I look clueless a lot. I’m not quite sure why. The blonde hair probably contributes, and the wide blue eyes. It’s not really blonde (it’s a rather boring light brown with an increasing amount of shiny silver), and people don’t realize that I’m not a wide-eyed innocent, it’s just that when you put someone with over-sensitive hearing and anxiety issues into an unfamiliar environment, they sometimes get a little boggly-eyed. Whatever the reason, though, people frequently talk to me as if I have no idea where I am or how I got there. “Can I help you?” often carries the solicitous overtones of “Oh, you poor thing, you’re completely out of your depth.”
Now, at Home Depot, this is entirely accurate. It is a wilderness of light bulbs and bathtubs and screwdrivers (not the drinkable kind) and orange aprons and wood floors that are disconcertingly vertical instead of horizontal. I only need paint, but if you leave me to my own devices there’s a good chance I’ll get distracted and end up trying to decide which would be the cutest replacement handles for the little chest of drawers in my sewing room, and forget entirely about the paint until I’m at checkout and suddenly remember why I came. When I walk into Home Depot, I DO need help, and I’m not ashamed to ask for it.
Costco, same problem but for different reasons. There’s just so much. Towering shelves of canned beans. Stacks and stacks of books. Countless trays of croissants. Wave upon wave of folded shirts and pants and socks. Bicycles and tricycles hanging on chains like some sporting-goods-themed torture chamber. Daffodils, looking a little confused at being indoors, sitting next to bins of cashews and giant bottles of shampoo. More orange soda than I thought was even possible. There is a BOUNCE HOUSE suspended from the ceiling next to the wine racks. Is it any wonder I look confused?
I don’t have this problem everywhere, mind you. I can navigate any fabric store with enough confidence that the employees just stay out of my way until it’s time to ask (with understandable curiosity) what on EARTH I am making out of three yards of luridly colored tie-dyed flannel. I’m pretty good in a hospital, too. My mother worked in one for over twenty years, and to this day I retain an uncanny ability to walk into a hospital, stroll past the front desk, and unerringly find the right elevator. So if you need some good sturdy tweed or the cardiac care unit, I’m your girl.
Today, though, I must have had the look on my face that apparently telegraphs “Help, help, oh please help” to salespeople everywhere, enough that they actually slow down their sales patter to an intelligible speed. I was trying to buy a twin bed, and I actually had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, but the dear lady at Bed World thought otherwise. (I will admit that this may have been aided by my comment that “I have no idea what the difference is between this bed and that one, I just know I like it.” Bounce, bounce, bounce.) She explained the difference between the beds in small words, and I said I would like to take the information home and think about it. This is where it suddenly got fun.
This was the third place I’d been, asking similar questions, and at the previous two stores, they had written down the information and reminded me to come back and ask for them, ask for them, ask for them. (Yes, I do understand how commission works, sir, you may shut up now.) By this point in the process, I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information washing over me, and even if I’d wanted to say something, they generally didn’t give me a chance. This lady, though, misinterpreted my quietness as a bargaining ploy, and started tossing out incentives.
What if she knocked a hundred dollars off the sale price? Would that make a difference? What if she could give me the frame for half off? Did I want the mattress protector? Would it make a difference if that was half-off? She couldn’t do anything about the delivery cost, but she could call and make sure it was here by Saturday, would that help my decision? By the time she landed on a total price (including box spring, mattress, bed frame, mattress protector, and two-day delivery) that was twenty dollars under the original sales price for JUST the box spring and mattress, I finally stopped gaping at her and said yes, yes, that would be lovely. I’m kind of sorry I did – if I hadn’t said anything, I half wonder if she might have given me the thing for whatever I happened to have in my change purse at the time.
Now I’m a little curious to see if this will work with anybody else. I’m considering sending in my tax form with only half the information filled in, and a Post-It note on the front with a note written in purple pen (little hearts over the i’s, of course): “Dear Internal Revenue Service, I have NO idea what to write in all these little boxes, I just know how much I want for my refund…”