After getting out of work today, J and I opted to spend our Friday night at the mall, doing a little last minute shopping. We're going to Chicago tomorrow for our friends Priya and Andy's wedding and wanted to update our regular wedding attire. I wanted some new shoes because the adorable red heels I wore to the last wedding I attended made me sort of want to die the minute I put them on my feet - those heels and way they arched my heel like 10 inches off the ground. Fashion is sometimes pain, I know, but it's not cool to kick your shoes off ten minutes into the wedding. You wait until the end, when everybody's tipsy on champagne to go barefoot. Everybody knows that. J wanted to get a new dress shirt so we headed to a couple department stores. At the first one, a regular mishmash of ties and watches and shoes and perfume displays and not-very-helpful salespeople (so terribly mediocre when compared to The Only Department Store One Should Ever Set Foot In) something happened that, unfortunately, seems to happen to us a lot.
We got approached by a stranger, also shopping for dress shirts, who looked in our direction, chuckled, and asked J, "wedding season?" When we laughed back, because, hey, that's right, it is wedding season and we're all out shopping for some dress shirts, isn't that funny? We smiled and told him, "Yeah. We've got one this weekend," and kept searching for that perfect hue, and then guess what happened? The guy, our new friend for Christ's sake, asked us where we were from. We sort of stopped in our tracks and told him, but that was when my "huh this is weird" antenna started acting up. I love talking to strangers. I love their stories and jokes and their random comments, and because I love meeting new people, when I meet one and talking to them gets a little odd, I immediately know something is up. I'm practiced in this art.
After we talked geography, he wanted to know what we did for a living, all the while so friendly, so casual, and that's when I decided it was time to drop the bomb that, ok, we were gonna keep on looking for that shirt! Nice to meet you! Have fun at that wedding! And that's when he made the all too familiar move. He didn't reach for a gun or ask us for money - he wanted to know if either of us had or card, or maybe he could give us his, so we could "keep in touch" (after all, we'd known each other all of two or three minutes) because he was working in a "business" that had some "opportunities for young couples" which is 100 percent southern-speak for "You guys should join my church."
In a swift and graceful manner that made me proud, J told our fellow shirt-buyer that we were actually moving at the end of the summer - oh man, too bad! - but that it was nice to meet him and we got out of there. While walking away from the store, through the mall, observing the crowds of primped teens who had materialized in the last hour, we talked about how that always seems to happen to the two of us, whether we're together or alone, and I told J I thought it was the way we looked, particularly our eyes, displaying some kind of naive, open-minded, amazed-at-the-world attitude that those church recruiters and others who prey on the general public just love. It doesn't matter that we won't take them up on it, that the minute we're alone again we're all "What the hell was that about?!" - they look at us and think, "perfect."
Which is precisely why, when all was said and done, I convinced J we had to go to Nordstrom. Because at Nordstrom, first of all, when you need someone to measure you for a dress shirt, they measure you for a dress shirt in a matter of minutes and not only that but they ask how you are doing, and furthermore, the entire place is an oasis of calm. The organized displays. The tasteful lighting. The too-expensive jeans and spring dresses that no one, ever, pressures you to buy, even though you're circling like a vulture, because they respect your limits.
Perhaps most importantly, I was fairly certain we wouldn't be approached by strangers trying to get us involved in "business" ventures in Nordstrom. And of course, we weren't. We instead had a very nice conversation with the young salesman who pointed J towards a lovely green shirt, the kind of green shirt I've been wanting him to buy for ages because I was so sure he'd look incredibly handsome in it (which he did).
The conversation was mostly the same. Where we were from, what we did, but the sentiment was entirely different. He joined us in a few laughs, but over actually funny things like when J locked himself out of the dressing room. When I asked how long he'd lived in the area he told us that his family had moved down here from New York several years ago because his father was sick and they wanted him to spend his last years in a nice place, with nice weather, and even though he couldn't do much anymore, he'd gotten a lot of good golf games in while he could.
I know, I know, the mall is no metaphor for life or anything, but honestly, I left feeling pretty amazed about the small world in which we live, the great diversity and the brief, but touching, moments. How easy it is to connect when you really mean it. Sure, you might say the mood was inspired by a visit to my favorite store, but I think it was more than that. Although seriously, their shoe department is reason enough to get up out of bed every morning and live another day.