Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Birthday Shopping"

The birthday was yesterday. The story behind the birthday, today.

Dr. M is having a birthday. It is time to buy her a present.

Make that presents. Our family is committed to the tradition of multiple gift-giving, compounding – at least for me – the opportunity for devastating selection error.


“Do you really know me at all?

The first two gift ideas offer minor difficulty. (Plus, they all come with “Return Receipts”, transforming my choices into potentially harmlessly off-target bookmarks.)

The first present is easy. Workout clothes. No guesswork on whether she wants them. She asked for them. All I have to do is avoid the colors and fabrics she doesn’t care for. Did I mention there was no problem in taking things back?

Present Number Two – a nightgown. Thirty years of trial and error – mostly error – have narrowed my parameters: simple, one hundred percent cotton, no spaghetti straps. My greatest obstacle was looking comfortable in a lingerie store.

“Those are camisoles.”

“I think, just the nightgown.”

“It’s just that you were looking at them.”

“You have to look somewhere.”

Two gifts down, one to go. The “topper” would be jewelry. Anna’s clued me in on a store where her mother had previously liked some stuff. I jumped at the suggestion, a desert wanderer, thirsting for a jewelry oasis.

The jewelry store is the kind where they have to “buzz” you in. To me, this immediately says, “There is nothing cheap in here. If you’re looking for bargains, try shopping at a store you can walk right in to.”

I am apparently adjudged “Entry Worth”, and am dutifully “buzzed” inside. The store’s only customer, I casually browse the “vintage” section, where my hazy understanding of the “Birthday Girl’s” preferences suggests I’ll be most likely to find success. Nothing catches my eye.

Till I spot the necklace.

I will spare you a flawed and faulty description, beyond reporting that it’s a small, gray stone I don’t recognize, set in something delicate, antique-looking and gold. I will leave it at that.

It seems beautiful to me. And it’s on a long chain, a plus, since Dr. M is a vocal opponent of the choky chain. Sensing I’m “in the ballpark”, I intrepidly forge ahead.

I ask the salesperson, an attractive young woman whose name, I would later learn, is Brooke, to take the necklace out for me. Brooke unlocks a glass case (another tip-off I’m in “big ticket” water here), she extracts the necklace, and she holds it up in front of her, one hand supporting each side of the thin, golden strand.

Taking a cue from ”The Passive Aggressive Handbook”, I say, “I won’t ask you to try it on for me”, and am rewarded with the hoped for, “I’d be happy to try it on for you.” Which she immediately does, opening the clasp and re-fastening it behind her neck.


Brooke is now wearing the necklace. The long chain, however, results in a positioning, wherein the necklace’s antique pendant finds itself dangling…how do I put this…?

Low-cut dress.



That’s where my eyes are focused. As I consider a birthday present for my wife.

Brooke appears oblivious to the awkwardness. Explanation? Brooke is more mature in these matters than I am. No small unlikelihood.


She knows exactly what she’s doing. She has pulled this stunt many times before. And she sells a lot of necklaces this way.

I really don’t know which it is.

What I do know is that this is not the most clear-headed arrangement for making a jewelry purchase decision. I mean, almost anything displayed in that particular location is going to look pretty damn good.

“Dog poo on a chain? I’ll take it!”

After misplacing it for a while, I finally relocate my voice, and I instruct Brooke to remove the necklace, fearing “improper eye-focus” accusations, or the Lord striking me blind, whichever came first.

Absent its fortuitous context, I was not certain about the necklace…alone. I was in dire need objective advice. I hated that Anna wasn’t there. I really wanted to show it to her.

Ah, the Wonders of Modern Technology!

Not mine. I have an old cell phone they don’t make anymore. If they exhumed Alexander Graham Bell, they would probably find one in his pocket. From just looking at her, which I’d been doing a lot of recently, I deduced that Brooke had the look of a person who had an iPhone. My inquiry in that regard proved my deduction to be correct.

I call Anna on my cell phone. I ask her if I can have a picture of the necklace sent to her iPhone (iPhones can do that), so she can take a look at it, and tell me what she thought. Anna agrees, the appropriate electronic maneuvers then take place, and moments later, I call Anna back.

Anna shouts, “Dad, that’s exactly what we’re looking for!” I am a little put off by the “we’re” – the only one “looking for” anything was me – but am delighted by her enthusiasm.

I say “Yes” to the necklace, I pay for it, Brooke boxes it with a ribbon, and away I go.

Mission Accompli.

Optimally, the necklace is a fusion of my love and Dr. M’s appreciation. The journey to its acquisition, however, I will keep discretely to myself.


Anonymous said...

A lovely story, though one must wonder how posting on a blog fits with "keep[ing] discretely to myself".

Frank said...

I thought Earl was almost going to faint when sexpot Brooke cooly whispered him the incredibly low price.