Scared sensible

Yesterday was my first bout of holiday mall-going. It couldn’t be helped. Certain people now live in Canada, and they need to get long underwear and woolen hats with quaint patterns of winter animals stitched in them before heading off into the mountains. After several years in Texas, this powdery stuff all over the faraway hills is still a bit disconcerting, especially after that vivid and well produced CBC special on avalanches, fast on the heels of the one about grizzlies.

We used this excuse to purchase angora and cashmere socks in a bulk discount shop (the sort of store that feels like a cattle auction filled with drunk cowboys) on the theory that comfort trumps common sense, every time. We asked ourselves the one question that has become a timeless meter for purchasing decisions: if we were chased by a grizzly, and his out-of-control pre-hibernation tubbiness triggered an avalanche as he galumphed after us, what would we want to be wearing? Certainly, we’d want to be comfortable. You don’t want some cheap-ass polyester blend for that situation. Use this question to guide your winter purchases, and you will not be disappointed.

Then came the department store. We stepped into the hermetically sealed environment. We were immediately met by the sounds of tinkling bells over the speaker system. A chorus of pre-recorded voices rose in a harmonic chorus, singing of the Christ, as though in welcome. Sullen salespeople raced into back storage rooms to avoid us. A gauntlet of women, wearing colors not found in nature, sprayed us — petulantly, vengefully — with many scents, their hair capturing in frozen perpetuity the many different stages of windblownness.

We asked the lady in the shoe section for a size nine (you know what they say about women with big feet, don’t y’all?), and she jerked, startled. The white puffball on her jaunty Santa hat bopped her violently in the nose. She squinted at us, as though we had just blown a wee bit of Xmas fairy dust in her contacts. She looked at our feet, our inexplicably large feet.

“Where’s Judy?!” she cried.

We slipped out, quietly. The sound system played gentle, soothing bells, then suggested that chestnuts or snowmen might be nice.


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