I’m old enough to know better. I swore I wasn’t going to do it. I said to myself, “No big deal. It ain’t worth it.” But as I rode around town on Monday doing errands, it was like the car had a mind of its own, and I found myself turning into the freshly asphalted parking lot of the newest store in town.
I have never been one to go to the grand opening of anything. You have to be a certain type of person to rush to the opening of a new restaurant — which means you have too much time on your hands. What’s the point of waiting in line for an hour only to be seated to wait for your dinner, which is never very good because the management and staff are still trying to work out all the bugs?
And although I’ve watched as every steel beam was put in place and anticipated the opening of another department store, I resolved to wait until the newness had worn off— at least a week.
My first clue that I should have kept my resolve was when I saw the off-duty police officers directing traffic into the lot. Instead of going straight — my last chance to escape — I became one of the mindless sheep being herded into the fray. As I wandered around the sea of cars trying to find a place within walking distance, I wondered how I had gotten sucked in.
This grand opening had a twist — you had to pay to get through the door. And although I find it admirable that all the money was going to charity, I just couldn’t fathom paying money to enter a store to pay more money to buy something. I had been offered a ticket by my daughter-in-law and also by a friend, which I refused. But there I was, approaching the sign-in table with five $1 bills in hand.
After ponying up the entrance fee, I looked around — or tried to look around — the newly appointed interior. What I saw was a wall of people. Where did all these folks come from? It was 2:30 in the afternoon, and the holiday had been the previous Monday. Surely these people didn’t take time off from work to go to a store opening.
There must have been 2,000 people shuffling throughout the interior. The ratio of women to men was at least 200 to 1 — that should tell you something about who is the more intelligent sex.
I had not prepared myself to attend the event. I was dressed in an old pair of baggy pants and a white blouse that had a couple of small stains. I had no makeup on — well not much, just enough to not scare anyone — and my hair was a mess.
It was like a bad dream. Everywhere I looked were people I knew, all dressed to the nines and looking like they had spent hours in preparation. I tried to hide behind pillars and racks of clothes, but it was no use — I was seen. Finally I gave up my game of hide and don’t seek and started to look at the goods in the store. Everything smelled new: the walls still had that not-quite-dry paint smell.
I wandered over to a rack of slacks. There is an unwritten rule that the first person to a rounder gets free rein. I started flipping through the sizes looking for a pair of “petite large,” my favorite oxymoron. Another woman joined me on the other side, and we met at the same pair of slacks. As I said, I was there first, and the polite thing to do would be to step aside as I continued my search. She apparently had not been trained in polite shopping, and just as I spotted the right size, she grabbed them. I glared at her to show my displeasure and stalked off. I found another rack of slacks and quickly found my size. I wasn’t about to waste time trying them on — instead I headed for the checkout.
Although the cash register was 10 feet away, the line snaked around the store, and when I took my place in line I was number 26 — yes, I counted. There was no way I was going to stand there exposed for a half-hour to buy a $25 pair of slacks, even if there was a 15-percent discount. I hung them on the nearest rack. I know sales clerks hate it when people do that, but I honestly didn’t know where the original rack was located.
Sighing, I decided to check out the second floor of the store, thinking surely most of the crowd was on the main level. I stepped onto the city’s second public escalator. Once I was able to peek at the top floor, I realized that there were as many, if not more, people milling around upstairs. “Enough!” I said out loud. Some people turned to stare. I trotted around to the down escalator and marched out the front door. Once outside, I could breathe again.
I know you think I’m going to wait to return. Wrong! I’m going back today — right after I get my hair done.
If you have a comment or are a downtown merchant and want to vent, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.