I had this terrific idea one day during the past week. The sun was shining and the temperature was slated to hit about 50 degrees. I had nothing pressing on the calendar, but I needed to find a book for What’s His Name, my son-in-law, for Christmas. I decided to brave the big city shopping scene and head out to what amounts to a big box store in the book-selling world.
“How tough could it be?” I wondered. The weather was great, it was a weekday afternoon before rush hour, I had only one item to purchase and no pressure if I failed. What’s His Name has never heard of this book and has not said he wants it. If I mess up and can’t find it, so what?
And besides, I really like book stores. I always have. I could spend hours just browsing. And this is one of those places with the little interior coffee shop, good music, great signage to keep the customer in the know. I envisioned myself finding the required book in a hurry and then just browsing and poking around for an hour or so, perhaps finding some good fiction geared to my personal tastes, and then making a leisurely trip back to Peabody via a couple of back roads instead of Interstate.
It almost sounded like a vacation — almost.
When I checked the availability of the book before I left the house, the copies on hand had diminished from four a week or so ago to one. Oops! Better get after it! The shopping pressure began to build. It seems as though those friendly back roads I favored were clogged with farm equipment and pickups going 30 miles an hour. When I hit the metro area it seemed everyone was riding his brake — the clock was ticking.
I thought my luck had changed when I pulled into the parking lot and found a spot right there in front of the main door. I hustled into shopping heaven in seconds. Whoa. “This is not the bookstore of years past,” I thought. The rest of my story gets tedious and unpleasant. The place was crowded, the lines were long for those of us seeking information as well as for those of us making a purchase or hoping for a chair in the cozy coffee shop. The signage still was appropriate and the books in each section were alphabetized according to author. However, browsing was out of the question. I spent most of my time saying, “Oh, sorry,” to someone trying to shop in the same section as I.
There were computer terminals in several locations to help customers find their book, but I could not figure out how to get past “Start a new search.” People lined up behind me as I tried to figure it out. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was holding up the works.
Finally, a very nice young man asked if he could help me — I think he thought I might be looking for a shoplifting opportunity and he decided to head me off at the pass. By then I was in the proper section and when I told him what I wanted, he said, “You know, I noticed this morning we still had one copy left.” And presto, there it was!
It was not quite the idyllic shopping experience I thought it might be when I left home, but I accomplished what I set out to do. I am not sure why we do this to ourselves every year. I know I get preachy about shopping at home and I am usually pretty good about following my own advice. I planned NOT to get stuck in the big city shopping trap again, but I did it, didn’t I?
There is my confession. I fell for the lure of holiday shopping and now I remember why I don’t shop. I am certain I will not be going back for the after-Christmas sales — probably.
— SUSAN MARSHALL