Imagine this scenario: Me, with my three kids, all under 4.5. Newborn in his carrier, toddler in the shopping cart and preschooler walking next to me. We’re at the shopping centre for a deceptively easy grocery run. Bread, milk, eggs – the usual. I don’t want to get accosted by the friendly neighbourhood extrovert. I don’t have the desire or energy to make small talk. Small talk drains me like the kitchen sink. I want to get in, and get out. This is a military-like campaign. I have it all planned out. Skip the aisles that have Items of Mass Distraction (chocolate, chips etc), avoid all eye contact, grab what I need, and make a run for the cashier.
You know how this ends - at least two kids crying, another one with contraband chocolate, and me swearing to never ever do this again. At least one onlooker has attempted to peek at my sleepy newborn in his carrier, another has tried to coo at my overtired toddler, and yet another has tried asking my preschooler how old she is. Worst of all, at least three people have given me looks full of pity and said things like, “You have your hands full!” #introvertfail.
As an introvert, shopping even on my own can send me into sensory overload. Shopping as an introvert mama is a whole new level of pain.
Sephora has it on point with their genius idea. Red basket means “I would like to be assisted!” and black basket means “I would like to shop on my own!” But we all know that it’s actually code for extroverts = red baskets and introverts = black baskets.
Nothing makes me happier than browsing through a bookstore (or any store) without anyone stopping to say anything to me. I am perfectly content with my bubble of restorative solitude. If I need help, I will ask for it. It’s like meditating. I don’t like to be interrupted. There is something deeply soothing about browsing through shelves of books or items without being sprung upon.
Red basket means “I would like to be assisted!” and black basket means “I would like to shop on my own!” But we all know that it’s actually code for extroverts = red baskets and introverts = black baskets.
Extroverts draw energy from the social banter that comes with small talk. Introverts like me experience the exact opposite. The longer I am left alone, the longer I’ll stay in the store. The sure fire way to lose a sale with me is by smothering me with salesperson attention.
Imagine how awesome it would be if all stores had some variation of the introvert/extrovert basket. Maybe a hat or helmet. Or sunglasses. Some blindingly clear visual cue that makes shopping as an introvert far smoother than what it really is. Maybe an invisibility cloak. Now that would be epic.
Picking the quiet times to go shopping is another introvert life saver.
Until that day comes, there are other handy visual cues which you can do all on your own – like using headphones. Not the tiny Bluetooth ones. I’m talking about the huge ones you can place over your ears, loud and proud. Playing music or an audiobook is actually optional. It’s more a visual deterrent.
Picking the quiet times to go shopping is another introvert life saver. I prefer coming into stores when they first open, and definitely avoiding the lunch time rush. You can find me exiting stage when the crowds start filling up.
If all else fails, my fallback is online shopping. There, alone, at my desk, with my debit card and my MacBook, I experience the introvert dream. I am in a state of flow. Until one of my kids wake up.
Raidah Shah Idil is a mother of two, poet, writer, and dreamer. You can find Raidah hunting for patches of green in the city, playing puppets with her young daughters, and writing when she really should be sleeping. Follow her on her twitter @raidahshahidil.