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Thursday, October 3, 2002

Shopping for clothes should be the easiest thing in the world for me. I never change styles, and I haven't changed sizes for a long time either. All I've needed for a long time were some new Levi's 501s, same size as always, and a new pair of white sneakers, same size I've worn since high school. I don't even change stores. I look first at Sears and then at Mervyn's and buy them wherever they're cheaper.

This is something I should have done months ago, before the holes in my jeans got so big that they called attention to themselves. Or to my underwear, which might be even worse if I didn't wear dark colors. I first mentioned needing new shoes a year ago this week. That's some indication that shopping isn't my favorite thing.

Today it just got to be too much. I thought I could duck into the mall while I was out running errands this morning, and no one would be the wiser. One of these, one of those, here's my card, see you later.

Since I'm going to the opera tomorrow night, so there was one new item on the list. I wanted a decent looking pair of dark slacks, so I wouldn't have to wear my black Levi's and try to pass them off as dress pants again. Putting it off until the last day was my way of asking a pair of slacks to please fall out of the sky. Only when all hope of that happening ran out did I actually set foot in a department store.

Ugh. Next time I'll just order them online. There must be a way. I don't try things on anyway, so what difference could it possibly make? I looked at every pair of black slacks Sears had, including the only one my size. I took it off the rack and put it back several times before carrying it to the checkout counter. (I think they call them "service desks," or something misleading like that).

There was someone at the register making an exchange, and another customer waiting, so I walked around and looked at the shirts. I wasn't going to buy a shirt, but I thought it would pass the time. When I got back to the counter, the same customer was trying to finish the exchange, and now there were two more people ahead of me in line. This time I decided to stand there and wait.

Wait I did. The exchange customer thought the new shirt she was taking was on sale. It wasn't, but after a bit of whining she took it anyway. The guy in front of me thought the blue work pants he was buying were on sale. They were last week but not any more. Being a guy, he didn't complain out loud. He just fumed quietly, paid and left.

Finally it was my turn. I handed the clerk the slacks and my Sears card. I would have paid cash if I could, especially after she said, "Excuse me, I have to call the credit department. You might have been upgraded."

I might have been upgraded? Yes, apparently I've been upgraded to a Sears Master Card. They don't accept the old-fashioned store charge cards any more. The clerk took my new credit card number over the phone and punched it into the register. I didn't seem to have any say in the matter. Nor did I get a new card; she just handed me back the old one that's now useless, except as a way to prolong the transaction while phone calls are made.

Now that I've been upgraded, I think I'll be paying cash at Sears from now on.

Things were much simpler at Mervyn's. They didn't upgrade me at all, and they had what I was looking for, and it was on sale. Of course, everything's always on sale at Mervyn's. The tag says I saved $46.03. It also says I spent $107.47. I did try on the new sneakers (actually "cross-trainers") in the store, by the way. As a former crackerjack shoe salesman, I know that's the only way to be sure.

When I got home I tried on the Levi's and slacks. I haven't bought dress pants for so long that all my old ones are two sizes too small around the waist. I didn't know that precisely to the inch or anything, so I had to guess, and I guessed right. The slacks fit perfectly and I'll be quite elegant at the opera. It was almost worth the ordeal of being upgraded.

When it comes to Levi's, I'm a tweener. The 34s are too tight to be called comfortable, and the 36s are too loose to stay up. Why they don't make 35s I don't know. Maybe they do make them, but the places I shop don't sell them. Anyway, I bought 34s, as I've done for years. They're snug, but they'll do. So far they have no holes in places where something embarrassing might show through.

oak tree

The oak in the field southeast of my house.

With any luck, that's the last shopping I'll do for myself for at least another year. I'll be in the stores a lot between now and the holidays, but I enjoy shopping for other people, even if I have no idea what anybody wants. Usually they end up with something I like, something I'd buy for myself. Except I don't buy stuff for myself until the very last minute, and then I wait a little while after that.

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