The other day I had to return a children’s swim shirt to a sporting goods store.
I don’t typically go to these types of stores because I often find what I’m looking for at a lower price at a store like Winners or Marshall’s.
I paid more than I normally would for the girls swim shirts but was okay with it because the ones we had been using from the discount stores had more holes than material, had discoloured to the point of having no colour at all and well, a discussion about the words translucent vs. transparent had arisen.
Ellie noticed immediately the huge tear down the side of her t-shirt and I was a little annoyed, especially considering the purchase of these shirts involved taking all three kids into the store, an escalator ride that Chloe insisted was an alligator, a near death experience for two of the four of us involving an elliptical machine set on high and one on all-time-reverse-mode, two staff members pointing us in two different directions until we finally found the section of the store we needed and a half-tantrum over the world’s most beautiful yellow bathing suit and why oh why doesn’t my Mommy love me enough to know how great I would look in this off the shoulder size 16 suit despite the fact I should be wearing a size 8 with a built-in t-shirt (sans hole).
I happened to be on a day pass (well, an hour pass) from the kids when I opted to return the shirt. I don’t often cash in my day passes running menial errands but I knew this could be done swiftly if I didn’t have the kids, the alligator, the need to check my hand-eye coordination on an elliptical in high-speed dubbing mode, that damn, oversized, banana yellow, hoochie bathing suit.
I very politely set the t-shirt on the counter and then, as always, totally predictably, every time I try to return something, I start to panic and almost talk the staff member into not accepting the return. I feel guilty about the hole as though I might somehow be responsible. Maybe the elliptical machine caught on the tag before we left the store? Maybe during the escalator ride(s!!!) it somehow became entangled when we dismounted, maybe the banana yellow bathing suit tug-of-war took a prisoner in the form of the bathing t-shirt?
The girl looked at the bar code on the tag while I wiped the sweat from the back of my neck. She’s going to think I just took this shirt off the store shelf, threw it in my bag and now I’m up at the counter trying to return it for money.
Oh God she thinks I’m a shoplifter.
She asks a few questions and I find myself explaining the situation, what I bbq’d for dinner last night, how warm our pool water has gotten, the price of nectarines, are you excited about the Olympics? Sweat.
I keep telling myself this hole is not my fault and then I notice the video surveillance screen a few feet from my head. Now I’m on tape talking to myself about the other fifty things I have to get done before the grilled cheese sandwiches need to be flipped for lunch and I start blathering on about summer holidays, the few groceries I need to pick up but you know how you always buy way more than you planned before you get into the store.
Why would she believe I didn’t do this on purpose? It’s a kids t-shirt and I don’t even have any kids with me?
When she asked, “Do you want another purple one?” I said, “Colour isn’t really that important.” So now she thinks I put a hole in a shirt because I’d rather have the blue one. Maybe she thinks I want to exchange it for a yellow bathing suit that will fit my daughter six years from now. Maybe those cameras caught our motley crew messing up some perfectly functioning elliptical machines and she wants me to suffer just a little.
She calls “Josh” to witness the return. Is Josh really necessary? It’s not a signing of my will, it’s a children’s bathing t-shirt return.
I hand over my MasterCard but Josh declines. We don’t need your card Ma’am (Oh God, I’m a Ma’am, shoplifter Ma’am) We’re just doing an exchange. I slapped the card down too quickly, overconfident, they are totally onto me. Wait, I haven’t done anything wrong.
I walked out of the store with exactly what I had gone in for and a gigantic yellow bathing suit only a banana could love.