Disclaimer: The following is not so Jewishy in context, but is a good read and written by a Jewish blogger. It is also coincidentally housed on Workerbiatch.com where other such posts live and thrive.Bento Box of Goodies

My husband and I spent the afternoon of July 4th at the mall. It’s a funny thought because neither my husband and I are much of mall people. And to boot, how patriotic is it to spend Independence Day inside of a mall, even if most would argue that America is a progressive mall culture? (an oxymoron, I know)

If we picked straws, I’d venture to say my husband was more into shopping than I. He’s addicted to eBay and loves to sell on the site – it consumes him in much the same way Americans are driven like flocks of sheep to the mall on a rainy day.

“The idea of possessing something new and shiny is exciting, even intoxicating,” I always think to myself. It’s just the having to pay the credit card statement after the purchase that often makes this rush short-lived. I’d say the come down period/crash-and-and burn of the rush is far faster and more dramatic in my biological make-up (faulty synaptic gaps?), than in your average consumer and I know my husband would attest to this.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t like shopping and when I do it, there must be some sale or bargain involved or else I just can’t rationalize a purchase.

I had my reasons for wanting to check out the Natick Collection (it’s not just a “mall” after all, it’s an “experience” and in a former bourgeois existence known to the masses simply as “Natick Mall”). Its architecture is unlike most of the strip malls along Route 9 in Framingham and one that might befit a more exotic setting, like Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilboa.

But there it is, stuck in the middle of a busy shopping area, heeding the promise of luxury, AC, and more objects than you could ever deem yourself worthy of touching. My husband and I naturally gravitated towards the Apple store. It was like a friendly face among a sea of brands all looking a lot like Banana Republic, but with loftier price tags, and dark, dimly lit storefronts.

The more exclusive the store, the more difficult it was to read its signage, luring you in simply by sheer discombobulation and rendering you completely disoriented. My time at the mall wasn’t completely wasteful. I learned that Abercrombie has older, more experienced relatives – a homo-erotic cousin who goes simply by the name of “Fitch” and “Tommy Bahama,” the black sheep of the family (cause he came out of the closet donning a panama jack hat), who was savvy enough to know that shirts with coconuts and pineapples sold to a select demographic with deep pockets because who the hell else would buy them. Coincidentally, Tommy also was wise enough to lose the “Abercrombie” association.

I found so many stores were versions of the same theme, each so superfluous in nature until I came upon my beloved Apple store. It was there I came across one of the many objects Apple has a tendency to make look super cool and like you can’t live without it. On this particular day, it was a FileMaker application called Bento that caught my fancy. Its box inspired pretty pictures of delectable treats, each with their own unique identity and color wrapped in uniformity – promising me order and most of all, deliverance, from my chaos.

My chaos being my attempt at organization. When I worked in-house for a company, I was given access to all of their tools (like Outlook, Microsoft Project) so I didn’t have to bother assessing too much with what actually worked or didn’t work for me personally. Now that I’m on my own, I can use what I like so I’ve been shopping around for the right kind of productivity tool for me. I want an all-in-one app.

And with so many features (“Time Billing,” “Digital Media” and project templates) on Bento, not to mention the pretty packaging, I was sure to be more on top of my appts. and my invoicing. The only hitch being that my pen-and-paper approach to tracking hours and my Google calendar for scheduling appointments and tasks really were enough to do the trick of keeping me on track of my daily to-dos.

So why did I need Bento?

The short answer being, “I didn’t.” Most of us buy things we don’t in fact need and that we just want after doing a bang-up job convincing ourselves we really need it.

I didn’t end up buying Bento. You will recall that I don’t like spending $$. Instead I opted for a 30-day trial version. I spent about 2 hours max trying to decipher the application, conducting some case studies, and was done. Bento’s singular appeal was the “Time Billing” feature so I could keep track of hours I was working on my freelance, as opposed to storing those very hours in my brain (which is far rustier with memory than it used to be) and/or sloppily written on a piece of paper.

At the end of the day, I felt that the time I was wasting on creating records could have been put to better use researching articles I was working on. To be honest, I was a bit haunted by a review I read of Bento in Information Week. It was a glowing review all-in-all, but somehow I kept arriving at the same statement the author, Mitch Wagner, makes quite pointedly about playing with productivity tools:

Prioritizing my work is ever so much nicer than actually doing it.

And on that note, I should probably shut up.

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  • Your link to Bento actually takes me to the Tommy Bahama website….

  • Oy, the Natick Mall– drive there on Route 9, and even Framingham and Worcester come as a relief. The faux Gehry only deepens the sense of existential dread.

    You’ll turn into the next Raymond Carver in another shopping trip or two.

  • People can’t afford gas to fill their cars to drive to the mall but willingly buy designer shirts from PINK for $100/pop. Gotta love it!

  • “But there it is, stuck in the middle of a busy shopping area, heeding the promise of luxury, AC, and more objects than you could ever deem yourself worthy of touching.”

    Oh I get it. You meant air conditioning, not Atlantic City.