Aggressive Lotion Girl

It isn't every day of the year that I go Christmas shopping. My mother does, perhaps, but she stands alone in the field. I, on the other hand, prefer to lump it all together as much as possible. Not like Lance, of course. He, like so many modern Americans, does not feel the Christmas spirit is officially descended unless the shopping begins around 6:35 p.m. on Christmas Eve. But that is too much for my nerves. I prefer a combination of Mom's and Larne's (I call him Larne, which he prefers over Sealock) methods with Mom's early bird approach mixed with Larne's condensed time frame.

I have yet to actually do all my Christmas shopping in one day, but I'm whittling it down year by year. This year, I almost finished after a serious two-day spree in Wichita. This had been preceded by a pair of preseason purchases in Enid and an internet acquisition a few weeks before. But the Wichita spree was a record-breaking exercise.

Now you are probably wondering about the Wichita angle. I will expose it. To do so necessarily exposes a fragile part of my character, which is that I get very easily sidetracked and diverted when Christmas shopping. I like Christmas and all the things that go along with it except the shopping experience. I do not care for the crowds that Larne inevitably encounters on Christmas Eve or those inevitably encountered during the entire stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. I do not enjoy the feeling that everyone I know is going to bump into me at the store and strike up a discussion over my choice of gifts and their respective recipients. These are stress points and one wishes to avoid them at a time of good will towards men. These are also among the many criteria that causes me to fall off the path of Christmas shopping after selecting only one item.

So I tend to pile into my car and head for the nearest out-of-the-way state when I wish to do a good bit of shopping for the holidays. It seems unlikely one will run into an acquaintance 150 miles from home, or that it will suddenly be remembered that the lawn needs to be mowed or the carpets steamed or other similar domestic responsibility that can cause one to abort the shopping trip and return home in an instant.

So it was to Wichita that I made my way Sunday afternoon, knowing that no one would be expecting to see me at work the next day on account of the place being closed for Veterans Day. I have been to Wichita on three or four occasions, and I knew of the existence of two shopping malls and at least one Target. I also knew about an Old Chicago restaurant near two of the three above mentioned institutions, and I also knew about a motel and a K-Mart near the other one. Thus I projected that, with a good night's rest and a proper amount of pizza thrown in amongst these shopping destinations, there should be no reason to suppose that the entire catalog of gifts for the 2008 Christmas season could not be snagged in one two-day extravaganza.

I mentioned somewhere above that I get easily sidetracked when Christmas shopping. I should dwell then a touch more on this theme. (And yes, we will come presently to the aggressive lotion girl so prominently featured in the title of this narrative, for she was very real and not simply a metaphor.) It happens that once upon the trail of a Christmas gift, I acquire a feeling of dread not unlike that of a weakling underclassman approaching a senior member of the football team whose car he has just inadvertently scratched with his helmet. There is a sense that a nearby escape route would be welcome and taken at once, were one to present itself. I don't know precisely why these feelings attack me during the Christmas shopping experience, but they always have done so. Maybe it is the coincidence of Christmas with football season.

Well, the shopping on this trip was indeed productive as seldom before. However, it was not complete, and I will now elaborate on the reason.

The first stop upon reaching town and securing a room for the night was the Towne West Square, which is actually a mall that isn't really square at all but has more the look of a chocolate cake that has been dropped from about four feet, six. Nonetheless I was enjoying unprecedented success when I happened past one of those kiosk sort of establishments which litter the highways and byways of most malls these days. I normally don't pay any attention to these retail curiosities unless they sell calendars, and then only under dire straits as regards the Christmas season. However, on this day I was suddenly confronted by a small - one might even say frail - young lady wearing a disquietingly black outfit making her appear at first glance to be selling funerals. Her hair was long, black like her clothing, and somewhat wavy. Her complexion was slightly dark, and she looked as though she might be just beginning college. I give the complete description now because we are going to be seeing more of this girl, and it is best to set the facts straight at the outset.

Apart from the general appearance of this female (which I should add was not alarming in any way, save the popular but unnecessary tendency to dress from head to toe in black), the first thing I noticed was the dish she held in one hand adorned with several clear ramekins containing some kind of food samples which looked like dabs of melted marshmallow. I tend to avoid experimental food samples forced upon me in public places, so I referred her to the next customer with a light wave of the hand. But there my plan failed me, because she was not to be deterred so easily. The next thing I knew I had been hauled in for questioning.

"Is there a special lady in your life?"

I answered truthfully in the negative, secretly hoping it was a purely professional question and not a personal one.

"Do you have a mother?" She asked next.

I replied, "Well, yes, in fact. Most of us do if I remember correctly," or something along those lines.

