Monday, July 5, 2010

Never Shop Alone

I’ve never been fond of shopping. Crowds…noise…struggling in and out of outfits that look better on a hanger than on me…prices that seem totally outrageous to my untrained eye…sore feet…frustration…discouragement. What it all boils down to is that when I do find something I like, I generally wear it for at least 10 years just to avoid going through the whole process again.

There was a time when I looked on shopping as a solo occupation, an unpleasant task to be gotten over with as quickly as possible. That all changed the day I was forced to go looking for a new summer dress a few years back. I started in a very large department store which shall remain nameless since I don’t remember its name.

I pushed through the door to the dressing room area with one hip, encumbered as I was with purse and an armload of possibilities that gave me some slight hope that I might find something in my first attempt. I was faced with a choice of cubicles, each with a door that left about 8 inches open at top and bottom. None of them were in use at the time so I made sure I chose one with a lock that actually worked. The process of trying on clothes is fraught with enough anxiety without adding the stress of worrying about whether someone might pull the door open on you standing there in your 10 year old second best underwear.

I tried on each of the five dresses I carried in with me. Four were definitely going back on the hangers but the fifth had potential. I silently weighed the chances of me finding something better and in the end decided I would take it. I was actually smiling as I reached for the door handle. The smile crumpled in on itself when the handle wouldn’t budge. I dropped everything and tried with both hands. I tried with the little lock button pushed to the left. I tried with it pushed to the right. I rattled it and shook it and banged it with the heel of my hand all to no avail. I was alone in the dressing room area or someone surely would have responded to all the noise I was making. I rested my forehead against the door, tears of frustration welling up in my eyes. This just couldn’t be happening to me. I glanced down at the opening under the door and briefly entertained the idea of trying to squeeze through it. Had I been a 12 year old it might even have worked. As it was I was just going to have to wait it out.

After what seemed like hours the outer door opened and I heard the footsteps of some other hopeful shopper approaching.

“Excuse me…Hello? Somebody? Anybody?” My voice sounded ragged even to my own ears. “Can you please go and tell someone from the store that I’m stuck in here? I can’t get the door open.”

Whoever it was didn’t respond but the rapidly retreating footsteps and the noise of the outer door swinging shut left me at least a little hopeful. That hope was beginning to evaporate as the minutes ticked by. Eventually, my straining ears were rewarded and a brisk male voice called out, “Maintenance here”. I sighed in relief as he set to work unscrewing the hinges on the door to remove it. In moments it was done. I barely glanced at his grinning face as he replaced the screwdriver in the tool belt at his waist. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough to suit me. I was all the way home before I realized I’d left the dress I meant to buy in the dressing room, totally forgotten in my haste to escape.

I learned my lesson. When I go shopping these days I like to have backup. Besides, even the most miserable tasks can be fun if you share them with a friend.