52. Sometimes Breaking Ice Hurts
Nearing the end of our particularly dreary Madison day, we were darting down the street, passionately rushing to nowhere, when I spied a sheep. Not just any sheep, but a Kiwi sheep standing on the top of a Kiwi mountain. You are right, I couldn’t be looking at anything else other than a ‘Icebreaker’ poster. And Sharon was yet to find her thermal.
Most outdoor stores encourage you to buy their stuff by being bright, with beautiful posters of beautiful people, climbing beautiful mountains or walking beautiful tracks. This leads us to buy beautiful outlandishly expensive clothing under the delusion of thinking that if we buy it we will look beautiful and be able to climb those beautiful mountains with ease and without sweat or dirt. However this outdoor store used the opposite tack to sell its over-priced merchandise. This shop was dark, it had unkempt wooden floors, unpainted wooden walls, and racks of stuff cluttered into an intrusively small space. This shop was so yucky and sucky that it just drove you to the outdoors in fear of having to hang-out in dark dismal shops like this one. In its defence it did have a lot of quality outdoor equipment, including a cramped overflowing stand of women’s ‘Icebreaker’ thermals.
The young blond shop assistant was sluggishly eager to serve us and after a little prompting, provided Sharon with a selection of sizes of exactly what she was looking for. In the meantime I chose to engage blond-and-sluggish in conversation. For the some stupid reason I informed her that we were Kiwis and very familiar with ‘Icebreaker’s New Zealand merino wool. I told her how we had been hunting the USA for these very thermals. Then as with the last shop assistant in wherever that no-name town was, I lamented that they were now made off-shore and wondered how that had affected the quality. Blond-and-sluggish had a rather slow and instant response to this. Suddenly her young face tautened, wrinkles appeared around her lips and her hair started to appear grey. She nonchalantly informed me that yes, they were no longer made in New Zealand and were now made in China. She went into a long, terse and defensive monologue about the quality of Chinese made goods and then followed this act up with waffling on about ‘Icebreaker’ representatives inspecting Chinese factories. I mean for a minute I thought she might be a blond white Chinese herself. I had heard the speech before and it had not impressed me then. For some stupid reason I replied to her insidious monologue with the ever so subtle line of ‘yeah but that doesn’t account for China’s human rights record’. Oh my goodness blond-and-sluggish had already been as cold as ice and this sentence well and truly broke that ice revealing a freezing, sea lion infested ocean below. We both sensed the slippery precipice on which we were standing. She replied ‘It still doesn’t affect the quality of the goods’ and stomped back to the counter. To my relief Sharon returned from the changing room with her Kiwi symbol of the restriction of the Chinese press, peasants being forcibly evicted from their homes and so so much more. We purchased the garment, because we still could not find anything better, and hurriedly and me guiltily made our exits, leaving blond-and-sluggish to pout, think about and celebrate her sale.
One other thing I just have to mention about America which we encountered in Madison a few times were the banks. On the outskirts of Madison we encountered some rather large shopping malls, most of these were flanked with other shops, burger joints and banks. I think the norm was to drive from the mall to the outdoor store on the southern end and then drive back to the bank on the northern end, etc etc. But sorry this just seemed wrong to do. We actually parked on the northern side. It took us about twenty minutes to walk through the mall, across the car-park and to the outdoor store. Indecently, this store was full of confident, sprightly and enthusiastic young people, who knew their products and were almost friendly enough to be Texans. They just didn’t sell ‘Icebreaker’.
I digress. We needed a bank, so we walked back through the mall, past the car to my local branch. I scoured the outside walls for an ATM, walked inside and searched the surrounds, then feeling somewhat lost I walked up to the counter and asked the delightful teller where the ATM was. Her reply was ‘We don’t have one, you will have to go to the drive-through(152)’. I did not know what else to do, other than go outside and get in line with the cars. I felt stupid, I got stupid looks, but I did not know what else to do.
Picture it like this. A nice large blue pick-up in front of me, a red Honda behind me and me standing there looking rather car-less in my tacky orange Australian-Dutch jacket and green winter boots, with my lips pursed against the cold and my ATM card tightly gripped in my fingers. I could see the bank tellers looking out the windows with confused looks on their faces wondering if they would need to call the police or not. I put the card in the hole, received my money and drove or rather walked away, happy but still delightfully suffering the incredulous looks of both bystanders and bymotorist. Sharon and I thought this was a hilarious encounter with American car culture, giggled all the way back to the car and drove off. I am not too sure why we couldn’t have just got the car first, driven through the bank and then driven home. This was one of three walk-through encounters that we had with drive through banks. Americans, try it sometime, it is fun.
Tune in next week to read about burgers, real burgers.
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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!
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