Married white female, aged 27, ISO Shrinky Dinks brand shrink plastic to complete craft project for the upcoming library craft fair this Sunday, May 19.  No substitutions, please. 

I’d love to say I found Mr. Right on the way home from work, in the closest thing southeastern PA has to a general store.  This is a store which, while bearing the ACE hardware logo, carries everything from men’s undershirts to 1/2 price Easter candy, to model cars, to greeting cards, to spools of thread to lugnuts, and anything in between.  Once upon a time, there were three of these stores within a 1/4 mile walk.  One was your Hallmark-type store, selling cards, wrapping paper, novelty desk sets — I have no idea.  One sold toys and craft items.  It had a vast backroom full of boy toys like plastic weapons, model vehicles, and enough model paint to make any 12 year old semi-permanently high.  And, it had crafts.  This, dear readers, is important.  My mother is forever lamenting the Wal-martification of America, claiming that it’s becoming harder and harder to find a spool of thread in a small town.  And now that Wal-mart is phasing out many of their sewing department, even harder.  I guess a spool of thread is some high-water mark for her.  But in downtown Narberth, in a toy and craft store, one could buy a spool of thread.  The third store was pretty close to being an only slightly confused hardware store — having some kitchen supplies, candy, school supplies, and sweatsocks in packs of six. 

I guess I should have seen it coming when the card store imploded and the storefront became a knitting store instead.  Soon the hardware store was sporting a card rack.  Next the craft department moved in between sporting goods and garden hoses.  I hoped they were just making room for more toys down the street.  Today, as I frantically pored over the craft aisle ISO Shrinky Dinks, I wondered if they qualified as a craft (in my eyes) or as a toy (being marketed to children for amusement).  Finding none, I set off down the street to the toy store.  Which.  Was.  Vacant.  Huge “For Rent” signs hung in the windows.  And as I made my way back amidst raindrops to the hardware store cum card store cum toy store cum craft store, it all became clear.  Why puzzles and games and stuffed animals had been pushed in between Con-Tact paper and Tupperware.  Why GI Joes were opposite Snickers bars.  Why the model cars were shoved in some back corner next to car activity books.  Why I could not find Shrinky Dinks. 

Some helpful sales associates know exactly where everything is.  Not so here.  I can’t say I blame them, as the store is in such disarray and nonsensical order.  Usually the response to a help query is, “If we have it, it’d be in aisle 3 or 5a.”  Today I got a real answer and actually persuaded an associate to walk me over to aisle 2, where they had thought to put Shrinky Dinks.  In the school supply aisle.  Because often when I sit at my school desk, I pull out my Trapper Keeper and make some Shrinky Dinks.  Which I cook in the cafeteria oven. 

Except they weren’t.  Not really.  It was a kit.  Oh, how I loathe kits.  As Anne of Green Gables would say, there isn’t nearly enough scope for imagination.  And this kit, dear readers (more than one of you yet?), was pre-stamped, pre-cut, might as well have been pre-colored and pre-shrunk.  Anathema to crafting, or any creative endeavours.

Disheartened, I scanned the quaint storefronts in the business district of little Narberth, and spied Character Development, a toy store which prides itself on having toys which have nothing but scope for imagination and which (steel yourself, Toys ‘R Us shoppers), have no batteries.  “This,” I said to myself, “is exactly the type of store I need.”  (Except I didn’t say it outloud, because they wouldn’t have let me in the store near the children.)  What I did not need was to pay $9.95 for 5 sheets of shrink plastic which was billed as “refill pack” for the Klutz Shrinky Dinks book when I’m fully aware I can buy 10 sheets for about $5 at Michael’s or A.C. Moore.  Both of which are about 20 minutes from my house.  In spite of the helpful sales staff (“Yes, we do carry Shrinky Dinks.  Let me show you where they are so you can give us too much money for them.”) and convenience of having them staring me in the face, I left the “refill pack” at the store.  I actually snuck out.  When you come into a store asking for a specific item, and they have it, there’s some sort of unwritten code that you should buy it.  Sometimes I’ll say, “Thanks.  I was doing some reconnaissance work for a future project.”  This time, I put my hoodie over my head, waited for the nice lady to help someone else, and slinked (slunk?) out the door into the raindrops again. 

Arriving home empty-handed, I once again tore the house apart for the second day in a row looking for the pack of Shrinky Dinks that were lost in the move.  I know we moved February 20th, and it’s almost 2 months later, and I still have sealed boxes, and my craft stuff is piled into corners…but I thought I could find them. 

But no Shrinky Dinks. 

You know when I will find them, don’t you?  When I drag my sorry ass out to A.C. Moore and buy a pack of new ones.  I will return home, open one more unmarked and highly improbably box, and find them.  How do I know?  Because that’s how it worked with my address book, our blank address labels, my craft knife (which has survived 4 moves over 7 years), our packaging tape, and my ugly neckties I use for crafting.  That’s how it always works.