Apparently shopping doesn't have to be a horrible ordeal. And maybe retail clerks don't have to be surly and obnoxious. You would have thought otherwise if you'd been at Target with me yesterday, but I went to J.C. Penney and Sam Goody today and my faith in humanity was restored.
Okay, that might be overstating just a bit. I didn't like the attitude of the little girl who was behind the cash register at Target yesterday. I know it's a demeaning, low-wage job, because I've done it. And I know there are days when you just can't smile and pretend to be happy to be there. But she wouldn't look me in the eye, and when I couldn't figure out the new credit card scanner, she rolled her eyes as if I were the world's biggest idiot.
Whether I am or not is not the point. In fact, I think I even prefer the eye-rolling to the lack of face-to-face contact. She wasn't old enough to be so tired of living that she couldn't even come up with a hello. I did get a thank you, but that's only because it's a required part of the transaction. That's how both parties know it's over and the customer can leave, while the clerk can move on to the next tiresome person in line.
If I'd found everything I was looking for at Target, that would have been the end of the story, leaving a sour taste in my mouth. (Ptooey!) But you don't go into a store in July and expect a full assortment of summer clothes. I should have remembered that from my years in the shoe business. July is back-to-school time. Everything is geared up for the fall season. When autumn actually arrives in two and a half months, the stores will be knee-deep in snow boots.
Well, not really, since this is California. But you get the point. I found only two bathing suits in my size that didn't look as if they were designed for (and by) a fourteen-year-old. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love teenagers; I just don't want to be laughed at by them, the way I did when I was that age myself. I'd much rather have them think I'm invisible, just like every other person over the age of thirty. And I passed that milestone long before they were born.)
So that's how I ended up at Penney's today. No, that's not right. I ended up at Penney's today for the same reason I went there the last time, six months ago. I needed a new watch band. The old one was falling apart, and if it was bad six months ago, you can imagine how much worse it is now. I can't believe it lasted this long. In fact, that's pretty much what the clerk said when he saw it.
I told him I wanted one just like it, only in better shape. He said he hoped he could find one that was in better shape, and I let him know that that was a condition of sale. If it wasn't in better shape, I didn't want it. (Not exactly Meeting of Minds, but wittier repartee than I ever hope to find at Target. Besides, Steve Allen is dead. But he didn't go quietly.)
Not only did the watch guy understand my need for a simple leather-like band, but he found exactly what I was looking for, installed it, and returned the like-new watch to me, all within less than five minutes. And all without acting as if I were putting him out by my very existence.
As long as I was in the store, I wandered up to the men's department and found what was left of their swim trunks. Not unexpectedly, the selection there was almost as thin as at Target. But what they did have was on sale, so I picked up two more pairs. And the young woman at the counter was as pleasant as could be. All I ask is a smile, and an acknowledgment that I'm there. It doesn't have to go beyond that. I don't expect anything else, and I don't really want it.