case of Dreft baby detergent at a Costco price. Anticipating electric toys, I bought batteries in giant, cheap bulk packages: generic-brand C’s and D’s, fifty-packs of AA’s and long ammunition belts of AAA’s. Then, when we opened the baby monitor, I realized that I needed 9-volts too. No problem: Click. Soon, errands became a satisfying distraction: Fifteen minutes free at work? I’d click on baby bibs, spoons, plastic plates, and a case of Similac formula so huge it could feed all of Angelina’s orphans. Stressed at two a.m.? Locking Fisher-Price beads for $3.99. Bleary-eyed and too exhausted to move on a Sunday? Something thoughtful, like a funny box of building blocks for $9.99. I bought light-up maracas that sing, shoes that don’t fall off her feet, and a ludicrous wetsuit to keep my tiny child warm at swim class. Soon, my wife began to make pointed references to Chloe Sevigny’s neurotic shopaholic Mormon on Big Love.
Then Amazon opened a grocery store. They offered a $10-off coupon on every purchase of more than $50, so I broke my orders into batches of $53 or $54 a pop: Costco-sized packs of paper towels, toilet paper, Twinings tea, granola, mac ‘n cheese, Cheerios, Special K, maple syrup, razors, vitamins, fig newtons, shampoo and conditioner for my wife (I have no hair), pretzels, popcorn, and thai peanut sauce, all at about 18 percent off retail.
Every once in a while, I stop and marvel at the inefficiency of my efficency, like when Fed-Ex rushes my order across the country on two planes and three trucks so I can save three bucks and five minutes on a giant box of pretzels I might have bought across the street. Other times, I calculate my savings (no tax + coupon + free shipping + time saved + three-percent-cash-back Amazon Visa card = twenty-eight percent off diapers + no errands – undermining spousal commentary). Sometimes, I wonder if I’m striving to reconnect with my suburban roots. Other times, I worry that I’m not actually a brilliant bargain-hunter, but just another nervous new dad who’s compensating for something, afraid of not meeting all his new and frightening responsibilities. Okay, well, maybe I know that last bit is true. But clipping Internet coupons never hurt anyone, right? At least I’m not fucking the nanny. (Not that I can afford a nanny:If Amazon had nannies, would I have to pay income tax? Someone should look into this.)
Lately, my shopaholicism has slowed down a bit. The closets just won’t hold much more and my daughter’s needs are getting simpler: a clean space to crawl on and some food to throw at my face. This week, I barely bought anything: just Christmas presents for my nieces and a $119 laser printer. Oh, and an affordable bulk order of condoms, which arrived in a ridiculous, industrial-strength aluminum tin. My wife has mocked this more than anything else I have ordered so far, and she’s right: It looks like a prop for a porn set. But I swear it was the same price as two little boxes of rubbers at my corner bodega – and, besides, we need them. We can’t have another kid right now. Our closets are so packed, there’s not enough room.