Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday Shopping

I really, really hate the mall this time of year. I hate it mostly because people are stressed, and when people are stressed, they tend to be nasty and unappreciative. And when people are nasty and unappreciative, it puts me in a foul mood. And when I'm in a foul mood, no one's happy.

Last year at this time I was pregnant. And deliriously, unapologetically happy about it. I was really starting to show, and I had just begun to feel the babies move, and after all that I had been through, I couldn't (and wouldn't) contain my excitement. Nothing was bringing me down; not even tired, stressed-out, grumpy holiday shoppers.

I went to the mall about a week before Christmas last year. I was having some difficulty with my maternity pants, and by that I mean I was having trouble keeping them up for some reason. A pregnant acquaintance at work told me about "belly bands," which are basically like tube tops that fit over your pants to keep them up. I was braving the holiday crowds and making my way to the maternity store in the mall to buy one.

First of all, the maternity store in the mall is literally the size of a postage stamp. Whoever drew up the plans to this store was obviously male, because there is no room for pregnant ladies to maneuver without bumping into the racks and/or each other. Forget strollers. And a double stroller would have been downright comical. Anyway, immediately after entering this store, I knew something was very, very wrong. There was a man in there who was clearly mentally ill. He was rambling and wandering around the racks, and I could tell the cashier was nervous. I don't remember the details of the conversation exactly, but for some reason the cashier was requesting his address and typing it into the computer. I'm not sure if he was charging clothing on some sort of store credit, but he wasn't making much sense. He was telling the cashier that he lived in California, and his !#$&! ex-wife took the house, and he was homeless, etc... She couldn't get a straight answer out of him. Adding to the tension was the fact that his sentences were completely peppered with expletives. And I mean the dirty ones; the kind I can't type here now for fear that my 10-year-old nephew is reading this blog. At one point he even asked the cashier for scissors. (Which, to my horror, she gave him, and he proceeded to cut some tags off of his shirt. That's probably a whole other story.) So needless to say, I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable in that confined space, and the cashier was as well. She was the only employee in the store.

After a while the man turned his attention to me. He wanted to know what I was buying (and I wasn't about to tell him a belly band and maternity tights!) and also wanted to know if he could buy some things for me. Ew. I ignored him as best as I could, and tried to avoid eye contact while smiling politely. He seemed to be getting more and more upset and agitated, and I didn't want to do anything else to set him off.

I found what I was looking for as quickly as possible, and was already completing my transaction at the register when he grabbed my hand. I was shocked, and rendered completely immobile for the moment. And I was scared. At first I thought he was searching for a wedding ring, but after a second or two it became apparent that he was reading my palm. "What are you having?" he asked. "Twins," I replied. "A boy and a girl." Now, in hindsight, I probably should have told this guy where to go, or at least have told him to let go of my hand or I would call the authorities. But I was scared. So I answered his question. "They're not going to be born," he told me. "Neither one will make it."

Alright, I'm a rational person, and I know this guy was crazy. But I cannot tell you how much that encounter unnerved me. As someone who struggled with infertility for 2+ years, that was precisely the opposite of what I needed to hear. I was visibly upset. The cashier was whispering that he was crazy, that he didn't know what he was talking about, and not to worry. But the damage had been done. I left the store, sat on a bench in the middle of the mall, and sobbed. Talk about putting a damper on my holiday spirit.

Obviously, the story ended well. Charlotte and Gavin are here, and are perfectly healthy. But I think about that day often; not about the man (I'd like to forget him), but about the cashier. I regret that when I left the store I was too shaken to have the common sense to go get a security guard, and she was left alone with him. I hope she is okay as well.

Post Script: I have been sitting here for upwards of 20 minutes, precious time for any mother, trying to think of how to wrap up this post in a way that will tell you the moral of the story. I can't think of anything. I'm not sure there is one. If any of you can think of one for me, help me out and comment. And incase you were wondering, the belly band worked out well. Kept my pants in place on most days.

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