It should be pointed out that the samples in question were not marshmallow purees at all, but some sort of fancy lotion. Now would be a good time to report to the world that I am not sympathetic to any species of lotion containing the slightest trace of a substance that can be smelled by a pack of loose neighborhood dogs. There is about one brand and model of non-smelly lotion that I subscribe to, and that is where my interests in the subject come to a screeching halt.

I warded off her further tactics even as she began to appeal to my position in the family as loving son. I am not having unknown concoctions rubbed on my wrists by unknown females in funeral attire, especially when the Christmas shopping has just gotten going full swing. I went on my way, hitting JCPenney, then Sears, then some other stores of forgotten title, then Sears again. And I was just about to make a full circuit of the mall and start up on circuit number two when my attention was once more arrested.

We all have our preconception of the quintessentially tenacious salesperson. We see plaid sports coats and toupees. We don't see delicate young females dressed as funeral directors and questioning our faithfulness as sons. I don't at any rate, and it was with a jolt that I perceived my preconceptions failing me and my defenses weakening at the hand of the same unrelenting little costermonger. She accosted me a second time.

"Would you like to try..."

"You've already tried that on me during my first tour, miss."

"But just wait a minute! Can I ask you a question?"

I forgot the question, but it served to delay me further in my quest for unbroken Christmas cheer. The fact is, by this time I was becoming unnerved to such an extent that I was hearing little voices in my head suggesting that I throw in the towel and head for the house. I struggled fiercely and finally fought my way to freedom. And it was with wary eyes and hesitant steps that I made my way back to JCPenney and out the door, upon which I headed straight for the vehicle, stopped for a bit more buying at K-Mart, then called it a day of shopping.

The following morning dawned long before I did, but eventually I found myself out on the road and heading toward the east side of town and the mall known as Towne East Square. Once more a quick glance will tell the casual viewer that there is hardly anything square about the mall as a whole, it having not only the appearance of having been dropped on the floor by the chef, but kicked in three places shortly thereafter.

Rain was falling outside of the mall, so the insides, being warm and dry, were particularly conducive to the shopping spirit on this morning. I had not been inside the place for more than a few steps when I immediately swooped upon an unsuspecting item and purchased it, setting a new world record in the process.

Yes, things were off to a good start, and I emerged from the first store and began the process of navigating the wide-open concourse when out of the corner of my eye there appeared a familiar sight, and a familiar sound was not far behind (light travels faster than sound). Another one of those blasted lotion saleswomen in mourning garb was vying for my attention. I then realized that the familiarity was more than I had at first realized. It was the same girl from the day before. I had been followed.

"It's you again," she and I pretty much said at the same time, me with a sense of persecution and she with a sense of something that I couldn't quite identify. I thought we would exchange polite smiles and I would be on my way, but no. This aggressive lotion girl had lost me on two occasions on the previous afternoon, and she was determined not to do it again. The plate of marshmallow juice was being shoved at me with renewed determination, and I was now running down the road at a steady pace Coach Murray would have been proud of, had I just leaned forward a bit more, lengthened my stride a tad, pronounced my arm action with a less wasteful side-to-side movement, and lifted my legs an inch or two higher.

She was now yelling something at me which was lost in the noise of the extremely early Christmas season crowd of shoppers. I should have gone on, but something induced me to turn around and yell, "You'll just have to catch me at the next mall!" I knew full well that there would be no next mall.

I had safely managed to make it to the extreme opposite end of the mall, thinking I might duck into Dillard's for a breather, when all of a sudden I was ambushed by two more girls in funeral clothes with plates of marshmallow lotion. It was truly a dirty trick like one of those jungle tactics that gave our boys such a rough time in Vietnam. And these two were more vicious than the first. She must have radioed ahead and told them to shoot first and ask questions later, which is precisely what they did. After warding off the first wave of attacks and running towards Dillard's in the classic zig zag pattern, hoping for cover in Men's Shoes, the leader of the two yelled out, "I just want to ask you a question!"

That's roughly what David said to the guy who reported the death of King Saul. I had had quite enough questions from these lotion-weilding femmes. I considered my luck to have been extreme to avoid being lured into their schemes thus far. I also considered that the first thing one encounters in Dillard's is the perfume department, flanked on either side by two lingerie divisions, and began to consider the possibility of going from the frying pan into the fire, whereupon I headed for the first escalator that wasn't broken or dismembered, which was not easy by the way, and proceeded to ascend to the safety of the upper floor.

After furtively making my way around the mall by hiding behind the second floor railing, I made it once more into Sears, descended to the first floor to make my final purchase, returned again to the upper floor, slipped stealthily out and over to JCPenney and outside enemy territory to the safety of my car, taking care to step in every puddle of water I found in an effort to conceal my footprints.

So I now sit contemplating a safe place to complete my Christmas shopping. I'm thinking Atwood's. Maybe Auto Zone.

© 2015 Dane Tate