I Bought a Spork

Consider a science fiction story in which there are two classes of people: those who have arrived, and those who aspire. The Aspirants, as they are called, spend a life damned to aspire to but never achieve a comfortable role in society. In this story I would be an Aspirant and the role to which I’d aspire would be at the heart of the demographic of Mountain Equipment Coop.

I mean, what’s not to like: it’s a coop, their stores are beautiful and ecologically tilted, and they sell cool, intricate purposes-designed gear.

In my role as a MEC Aspirant I almost always visit a MEC store when I find myself in a city with one, and tonight was no different: driving home from supper with Mike I spotted the new Burlington store on Brant Street and pulled a quick U-turn with the car. Once inside I was left, as usual, to gaze forlornly at the grappling hooks and kayak racks and extra-bright bicycle lights and the trousers with pockets for ice axes, wishing only for one little slice of a hobby that would cause me to need any of these wonders.

Sure, I bought a kids travel backpack there back in March, but a kids travel backpack is surely not at the heart of that to which I aspire. It’s no ice axe, no extra-large BPA-free Nalgene water bottle, no bear can.

When they announced that the store was closing for the night in 15 minutes I panicked, knowing that unless something changed I would end up in the parking lot with my Aspirant frown still painted on. I couldn’t face the prospect. So I bought myself a spork. A nice titanium spork.


I don’t actually need a spork: there is no activity in my life that would be weighed down too much by carring both a spoon and a fork. But I’ve always wanted a spork. I’ve gazed at the sporks on every previous visit to Mountain Equipment Coop. And so I’m hoping that by quenching my sporky desires I will somehow, if not give up my role as Aspirant, be at least able to move on.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on July 4, 2009 - 14:25

Bring it to Gong Bao next Thursday. I demand to see it in action.

oliver's picture
oliver on July 4, 2009 - 16:16

It’s not science fiction. It’s retail. Starbucks is popular in large part from the same dynamic, I’ve heard it said, and I believe it. When tanned beefcakes and bikini babes spike the volley ball on the beach as the music peals “Coke—It’s the Real Thing” that’s aspiration. Luxury automobiles ditto. More or less everything else is just a commodity, as they say. Anyway, I feel your brand affiliation, I really do.

Olle Jonsson's picture
Olle Jonsson on July 5, 2009 - 21:48

In sunny Malmö, I looked at shoes at the equivalent store here. It’s not a MEC for size, but for “tooliness”. The shoes, I might go back and get them, but Oliver’s point about retail circus is clear there: moneyed tourists enter the store, gawk at the kayaks, buy a mini-thermos or a small backpack. The kayak’s reduced to an ornament to sell the backpacks.

My favorite kayak item in that shop: the long-distance runner’s backpack, bow-shaped so that it touches the back of the wearer only in tiny places, reducing body contact. Running + hiking. Amazing.

oliver's picture
oliver on July 6, 2009 - 14:48

We’re sold souvenirs of places we like imagining ourselves to be.

Dan James's picture
Dan James on July 6, 2009 - 16:52

I’m strangely proud of you Peter. Spork on! For Gong Bao you really need these MEC chopsticks:

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