No school today. Mid-morning I ventured out into the world with the kids for errands. First it was steamed milk for the kids and placing an order for some TV I’ve decided I can’t live without – both down at the downtown record store Quimper Sound. Then – since we need shampoo, and I’m interested in a natural-bristle hairbrush for my daughter’s soft, beautifully fine hair – we hit a health store uptown in hopes of getting both.
In case it isn’t abundantly clear from, you know, reading about my life: it isn’t easy to shop with two little kids. Sometimes both of them are angels and they carry my parcels and people smile at them and there is soft tender music playing presenting a facade of control and ease in my life. But usually at least one of them (guess which one) is slightly less “well-behaved” and more like, “let me fuck with everything with my many arms like Vishnu.” * Sometimes they both give me the bollucks and in those cases a essential part of my non-reptilian brain is glad the public frowns on corporeal punishment. Yet – it isn’t legal (or smart) to leave them in the car while I hit these shops full of knicknacks and snooty fellow shoppers. So my solution, Port Townsend historical-district shopkeeps, is to attempt to actually support your fat, saucy asses with my money and WITH my kids in tow and talk to them before the shop, begging for them to behave, and do the best I can.
Today’s shopkeep is an odd person anyhow who I have not enjoyed patronizing in the past. But I’m going to chalk it up to personality differences, what the hell. From the second I walk in she seems instantly pissed I have kids in the shop at all. I ask for help; she answers my question curtly and then darts around the aisle end-cap where my son Nels is running around with some sort of “woman’s product” (tea, vitamins, Menstru-Lert, I can’t tell – all I know is it’s non-breakable and he’s happy to carry it in lieu of touching other things). I hear her querying him with that “anxious shopkeep” tone (i.e. “hinty”): “Do you know where you got that box from?” she asks my 2 1/2 year old. And I’m thinking, It’s your fucking store, isn’t it? Apparently she’s hoping he will literally stand in the middle of the aisle doing nothing with folded hands. I give in to her (unspoken) preferences and pick The Boy up to continue shopping thus hampered.
I find one item I’m looking for and put it on the counter by the register since I can’t easily carry items and hold my youngest (who is has now morphed into a less benevolent supernatural entity). He wiggles and asks to be let down but I grimly hang on and go back to the shelves. The shopkeep bags the item and rings it up on the cash register, even though I am not finished browsing the shelves. She stands and watches me, clearly vibing, “Pay up and get the fuck out.” (please note – there is not one other customer in the store). In hindsight, what I wish I would have done, was to leave without buying anything – to give up the ghost on the shopping trip and the unfriendly shopkeep. But no – I doggedly search for shampoo (mmm), find it, and return to the counter to ask about hairbrushes. They only have two, she shows me. She doesn’t know if they’d work for my daughter. She doesn’t know where else to find one in town. She isn’t going to order any more. I give up and ask her to ring me up, setting Nels on the counter. She gasps and dives for his hand when he attempts to touch – a pen. That’s it. I’ve decided: Fucking bitch. I start writing the check (about thirty-some bucks) and with every movement of my pen I feel more and more sluggish about paying and I do not want to give this business my money.
Normally – normally! – I would either take up the issue with her right that minute, or write a tactful but direct letter requesting their policy on treatment for caregivers with young children. But I am just too damn tired of this vibe from her and others like her. I am just not going to shop there any more. And that’s fine.
Oh – and for what it’s worth? Many, many places in town have excellent customer service and will attempt to help both you and your child(ren) in your shopping experience. Abovementioned Quimper Sound being one – which is why I buy as many things there as fit my needs.
I made a “love song” mix CD for a friend expecting a baby. Here it is:
1 Neverending / Damien Jurado and Gathered In Song
2 Fell In Love At 22 / Star Flyer 59
3 Hello Love / The Be Good Tanyas
4 Sea And The Rhythm / Iron & Wine
5 La Petite Fille de la Mer / Vangelis
6 Baby, I Love You / The Ronettes
7 You Love Me / Devotchka
8 Between The Bars / Madeleine Peyroux
9 History Of Lovers / Iron & Wine / Calexico
10 Always See Your Face / Love
11 My Beloved Monster / Eels
12 From My Own True Love (Lost At Sea) / The Decemberists
13 All Is Full Of Love / BjÃ¶rk
14 Love Story / Harry Nilsson
15 A Love That Will Never Grow Old / Emmylou Harris
16 Love You / Sondre Lerche
17 Love Me Tonight / Tom Jones
18 Stable Song / Death Cab For Cutie
19 Take Off Your Cool (Featuring Norah Jones) / Outkast
* Actual photograph of Nels in the shop today.