Inflatable kayaks have been so popular there's a new Facebook group for local users

A giant running wheel fit for a cat, two pounds of raw sheep’s wool, your first ever pair of Crocs… in bright orange. Not to mention a painting of a still from the hit TLC reality show “My 600-lb Life.”

Philadelphians are matching the bizarre energy of a global pandemic by using their spending money on really weird items.

I know this to be true because I’ve been there. My online shopping habits have mounted in quarantine, manifesting in the form of ridiculous t-shirts, toys and electronics piling up in my living room.

So I put a call out to Billy Penn readers to see if you, too, had a quarantine shopping problem. Y’all delivered.

Who wouldn’t want to get a projector so you can watch movies on the side of your house. Or accidentally order cookware you already own — bringing your total count of garlic presses to three?

Disclaimer: It’s lucky to be able to spend money right now. Millions of Americans have had to file for unemployment after losing their jobs due to COVID restrictions. More will likely suffer when pandemic benefits expire. Find out more about filing for unemployment in Pa. here.

One Philadelphian has doubled her collection of stuffed animal heads in quarantine Credit: Courtesy Jenna Addis

Stuff for you: Animal heads and silver-tassel boots

Kensington resident Jenna Addis said her quar habit has been buying faux stuffed animal heads. To be fair, her collection predates the coronavirus. But she’s recently doubled it, and has now started using the cartoon-style heads as decoration, hanging jewelry from their open mouths.

“I’m just trying to feel as normal as possible,” Addis said. “You’re sitting in the house and you’re like, ‘I could really use this, I’ve been thinking about this for a while.’”

Let’s talk about the used black cowboy boots with flashy silver tassels purchased by Billy Penn reader Alison. Calling them her “COVID boots,” she’s been wearing them around the house to break them in, since that’s one of few places she can wear them right now.

There’s Molly, who bought 10 pool noodles despite not having a pool (she needed a bumper between her desk chair and the wall). Panicked by the initial quarantine toilet paper shortage, Andrew bought himself a bidet. Kylie said she realized her new music room just wasn’t complete without a rubber Alice Cooper mask for the shelf.

And a back-scratcher shaped like a cactus? It just makes sense. “My back itched from so much sitting,” wrote Margaret Paschal. “Relief!”

LJ Brubaker and their partner bought a South Philly rowhome in quarantine Credit: Courtesy LJ Brubaker

Stuff for family: Inflatable kayaks and a new house

In some cases, the thing you’re buying is useful.

Zach Strassburger spent the last five months in lockdown with a family of four. Virtual learning helped distract their 4-year-old and 8-year-old, but when the school year ended, they needed more ways to keep everyone busy.

Enter the inflatable tandem kayaks.

In a moment of weakness two months into quarantine, Strassburger clicked to order two 50-pound, blow-up boats that would fit an entire family of four. When they arrived, they looked like two giant suitcases. Strassburger was intimidated.

But since then, they’ve taken the fam out kayaking a couple times at Bartram’s Garden and Raystown Lake. It’s a huge hit.

“It’s super fun,” Strassburger said. “It’s definitely a hassle, but it’s a really good activity. It gets the kids away from screens and outside. It’s just nice to do.”

Other people feel the same. “There’s a whole Facebook group for inflatable kayaking in Philly during COVID,” Strassburger said. “Apparently there’s a huge resale market for kayaks.”

Others have made more… permanent purchases. New to South Philly, LJ Brubaker opted to change their setting completely by securing a mortgage and buying a new house quarantine.

It has always been a personal goal to own their own home, but it only became feasible for the 28-year-old during the pandemic, thanks to the low rates. “The year kept getting crazier,” said Brubaker, who said they’d recently met a partner and fallen in love. “So why not try and get a mortgage while interest rates are bottoming out?

Brubaker closed on a South Philly rowhome at the end of June. “Was this a bad decision?” they joked. “We’ll find out!”

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...