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Monday, October 25, 2010

Le Shopping

I went to Macy’s the other day and bought some things for my kids. I really dislike shopping around here, where it's all malls, and nothing is interesting, and there isn't even the option of strolling into a fantastique boutique and finding some cool French kids' clothes way on sale.  Nevertheless, children do grow, and so, I went to Macy's. I collected a few items, and went to pay.

Although there were several salespeople visible on the floor, there was just one open register, at which a line had formed. As soon as I joined it, holding my items, I realized I needed a restroom. Well, I figured I would wait. I was holding a bunch of hard-sought children's clothing that I didn't want to lose.

It quickly became apparent that the transaction underway at the desk wasn't your basic cash-and-carry. It could be a price check, or a return, or God help me, an account opening.  I listened and observed. The salesclerk, who avoided looking at the line in front of her, was entering data into the register -- and apologizing. Not a good sign. She was entering this customer's vital stats -- and making typos, and apologizing.

I began looking around. An army of salesclerks and managers seemed to be standing around the children's section, gabbing. I nabbed a passing name tagged person and asked if there was another register open. Not in the children's section, I was told; but I was welcome to try another register in a different department.  Why would I do that, when I would have to search through the minipods of goods in Bedding or Housewares to find the one lone register that would be open there? By the time I located someone to ring me up, it would probably be my turn in the children's department.

At this point, someone ahead of me in line left, probably setting out for the register in crockery. A relaxed, casual atmosphere now descended upon the salesclerk and the customer up front. I overheard more than I needed to know about this customer's son, so busy playing sports he had no time to shop for a blazer. Imagine, he was going to a bar mitzvah, and he needed to wear a jacket and tie. Well, he didn't own a jacket, and she didn't realize how dressy a bar mitzvah is. Oh, it's like a wedding. And on and on. I was beginning to question if I was on Planet Earth. Imagine being in any place called New York and not knowing about bar mitzvahs, at least enough to know they call for fancy dress. And what was with this whole chatty thing? I felt very far away from NYC.

Perhaps I was exuding molecules of impatience. I'm not the most patient person. I'm an Aries, for God's sake. But I was being as patient as I knew how. I asked politely about the registers, and only maybe mumbled something to myself about how when someone is not conducting a routine sale, that might be a plausible time to deploy another register to reduce the wait for those who just wanted to pay and pee and flee. I'm sure it was barely audible. Anyway, it was only an idle comment to the ether, as I listened to the customer signing up for one of those point-accruing cards where after about five thousand points they give you a ten dollar credit, and in exchange, you’ve given Macy’s marketing division all your personal info, as well as a lot of info about what you buy, how often, and when, which they can then use to enrich themselves further. I suppose if you're buying every navy blue blazer in three sizes for your son who's too busy with after school sports to shop with you, so he can attend a bar mitzvah in proper attire, you might want to collect all the points you could before you return all but one of those blazers, but still.

I started practicing mindfulness of my impatience as a way to survive it.

In time, the salesclerk placed each blazer in its plastic covering and this painful transaction ended. After that, the lady in front of me, who was next up at the register, actually turned to me and said she wasn’t in a hurry, and I could go ahead. People, it was one of those moments when your character speaks. When you say to yourself, I could take advantage of this woman who is more patient and certainly more charitable than me, but I shouldn’t, so I won’t. Or you could say to yourself, this woman has more time than me, and she probably doesn’t need to pee, and I hate Macy’s, and I hate shopping because every time I shop I have to wait forever to pay and then I have to return stuff later, and I will take advantage of her kindness – whether ironic and therefore hostile and meant to induce guilt and remorse, or genuine.  So, which was it, people? Well, I really had to pee.

All items but one were too small, too see-through, or too big. I would have to return them.

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