(Note: This event and the writing about it happened days before the Oregon tragedy.)
I had a list...somewhere...I thought...looking for that wrinkled yellow paper torn from my notepad and now lying hidden beneath a wallet, a small camera, hand lotion, a pocket calendar, and stale gum deep in the bottom of my purse. I must use the list or I will kick into that addictive mode where I keep buying gifts for loved ones as if that could make them love me more or longer. I MUST STICK TO THE LIST!
I look around the mall filled with dazed shoppers and resigned children carrying bags of all shapes and sizes. Down the center of the mall are young minimum wage employees standing expectantly outside their kiosks wishing to dab something on my hand or allow me to play with some automated toy. They stand intensely watching for potential customers or absently texting wishing they were anywhere but here before displays of woven scarves or silver jewelry or brightly colored cell-phone cases. I silently say a prayer (to whomever) that they make it through the season with a little more money than they had hoped for. They deserve some reward after spending days rubbing lotion on old ladies hands.
Sighing to myself, I have given up on the list. I do remember my son asking for shirts and sweaters in medium and I turn to hubby and direct him away from watching some flying toy toward the large department store at the very end of the mall. It will be a trek and an obstacle course, but we will get there.
Surprisingly, the men's clothing section in the back of the store is not in total disarray. Shelves are neat and reasonably full of stock. Some of the sale prices are very good. I peruse tables avoiding the cream cheese golf look and the expensive European brands and turn toward the edgier clothing to match my son's 'rock star' personality. After all, he texted yesterday that he will be opening for Sublime with Rome...whoever in the hell they are! Striped shirts with thin bright bands or shiny black buttons which I match to a more subdued but very soft pullover sweater are my selections.
As I turn toward the checkout a tall woman about my age is standing just to my left. She turns to the (Indian/Pakistani?) girl behind the counter and asks if the shirt she is holding out is more blue or more purple. The girl hesitates and then answers "Purple" with a distinct un-American accent. Then the woman pulls up a bright lime green shirt, and looking at both the girl and I, asks if we think it is too bright. The girl demures clearly not sure what answer her customer is looking for.
I think her question is naive, but I tactlessly respond. "Depends on the personality of the man you are giving it to. Is he bold with personality or more conservative?" She doesn't answer but tucks the shirt under her arm and then turns to me again with the blue/purple shirt and asks if I think it is blue or periwinkle. I want to explain that looking at colors under store lighting is very deceptive, but being the photographer that I like to think I am, I boldly state that it has a little more purple in it and is probably closer to periwinkle.
I place my selections on the counter and hand the girl my credit card.
"I do not know what color is periwinkle," she smiles as she begins to scan the bar codes of my selections.
The tall, solidly built woman approaches the counter behind my husband and I, and looks around the store commenting that there is a lot of stock that still has to be moved by the holidays. I respond that I have seen some stores that do not seem to have so much inventory and appear to be playing it more carefully.
Hubby says something about the recession and something else that I do not hear about the economy as I finish my check-out. The woman responds to him with some comment I miss and he looks at a loss for words. I grab my bags of clothes and turn to leave as the woman leans in close to hubby's ear and says something to him in a low voice.
As we are leaving the store and out of her hearing, I ask him what she said.
He takes a deep breath, "When all the goodies are gone, just make sure you have your gun loaded and ready."
And yet, she had looked so absolutely normal.