Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Perils of a Gift Registry and Other Shopping Stories

I have never been fond of shopping. Wandering through stores, comparing stripes versus polka dots, and calculating prices have never been my cup of tea. In fact, shopping to me is like going to the dentist. Most of the time it is neutral. Every once in a while you have a great conversation with a hygienist who remembers to take her hands out of your mouth when you respond. And then there are those moments of absolute wretchedness that are only known to sitting in that dental chair.

But since preparation for Papua New Guinea necessitates purchasing various items, it does mean I have some unique shopping experiences that make the process far more entertaining.

The infamous least it's so bright I won't lose it!
For example, there was REI. For the past month, I’ve spent much quality time with REI and Midwest Mountaineering and other cool stores. If I have to shop, please let it be one of these stores where they have awesome posters of international places, gear that could survive the temperatures of Mt. Everest, and salespeople who don’t freak out when you tell them you won’t always have Internet, much less electricity. As I checked items off my list, I was amazed by the choices. Did you know that the type of backpack used for backpacking, not toting school books, is a very specialized and fitted item? I was measured and pulled and sent on lap after lap around the store hauling 20 or so pounds, trying over a dozen backpacks before a winner finally emerged (evidently, there are very few backpacks small enough for my back and in the capacity I needed).

During those many hours spent in the store looking at water filters, mattresses, hiking boots and more, I had been using a cool little registry wand to mark my decisions since some of the items were planning on being purchased later. ZAP! I felt powerful. When I went to the checkout and turned in the registry wand, the cashier smiled at us brightly. “So,” she chirped, “are you guys planning an adventure honeymoon?”

My jaw dropped. Us? As in the two people standing here? My dad and I? I, for once, had no comeback. “Uhh,” my dad choked, “she’s going to Papua New Guinea!” We only just escaped through the automatic doors before we gave way to hysterics.

A honeymoon? Apparently I was planning more than just that…

One day I had some extra time, and so was perusing the clearance in Kohls’ on the chance that I might find some inexpensive appropriate tops or dresses for Papua New Guinea. The climate and the culture dictate clothing that’s long, loose, durable, and modest. In other words, not typical American styles. However, I dove in, and after a while of wandering from section to section, began to come across tops that matched my criteria. I muttered a running commentary as I critically eyed the apparel, fingering the fabric and holding it up to myself for size, all the while blithely ignoring the looks from the women around me.

Until I walked out.  And I realized I’d just been sauntering through Maternity… without a ring on my finger.

But nothing quite beat the shopping experience my mom fondly refers to as “cross-dressing in Target.”

You see, I needed to buy shorts. Not just any old shorts. No, in order for me to be appropriately clothed while swimming in PNG, I need to wear long, loose, wide shorts, which aren’t terribly common in our American women’s departments. Find men’s board shorts, my handy list told me. So, after googling “board shorts” since I didn’t know what they were, I headed to Target. But as I wandered into the store with the usual crowd of mothers and sticky children, the business person on his cell, and two twenty-something guys slouching under baseball caps, I realized that men’s was probably overkill, and so I struck out for the little boy’s section.

And was faced with shorts. Racks and racks of shorts. Unknown to me, shorts are to boys as tops are to girls. Exercise shorts. Basketball shorts. Reversible shorts (yuck!). Long shorts. Netted shorts. Shorts with logos. Shorts with school colors. Shorts with pockets. Shorts without. You name it, there are shorts for it. Never have I encountered so many shorts. But, in the name of Bible translation, I dove in, and finally clawed my way back to the swimming shorts, and begin a search for a pair that did not sport Batman, Spiderman, skulls, sharks, or pirate logos. I tried to pretend I was looking for my little brother…if I had one. I pulled one out. Would this fit him? Hmm. I sneaked a glance around….then held it to my waist. Nope, too short. I nonchalantly tossed it back on the rack, just in time to see the two gentlemen who had entered Target with me wander past…

After a few minutes, I gathered my choices and began a smart walk toward the fitting rooms in the women’s section. There was no way I would try these on anywhere near their rack! My path took me right past the young men’s section…and I saw their swimming shorts. Well, it’s worth a shot, I thought, but it only took a moment for me to realize that I would drown in these shorts (figuratively and literally). So, pushing past the clearance rack, I resumed my beeline for the dressing room…and straight into the path of the same two baseball-capped men. Goodness! Were they just roaming Target like buffalo? 

Here's my final choice of shorts (along with other packing items)
Their expressions indicated similar thoughts about me.

I dove for the dressing room, made my decisions, handed the rejects to the attendant who ostensibly had seen much stranger behavior, and darted out of Women’s towards the cash register. As I jumped around the final dress display, I stumbled into the aisle…and found myself face to face with my two earlier friends. We looked at each other. I looked down at my pair of board shorts.  My brother. Yes. For him.

I bolted to the checkout, fervently hoping I wouldn’t run into them again. The cashier rang up my purchase, and as he shoved the shorts into a bag, he looked at me, his eyebrows raised in confusion. “Getting ready for summer?”

I sighed. No, it’s for my honeymoon…

Oh, shopping.