I stride through the shopping mall, invincible. I've just scored a $149 dress from Ann Taylor for $19.99 and feel a little like Leonardo DiCaprio on the prow of the Titanic. But then, just as it did for Leo, it all comes crashing down.
"What beee-yoooo-teee-ful hair!" a woman in an apron crows, making a beeline for my 5-year-old daughter, who's trotting along beside me.
Instinctively, I find myself going into kiosk mode—a defensive technique with which every mall shopper is familiar. "Heh," I mutter through clenched teeth, pulling my daughter along beside me and quickening my step as I gaze somewhere off over the woman's head.
"Let me curl her hair with this!" she wheedles, brandishing a hot pink curling iron. "No thanks," I say as I walk, not daring to meet her eyes. The woman steps in front of us, blocking our path.
"Give me your hand," she directs. I stop short.
"Give me your hand!" she insists, holding out the iron. As if hypnotized, I start to comply, but then freeze. I don't want to give her my hand. I don't want to hold her curling iron. I don't want to buy her curling iron. And I sure as hell don't want my daughter's hair curled with her curling iron, particularly one that's been used on the hair of other random shoppers. I mean, hello! Head lice, anyone?
"No!" I say firmly. "I'm not interested." We walk away, leaving the woman staring after us. And I'd like to say I feel victorious or even relieved. But I don't. I feel...rude.
That poor woman, a little voice fusses in my head. All she wanted was to curl your daughter's hair with her curling iron. Why couldn't you show her an ounce of kindness? And if you were really a good person, you would have bought one of her curling irons. You could have afforded it, especially if you gave up that stupid habit of buying organic produce. A little pesticide never hurt anyone. You heartless bitch.
Score one for the kiosk owner.
Being forced to play The Kiosk Game can totally spoil even the most successful shopping mall excursion. Lured into the malls by unbeatable sales, I inevitably find myself darting in and out between their kiosks like an exposed spy trying to avoid sniper fire.
"Let me clean your wedding ring!" one man says, stepping in my path. "No!" I squeak, quickly holding my left hand behind my back and edging past him. "Have you tried the ShamWow yet?" asks another one, popping out from a hiding place behind another kiosk.
"Uh-uh," I say politely, speed walking past.
"Learn the Mesozoic Beauty Secret from the Uzbekistan rainforest!" cajoles another.
And then I reach Armageddon. As I try to skirt the food court, a toy helicopter whizzes past my head, almost clipping one ear.
"Take cover!" I shout to my kids. My son hunches down in his stroller, while my daughter shrieks and shields her face. Everywhere we turn, men in blue shirts are launching the helicopters into the air. We run for it, barely making it out alive. Behind us, a toddler isn't so lucky. A helicopter hits him squarely in the back and he falls to the ground with a thud.
Of course, it occurs to me as I dodge kiosk workers that I'm a grown woman. What exactly am I afraid of? I've yet to experience the horror of an angry kiosk worker tagging my house with a spray-painted message that says something about the time I ignored his Dead Sea Night Nourishing Moisturizer pitch two weeks ago.
I try to remember this the next time I'm walking past the dreaded curling-iron kiosk. I'm relieved to see a man is there this time and not the woman who tried to stop me before. But as we make eye contact and his face lights up, I can tell this is going to be just as bad.
"Meesss Amerrrreeecaaa!" he crows as I approach. I blanch and he confidently moves in for the kill. But this time, I'm ready. Quickly, I take out my cell phone and pretend to dial a number. "Hello, how are you?" I ask as soon as I put the phone to my ear. The man hesitates. Clearly, there's no one on the other end of the line, and yet, cell phone etiquette dictates that he must not interrupt my "conversation." Emboldened, I talk on without even pretending to listen for a response.
"I'm floopting in the hinkney and arshwald double ooblay," I say quickly into my phone. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to come up with an actual script for this performance. Yet it seems to work. The kiosk worker's shoulders slump and he slinks off back to his cartful of curling irons.
My safe passage around the kiosk assured, I slide my phone shut and turn back to the guy with a smile. "Don't hate the player, dude," I say, grinning. "Hate the game." And with that, I saunter off down the mall, victorious at last.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at www.suburbanturmoil.com.
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