The Complete Package

By Pete Robbins

If you’re old like me, then you may remember the hardships of mail-order tackle purchases in the 70s and 80s. There was no package tracking. There was no one click shopping. There was no Anything Prime.

Back in the day, I’d read and re-read my dog-eared copy of the Bass Pro Shops catalog, and when I’d finally saved enough cash to make an order I’d borrow my parents’ credit card. The next step involved calling a toll-free number and painstakingly leading the usually-pleasant phone operator through each item, dictating the item number, the quantity, and the color or size. If I didn’t want to get on the phone, sometimes I’d fill out the order form by hand, trying to cram all of that information into boxes far too small for my fat-fingered writing – and stick that sucker in the mail with a first class stamp, thereby adding precious days to the process.

Then I’d wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Every day after school I’d rush home to look at the doorstep. If the package wasn’t there, I’d hope that my mom had taken it inside. Even though I might not be going fishing in the foreseeable future (or had no use for that Deep Diving frog-colored Deep Wee-R in the local pond that maxed out at 4 feet deep), I had to have it NOW. When it finally arrived, the process of opening the box and examining my new gear was magical. It was about the process as much as the gear itself.

Now, thirty-plus years later, some of that thrill is gone. I get many more packages of fishing tackle today, such that each crankbait is far less precious. Back then I would’ve gone swimming for a lost lure, or neared tears over a broken rod, but today my resources are more extensive and as a result each item seems less valuable, even if it costs more. It’s also the fact that the boxes arrive so much more frequently.

Between all of the online fishing tackle retailers, eBay, our membership at Amazon Prime, and various other online options, there’s usually at least one box on our doorstep when we get home (please don’t rob us). It might be the latest topwater from Japan, or it might be dog food or something my wife wanted for her kitchen or wardrobe. We no longer need to hope that the local store has something in stock, because we can get anything that’s not perishable online, and we can know exactly when it’s going to arrive. I even get a little “ding” on my phone in my pocket when it hits the doorway. On the whole, that’s a very positive development. I have access a wider array of goods than ever before and an ability to comparison shop without leaving the house. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. At the same time, it’s a little sad that I no longer feel that same rush of adrenaline, hoping that the package I’d been waiting two weeks to receive will be there when I arrive.