Finally! I had made it into the elevator whose size always reminded me of one of those loading docks rather than a tight platform meant to transport humans, from the store level down to the garage and back.
Truth be told I rarely even ride in these things. No one really walks in this bloody City; but I still do, despite occasionally fearing for my safety, as I walk alone, along the unknown, dark streets, in search of my vehicle. I don’t even utilize the valet service anymore: I’d rather park my wheels myself and risk getting towed after failing to deconstruct the street signs correctly. (But I do like studying the valets’ uniforms at any fancy joint I visit in someone else’s car: They remind me of characters from The Nutcracker, and somehow, of bedtime stories from back home.)
But I had made a mistake of venturing out into the Hollywood Target, mere three weeks before Christmas. Considering I had quite a list this year, parking downstairs seemed to be the saner choice. And then, quite immediately — it wasn’t.
First, a beat-up Volvo, three cars ahead of mine, seemed to be having difficulties with getting its parking ticket. How hard was it to push a giant, blinking button with “PRESS HERE” clearly tattooed in its center? While the others waited for the parking attendant, I swung into the next lane, nearly grazing the front bumper of a white Beemer driven by a very pretty girl (with very thick make-up — on her very, very pretty face).
“GOOD JOB!” she mouthed at me and waved her left hand. I would be able to tell if she was flipping me off, but the shine of her engagement rock blinded me, for a second. I let her go ahead.
The navigation of the store, with an already somewhat sparse merchandise, quickly turned out to be a practice in patience and unconditional forgiveness — for the entire human race. I squeezed past the Mexican mothers who gave over their carts to their little children. One of them — a loud boy, no older than six — was trying to run over his squealing sister by riding the cart stuffed with plastic toys and plastic storage bins (for the same toys, I assumed). I got out of the way and rode to my destination in between the men’s clothing racks.
The only people dominating seemingly every department — were women. Some were young, dressed in corporate clothes. The older ones demonstrated more self-assurance as they navigated the discounted shelves. Yet, all of them seemed tired and slightly concerned. And Christmas was hardly around the corner yet.
A young couple appeared adorable in the aisle with Christmas trimmings. Well, at least someone was in the spirit! I smiled. From the amount of his willing participation in the discussion of the direct relation of gaudiness to the shades of gold, I wondered if this would be their first holiday together. Eventually, the couple considered settling for a silver theme, after which he cornered her into the wall of garlands and they began making out. Cute. I smiled again. To get out of the aisle though, without interrupting his tongue from doing its tricks inside her mouth, I had to U-turn my shit and negotiate my way with the two young women, starting hatefully at the couple from the other end of the aisle.
It wasn’t like any of us had many choices to choose from, anyway. Be it the plague of the Black Friday, or the poorly evaluated amount of supplies issued by the Target headquarters to begin with — but I was hardly thrilled by less than a handful of my choices. Between the funkily multi-colored themes and the gaudy gold ones (the lovebirds were right), I settled on none. Wrapping paper would be next, but the presence of an exhausted mother, who was rummaging through every box of supplies and not responding to my humble requests for the right of way, tempted me to make a run for the exit.
Still: I persevered. Past the disorganized shelves and the hypnotized shoppers. Past the hopped-up children leaping under my now speeding cart. Past the plaques announcing insane savings and the disinterested Target staff, in their unhip, untucked shirts.
It was a miracle that my check-out clerk was pleasant: He had just come off his lunch break. In mere seconds, I would be in the safety of the elevator. I parked my cart and grabbed my bags. I could’ve walked with those things to my car after all!
A gentlemen in a pair of less than fitted jeans pushed the button. We waited.
“Stress-mas, eh?” he turned to me to eliminate the tension. His less than suave gazes were leaving me luke warm.
When the doors finally opened, my suitor performed the symbolic gesture of preventing the doors from squishing me. In return, I pushed the button for him. The doors closed and we were alone, riding to the same level. Painfully disappointed by my trip, I pretended to study my receipt.
The couple that joined us on the first level of the garage entered with the sounds of bickering and passive-aggressive scoffs.
“I TOLD you,” he kept reiterating, “I could’ve hold onto the ticket. BUT NO!”
Flabbergasted, she exhaled: “Hwell! I put it… right HERE!”
Both of her hands were buried inside a beige leather purse puffed-up into a soccer ball shape from the inside.
“And YOU said: You’d remember our level!” Touche: She found a successful comeback.
The husband’s face, instead of trying on embarrassment, immediately took on the expression of a spite. The woman continued to huff ‘n’ puff. She, too, seemed tired.
“That’s why I don’t get married,” my suitor in his ill-fitted jeans confided in me, once we stepped out at our Level. And then, petrified out of his initial intention to flirt, his skinny ass ran off.
I had to give it to him: It was a bad idea. All of it.
And next Christmas, I’d rather walk here, if at all.