Clueless in America. Chapter 36

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36. Shopping; Cute and Then Kohls

After a peaceful and subtle Wisconsin sleep, we went shopping. This was at my instigation, first I wanted to see a little of this town that looked so cute in the dark and second I wanted to buy that 100-strength fleece that I did not buy in Texas. But most importantly of all, we just needed a day out of the car and on our feet. If you are American, don’t even try to understand that. I have tried to explain our persistent need to exercise and eat food that is not pumped full with additives to many of you and have never succeeded.

Unfortunately it was a wee tad damp outside. Though walking in the rain did not worry Sharon and I in the slightest, it would have almost have been bad hospitality for our hosts to not have taken us to the very cutesy multi-storied undercover craft market. This place was located in an old building that could have perhaps once been a mill. It was very poky, once again very cutesy, and quite busy. I do not like crowds, poky, or cutesy, but I love art and craft. So I found myself spending time outside standing in the rain waiting for my phobias to subside before dashing back into the building, up and down the myriads of deep brown varnished stairs, pushing my way past roadblocks of plump female Americans and into the shop beside the one I panic-strickenly dashed out of some ten minutes earlier. I found a wonderful computer backpack. Oh gosh I so wanted to buy it. It was totally made out of recycled goods, it was the combination of the right colours, pockets and had the perfect water-bottle holder. It would have cost me everything I had. I stood outside in the rain for quite some time debating with the angels and demons of my mind over whether or not I should buy this bag and proudly add it to my collection of ethical goods. I decided no, because it was at least four times the price of a normal bag and I could not afford it. Also what was the point in buying an ethical bag, when I did not need it and would have to get rid of the perfectly good and cheap computer bag I am presently using. But the straw that single handedly broke the camel’s back was the fact that, though it was advertised as an ethical bag from 100% recycled goods, it was not ethical, it was made in China. It is hard not to buy stuff made in China and I know that the ethical/moral high ground is very slippery, but China’s human rights and environmental record is absolutely dismal. And on top of that I live in a ex-communist country and right beside two emerging dictatorships; I am not about to willingly give similar countries my dosh(115), especially when there are many other options. The bag stayed and we left.

Next stop was Kohls in Grafton.  If I was commissioned to do an advertising campaign for America it would read, ‘America, we have Kohls, visit us at’. In New Zealand my body size is average to small. Every shop has clothes that fit me perfectly but in European Lithuania, I am short and stubby. Nothing that I buy ever fits me, it is all either too long or too tight. But in America and Kohls, if I can get it small enough, it fits. There was nothing ascetically pleasing about the store, it was not cutesy at all and suffered from an over and abundant supply of the colour brown. But what it had was clothes, cheap clothes, very cheap clothes and almost everything that I had not been able to buy in the last six years of living in continental Europe. I was still fruitlessly searching for my very elusive pair of bib-type overalls. But I wanted second-hand ones and gave up searching here very quickly. Our host told us that she would buy whatever we needed, which was a very kind offer, but unfortunately it just served to overwhelm me. I own so many hand-me-down clothes, that are not quite me and so much that I have bought over the past six years, I would never buy, let alone wear if I could just nip down to the local Kohls. I had dollars in my pocket and my host was offering to buy. But I just could not do it, there was no point in replacing clothes that had not worn out yet, even if I did not like them. But I was delirious with the excitement of the possibilities and was running around like the proverbial two-year-old in a candy store.

And just as we were getting ready to leave, I spotted the long sleeve tees(116), oops had to go try them on. Naturally enough this held everyone up, but the tees were perfect, so perfect that I am wearing one now. Then just on the way to checkout, I remembered my long-term need to replace my nine year old pair of sport shoes. I quickly hiked my way around to the shoe section to see what I could buy. In my rush I asked a shop assistant for help, only to discover that Wisconsin really was part of America. The shop assistant’s face instantly broadened into a predictable service industry cheeky grin. His eyes danced for a while as he painstakingly ponder my question, then he informed me that this was not his department and that if I waited a tick, he would call the correct person to come and help me. I was just about to pipe in and say that no, I did not want help because I was holding people up. But quicker than a Texan can say ‘have a good day sir’, he had drawn his’ phone from his hip and was contentedly ranting to a random shoe person about getting down here to help. Bummer, I was going to be forced to wait, and wait I did. It seemed like an eternity until the sprightly, pimply, teenage head of the shoe department arrived. She bowled right on up to me with the ‘How can I help you sir?’ line. I swallowed the irritating sir part for the interests of time. I explained that I needed a pair of sport shoes, I needed to be able to run, kick a ball, play basketball and generally go for a walk in them. I had asked this question many times in snooty-technical-over-exercised-outdoor New Zealand. We Kiwis simply could not meet this request without selling me four pairs of shoes. I always found this strange, ’cause when I was a kid I could do all of these things in my ‘Bata Bullets(117)’ and ‘Chalks(118)’. My last pair of snotty NZ-purchased running shoes were almost sole-less after their first street basketball game. But this gangly teenager grew up in America, the world’s capital of everyday-worn-sport-shoes that never see sport. She knew exactly what I needed; a couple of soles, with a hunk of leather on top and a lace on each. She delightedly danced over to a shelf, pulled off four pairs of shoes and said any of these would do. Naturally I was sceptical, but to date America’s band of immigrant and teenage shop assistants had not let me down. She read my scepticism and said ‘Take a seat sir, try them on and see what you think’. Then she asked me that embarrassing question ‘What size do you take?’ Of course I didn’t know, but she suffered this fool gladly and gave me a few options to try. Somewhere about here Sharon turned up to quite rightly hurry me up. I ended up buying the only pair of non-Chinese shoes that fitted me. So I wonder how far down the ethical purchaser slide I fell, walking out the door with a pair of Vietnamese Nikes? However, pimple face did very well, she had outdone all of NZ: I have regularly played football in those shoes, plus played a little orphanage basketball, I have ran a fun run, barged a canal and have walked miles with them happily attached to my feet. Well done Kohls. I ran to the checkout where everybody was politely and patiently waiting for me.

We had a quick lunch in a cool Mexican restaurant where I successfully managed to receive and eat a dish that was nowhere near what I ordered. It tasted good, but it still was not corn tortillas. We returned home to prepare for our evening.

Tune in for the next issue and read about those Americans and their sport shoes that never see sport.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much to those of you who donated to the writing of this posting of Clueless in America’. This chapter was written in the very comfortable Chu Chus Cafe, West Kildbride Scotland.

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

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