Yesterday morning, Roberta came to me and, barely containing her excitement, announced: "I have to go to a funeral next week! I need to go get my hair done before that (wash and set!) and buy black pants!" The poor lady has been cooped up in a small room with a hovering husband for too long; the prospect of going to a funeral was a great treat.
Dr, Park put her in the car and gloomily waived goodbye. He hates to separate from the only person whom he can still bully.
-"Where do you want to go, Roberta?"
-"Sears!" - she sounded like she wanted to shout "Freedom!" instead.
We walked into the store and found ourselves in the tools' department. By the time we found the ladies' clothes, Roberta was pale and bent over her walker. The walker made loud screeching sounds on the linoleum floor. I hurriedly found her a chair, rubbed her back for support and went off alone in search of a suitable black pants. The trouble was, the pants were on the other side of the store. Never mind the twinges from my foot. I sat on the couch for a month. Now my legs refused to move and the muscles everywhere were sending panicky messages to my brain: "What? We have to work now? Look how far we have to go! Oh, Oh, we're not ready!" I dragged myself along the shiny linoleum, already starting to sweat and feel lightheaded. The search for black pants became a heroic quest.
The black color is not usually associated with hope, but I was overjoyed to see it. In Roberta's young days, perhaps, Sears was a happening thing. Not so now. You can see the signs of a downturn in a minimum number of salesclerks on the floor and in the clothes being mislabeled and placed in the wrong places. The same black pants that were not at all suitable for our purpose hung everywhere. I think, Sears bought a huge amount of them. I sorted and checked and pursed my lips in concentration. Finally, toting a bunch of slacks in my arms, I made slow and painful way back to where Roberta sat. We found a fitting room and I installed her in one of them, thinking that while she is trying the clothes on, I can collapse on a chair and rest.
- "Where are you going?"
- "Why, do you need help with trying these on?"
- '"Of course!"
Of course! Still sweating like a lumberjack, I helped Roberta.
- "No pockets?!"
A mourning bell began to ring in my head. If she doesn't choose one of these pairs, I'll have to repeat my trek to the land of the black pants. And I did.
As I went through my search again, I left wet spots on the clothes everywhere.
Roberta was happy with the next pair of pants that I found. Unfortunately, I could see that they were too short. When she sat down, the bottoms of the pant legs pulled half way to her knees!
I was on my way again, stars dancing in my eyes, but before I went too far I had an idea. I went to the cash register and requested to see a clerk for assistance. I could tell, it was not Sears' policy to help customers with their search, but I still waited. A person on the other end of the phone offered to look things up on computer, but how do you tell a computer that, if there wasn't exactly this thing that you wanted, it should find you something similar to that? They tried to brash me off, and something snapped in my mind. I imagined one of the b...y Russian women whom I saw in a program recently, telling someone: "Listen, you, shut your mouth!!! Get me the manager, PRONTO!"
I got a hold of my fraying nerves and calmly but firmly insisted on seeing the manager. After an eternity, a young lady with pierced nostrils, lips and eyebrows moseyed towards me. Who hired her to be a manager, I wondered.
I gave her the pants and explained what I wanted. In a few minutes she found the item that I requested and brought it to us. It was just right!
Outside the store, the breeze was playing with the tree branches. It cooled my sweaty poor body and gently waived me to the car. Life was good!