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12/15/2003 Entry: "Three Cashiers Of Christmas Presents."

"Are you ready?"

She caught me by surprise; I didn't notice that she had a nametag on at first, since she wasn't wearing the apron like the other employees at registers. She rang my things up and I handed her my credit card. She looked at the back to check the (missing) signature and looked at my driver's license.

"Is that your middle name? That's a girl's name!" She said, loudly, I told her that while it's unusual, there were at least three of us named that. "Nuh-uh, that's my mom's name!" What a...coincidence, I stammered. I was beginning to feel a little self conscious. She chewed a corner of her lip, staring at my ID again and after a moment, said, "And this picture? This could be a country western star. See?" She showed me my license picture, pointing to it with a long painted fingernail, as if I'd never seen this document before. I disagreed, saying that if I was going be a Toby Keith I would probably needed at least a hat—yes, it would take a lot more, but I didn't want to go there. "No, you don't need no hat." she said dismissively; "Then again you're working that young executive look..." I paused to look down at my black shirt, black pants and long black coat "...except for that jacket. It's too big for you, lookit that!" I was not going away without getting read by this woman, and I conceded yes, it's a little too large; I got it on sale. Triumphantly, she gave me my bag and receipt and wished me a good night.

As I left I could swear that the security guard, who merely nodded at me, was trying his best not to snicker.

* * *

It was a cute little dog; maybe six inches tall. It snaked its leash around shoppers and sniffed the containers of rubber cement, paint thinner, and other slightly less toxic art supplies. It was mostly well behaved, if a bit overstimulated. One of the employees emerged from behind the information desk with a large dog bone in hand; he struggled to break off a tiny piece, which he offered to the dog after it "sat" and "stayed." The dog sniffed the biscuit briefly, took it in its mouth and quickly spit it out onto the floor, clearly a bit disappointed. I guess the employee heard me thinking that maybe he should keep the line moving instead of feeding Milk Bones to spoiled pooches, because he looked up and told me to follow him.

We avoided getting tangled in either the leash or the crush of shoppers and walked to a temporary register set up in the middle of the store. The desk was little more than a thick piece of foam core, though the heavy register was on the end of a counter. He rang me up and I asked how his day had been. "Oh, it's been a little crazy, but I'm surviving, thanks. This is the second busiest day we have all year." I asked him what the busiest day was: "Next Saturday, just before Christmas."

I was going to ask if business had been brisk on Black Friday, but a woman queued up behind me and said loudly to her companion, as if we were a holiday window display, "I think we can just stand here. Well, he must be open, he's checking out that man right now." They crowded in closer to the counter.

The salesperson looked at me for a second, and I could tell that he had been dealing with this all day long. "You have to go stand in that line over there," he said irritatedly, pointing at the line snaking across the far wall. Sit. Stay. Rollover. No Milk Bone for her.

* * *

Like every one there before us, we picked up every toy, every digital display, and every glowing, clicking, beeping object we could get our hands on. We recorded disturbing messages on the talking baby keepsakes. We struggled to open and dissect the cool japanese pillow. We used hot dog cookers as personal massagers. That's the whole point of the store: they sell expensive toys for adults, after all, so why shouldn't we act a little like children when we're in there?

While I bought a small item, The Boyfriend was playing with a digital clock near the checkout. Beep! The register scanned my item. Beep! The digital clock showed the date. Beep! Beep! The register scanned my card, added sales tax. Beep! Beep! Beep! The digital clock showed the current temperature in Sydney. "You must be tired of listening to things beep all day," I noted to the sales clerk.

"A little," she said, "but mostly I'm just tired of the Christmas music." She winced slightly as an overwrought swing version of "Let It Snow" moved from the bridge to the chorus. I briefly contemplated what a Kraftwerk version of the song would sound like.

The next morning, I found myself singing "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" in the shower.

Replies: 5 comments

That Mogu thing scares me. What's the deal there?

Posted by Jason @ 12/15/2003 09:56 PM PST

I went to that store with My Boy, and he was all types of excited over the products made for people who have nothing better to do than spend their dollars on devices that can remove nose hairs. Oh come on. And that Mogu thing? Uh, no.

Posted by -J. @ 12/16/2003 01:52 PM PST

Yesterday, my mother left not one, but TWO messages telling me that she got tickets to a Toby Keith concert in Manhattan, KS, next month. In the first message, she was actually sobbing with happiness. I continue to be disappointed that I'm not adopted.

Posted by Katrina @ 12/16/2003 02:00 PM PST

Thus do I do 95% of my shopping online.

Posted by Sherri @ 12/16/2003 09:14 PM PST

One reason I hit those online malls more this year...but the real thing here isn't any better, if not worse.

Posted by Jeff @ 12/19/2003 07:13 PM PST

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