Thoughts of the Old Man VII
In many ways, my brothers, sister and I are more like my mother: We tend to be the leaders and the doers, and seldom are we ever bored. However, I realize now that stoic composure and thinking 100 times before saying something, we inherited from my father.
About a week before my father died, I started thinking about how I would need a new suit for the funeral. Unfortunately, I’ve gained enough weight in the last 18 months to warrant such a purchase. However, I hate shopping generally, and I especially hate shopping for clothes for myself, so it occurred to me that I should ask BeeGoddessM to accompany me, if she could stand the thought. I set that thought aside until the conversation I had with my sister on the Tuesday before Dad died: after that talk, I told Indiana Jones that I’d be asking for the BeeGoddess’s help shortly. The weather sucked on Thursday night and she was bagged because of her hectic work schedule, so we agreed to go on our expedition on the Friday night. Ostensibly we were still ahead of the game …but then Dad died some 12 hours after we spoke and it became an urgency.
The day my father died, all that is material seemed hyper: I was keenly aware of the shape of objects, of my own body, of the air I was breathing. I spent the afternoon contacting my clients to tell them I was closing down shop for an indefinite period of time, likely all the following week. I kept having to remind myself that, once I’d get to Moncton the next day, I would not be going to the hospital, as those days were over now. We all thought this last stretch would be longer, but at the same time I felt some relief in that I was glad his suffering was over.
But coming back to the shopping… Aware that I was still absorbing the news of my father’s death, what I didn’t want to do is walk into stores with my heart on my sleeve and blurt out, “My father died today; I need a suit.” I might mention it at the end of my request when a clerk would approach me, so that he or she would know that I needed something demure, not flashy. But I didn’t want store clerks falling all over themselves with the pitiful looks and “I’m sorry” when they didn’t even know me, let alone my late father.
After an unsuccessful visit at Tip Top, BeeGoddessM and I decided to head to Moore’s. But since Sears was on the way, we might as well see what was there. Big mistake! And to all of you I say, if ever you need to buy a suit, DON’T EVER GO TO SEARS!
Initially nothing jumped out. But then I wandered around and stumbled upon a jacket that caught my eye. It’s only when I took a jacket my size off the hanger that I realized it came with a pair of pants …yet the jacket and pants together were the same price as the jacket alone at Tip Top’s. What’s more, the jacket looked wonderful on me, so I decided to try everything on, rationalizing that if I don’t have time to have the pants hemmed, I’d still have a spare pair of dress pants later.
Only once inside the fitting room did I notice the pants were WAY too big for me. I would have needed a low-hanging jelly belly or the monster dong from hell to fill them out properly. So the BeeGoddess went hunting for a pair of pants more likely to fit. The third pair was the charm: I needed a 36 waist to go with my 44R jacket. Then we found nice silk ties for 2 for $35, which was again better than the single $55 tie we found at Tip Top that would marginally do. So happy with what we’d found, we headed to the cash.
Through my entire fitting ritual, the young woman at the cash paid NO attention to us. None! Zip! Nada! And when we got to the counter, even though closing time was much more than one hour away, she announced that she had closed her cash and we had to cross the floor to the other counter. Oookay….
The young man at this other counter was filling an order by phone when we got there. No problem; I can deal with not being the first in the queue. But then when he started ringing in my purchases, he looked befuddled and finally said, “This isn’t a set…”
— No,” I replied. “The pants that were hanging with the jacket didn’t fit.”
— I can’t sell you this,” he then said, “it has to be a set.”
And that’s when I lost my stoic composure for the first time that day. “You are so going to sell me that because I need this fucking suit for my father’s fucking funeral!” To which he wisely replied, “Let me call the manager…”
Unfortunately, at Sears, “manager” is a title that’s used very loosely, a bit like Wal-Mart calls all its minimum wage clerks “sales associates” (as if they had the power a true associate would have). Although we explained that we needed the suit for a funeral and so on, all this “manager” seemed concerned about was that we had acted like bulls in a china shop and ruined their comfortable, little bureaucratic order by separating “sets.” Even when I attempted to ask if there would be a way of getting only a very similar jacket, all she could think of is getting her “sets back together.” And in what strikes me now as a totally surreal moment, not only did I cross back the floor with her as she attempted to do her reassembling, but I also HELPED her reassemble the three “sets” we’d apparently destroyed!
— Here,” the manager said, handing me over the reassembled set with the jacket I wanted to buy.
— But those pants don’t fit!” I clipped back.
— Sorry, but I can only sell you this.”
— Now let me get this straight,” I said after taking a deep breath. “You’re telling me that in order to get that jacket that fits me, I have to buy those pants that don’t fit me.”
— Yes.” She didn’t even flinch at the absurdity.
— Oh, never mind…” I heard BeeGoddessM say.
That’s all I needed to hear. I was still holding the two ties we had picked and I was still staring down this cow of a manager when the next thing I know I see myself tossing the ties at her and saying, “Fuck you!” And I turned around and walked away.
Minutes later, we entered Moore’s and I decided I couldn’t handle to be grossed out any more than I’d already been, so I immediately told the clerk who greeted us, “I just had the worst shopping experience in my life at Sears.” I then proceeded to show him the shirt and pants I wanted matched with a jacket and tie, and told him, “My father died today and this is for his funeral, so please do better than what I’ve just gone through across the street.”
They did. Mind you, it wouldn’t have required much, but they went above and beyond.
Back at the abode of the BeeGoddess and the Bar Hopper, I said to them, “Actually now I’m feeling bad about my little scene at Sears. They’re probably paid shit and don’t need some histrionic asshole like me tossing neckties in their face. Plus they’ve probably already forgotten the whole thing by now.”
“I’m not so sure,” the Bar Hopper replied. “I would hope that after you walked away like you did, they asked themselves, ‘He did say funeral, didn’t he?’ and felt a little bit bad.”
For her part, the Queen of Sheba, when I told her this story a week later, said I should have just entered the stores and immediately started with “My father died today and…” Except that’s not how I do things normally. Nor would it have been how my father would have done things.