The weekend warrior
|By LIZ HELLMANN|
I enter enemy territory, the plan I must execute running through my head.
Time is running out, and people are counting on me to pull through.
Danger looms at every corner.
I have only a few minutes to complete the mission at hand.
My comrades wait back in the bushes. They can see my every move, and they can see the enemy. But if I am captured, there is nothing they can do to save me.
My option simply is, there are no options. I must not let the enemy near me.
My mission is simple, my purpose clear.
It is a reconnaissance mission. If I fail, my whole family will have to pay the price, and my friends will be held captive.
The battlefield is a men’s clothing store in the mall. The mission is to survey this foreign land for suitable birthday presents for my dad, and report back to my commanding officer, my mom.
We will then formulate our strategy based on the data I will collect here, the data she has already gathered, and the Sunday catalog sales. Then, we will strike.
But time is running out. His birthday is in less than a week.
My fellow soldiers (my friends) have been fighting their own retail rumbles all day, and are weary.
The troops need rest, morale is low.
It is up to me to navigate this khaki jungle without being detected by the sales staff, who are waiting to devour their next victim with the lure of discounted prices and fancy threads (that’s serious shopper talk for really cool clothes).
I linger back, gazing at the store window. To the untrained eye, I am browsing, to the shopping soldier, I’m piggybacking.
I wait for my opportunity. A couple civilian shoppers meander past me and into the store.
As the store greeter welcomes them and starts rambling off the day’s deals, I watch closely.
A salesperson looks up from the checkout counter (also known as the point of execution), I wait until her eyes lock on the couple.
She has honed in on her target.
The sentinel has done his job, sounding the alert well. But I quickly slink past him before he has a chance to finish with the couple.
As I slip to the side and behind a rack of sweaters, I nervously glance around.
I’m in, seemingly undetected.
I look back at my friends, who are sitting on a bench in the mall, behind some fake palm trees.
They nod their heads.
Now, to plot my path.
There are six other patrons in the store, and three sales people, not counting the greeter/sentinel.
All are busy except for one salesperson, about 10 feet away.
I watch him carefully as I glide across the side wall, nonchalantly looking at some brown belts.
My target, the sweaters, is displayed on the back wall, the depths of enemy lines, right next to their camp (break room) and the torture chambers (fitting rooms).
This will be tricky. I stalk closer towards the lone salesperson, picking up a pair of sunglasses.
We are now about five feet away, and the back wall seems as if it is even farther back.
Suddenly, the salesperson turns his head towards me.
I duck behind a rack of t-shirts, and drop to the ground, pretending to look for a pair of jeans on the bottom shelf, against the wall.
I turn slightly so I can watch his feet from underneath the t-shirt rack.
He begins to walk in my direction. I’m stuck.
I won’t be captured, not this early in the game. I think of my comrades, we have been shopping for hours.
I think of my dad; my mom is counting on me.
I react instinctively, somersaulting along the wall and doing an army roll behind a pajama display island.
I hear a woman’s voice near where the salesperson was standing.
“Excuse me, could you tell me if you have this in an extra-large?”
This is just the diversion I needed. But that encounter was too close for comfort, drastic measures must be taken. It’s now or never.
I stand up. All salespeople are busy, but the couple that walked in before me is checking out. Their salesperson will soon be looking for fresh blood.
Time is of the essence. I throw caution to the wind, making a beeline for the sweaters.
I quickly scope out the merchandise, noting the prices, quality, and colors.
I got what I came for. But wait, there is another sales rack by the checkout. Do I dare? It’s in the middle of the store, there’s nowhere to hide.
It’s a risk I’m willing to take.
As I stroll towards it, the same salesperson that spotted me by the t-shirts picks me up on his radar again.
What is it with this guy?
A salesperson comes up from behind me.
“Is there anything I can help you find?”
“No, I’m just looking,” I curtly reply, and rush towards the sales rack.
I just need to check the fabric choices and the sizes.
But the salesperson from the t-shirt rack has no intention of letting me go.
Warnings go off in my head: abort, abort.
No! I will not. Not when I’m so close, I can almost feel the fabric.
Finally, I’m at the rack. But the salesperson is just a few steps behind. I nervously check the tags.
He’s on top of me now! I’m going down.
Ring! Ring! Ring!
My phone is going off! It’s my backup. One of my friends saw me in trouble from the bench.
I smile as I stride past the sale person, his mouth perfectly poised to inundate me with his latest sales pitch, designed to make me buy titanium cuff links, platinum watch bands, and the latest leather spray that is so good I will need to by a $500 leather jacket, just to test it out.
But he can’t bother me now. I’m on the phone. I walk safely into the tiled mall corridor.
My friends and I laugh about our victory as we head to our car.
We near the glass exit doors, bright light streaming in from outside. I feel a tap on my shoulder.
I turn around, it’s a lady who would like me to fill out a survey.
There’s only one thing left to do.
Run! Run towards the light!