A Romantic Weekend

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, and love is in the air. That’s why the Pentagon City mall was so packed yesterday afternoon. No, wait — that’s because it’s President’s Day weekend and there’s all sorts of “sales.” At any rate those are the grounds on which Suanna suggested we visit the mall to get some stuff we’ve been needing for a while.

I kind of cherished the idea of strolling around with Ella strapped to my chest in the Baby Bjorn, so I went along with the whole shopping idea. Had I stopped to think I would have realized that going to Pentagon City on _any_ weekend afternoon is a damn fool idea, let alone a holiday weekend, but that didn’t occur to me until we were already there and confronting the long line of cars waiting to get into the parking garage.

First stop: the Wizards of the Coast store, where I hoped to be able to kill some time while Suanna got her hair cut. Turns out the place was going out of business, and everything was on sale. But “everything” consisted, by and large, of “piles and piles of crap.” WOTC was a decent enough hobby store when it first opened, but somewhere along the line they decided to stop selling all non-WOTC roleplaying material, scaled back their stock of German-style boardgames, dropped computer games altogether, and filled their shelves with bland party games, crappy chess and backgammon boards, and all umpteen-million versions of the game Cranium. During the holidays their business strategy was buy as much of this stuff as would fit into the store and then cross their fingers and hope people would buy it. This didn’t happen, which may explain why they’re going out of business — or maybe all WOTC stores are, I don’t know.

Anyway, before she left for her haircut Suanna did find a birthday present for our nephew, so it fell to me (and Ella) to wait in line. The line snaked through the crowded store, and moved at a snail’s pace because the guys at the registers weren’t the usual employees, but dudes from corporate who were just here to oversee the liquidation process. One of them was clearly annoyed that he was having to work the register at all, and expressed his annoyance by not looking at the customers and by taking his sweet time ringing their stuff up. While I was waiting in line Ella woke up and realized that weren’t _moving_, that there wasn’t enough to _see_, and started telling me so in a loud, clear voice.

Twenty minutes or so later, I had finally escaped that godforsaken place, and was weaving my way through the mall toward the Macy’s to look at rice cookers. Ella was content as long as we were moving, but given the crowds, and the fact that any given escalator had a 30% chance of being broken at any given moment, there was plenty of standing around. Thankfully she decided that the better course of action was just to shut all the noise out and fall asleep. I wish I could have done the same.

Eager to be quit of this place, I took it upon myself to get the rice cooker at Macy’s without waiting for Suanna, figuring I’d run into her while she was heading there from the haircut place to meet me. But of course we didn’t cross paths, so I reached the haircut place to find her not-there, and had to head all the way back through the insufferable crowds to the Macy’s, lugging a diaper bag and a rice cooker, with Ella — by this point, the equivalent of a high-intensity space heater — strapped to my chest. When I found Suanna she reminded me about the 15% off coupon she had clipped and that I had forgotten to use at Macy’s, so we had to wait in line _again_ to try to get the additional discount, only to discover that the rice cooker we had purchased was already on sale and no additional coupons were allowed.

When Suanna suggested that we also stop at the mattress store, I suggested (as politely as I could, which at this point wasn’t very politely) that we do it some other time. That other time turned out to be this morning. Now, I’ve never had to buy a new mattress before, so I don’t know if the sort of nonsense the lady there tried to foist on us is normal. Like the fact that the boxspring costs as much as the mattress itself (?!), a fact conveniently left off the sale flyer, and that you can’t get a warranty unless you buy both the mattress _and_ the box spring. To top it off, the big sale prices turned out to be little more than chickenshit 10% discounts. Needless to say, we didn’t get a mattress.

All this shopping fun occurred before a backdrop of hearts, ribbons, and a tidal wave of pink. I was prepared to end this little rant with a bitter complaint about Valentine’s Day as the most transparent of Hallmark holidays, a nice idea blighted by crass consumerism. Historically, though, “that’s not the case”:http://www.snarkout.org/archives/2004/02/14/. Thankfully our Valentine’s Day ended in a much more convivial atmosphere, at a birthday party, surrounded by love. For the foreseeable future, though, it will take a great deal of work to convince me ever to shop for anything anywhere except online, ever again.