It was a fatal mistake. I didn't mean to do it. I shouldn't have done it.
It just happened...
I may or may not have glanced in the direction of the retail assistant and given him the teeniest, tiniest, briefest polite-greeting half-smile.
You know the kind I mean - I didn't even make eye contact it was so brief. So very brief that it was, admittedly, probably more rude than polite. The kind you give to strangers when you make awkward eye contact on the train.
(Incidentally this is also the kind of silent greeting that can acquire you some serious train-stalker action. I should have learnt my lesson last time...)
But there he was - like a genie from a puff of smoke - over my shoulder while I browsed the knitwear section...
I was stunned for 2 long seconds by the proximity of his teeth to my own facial region.
There was no need to say anything. As I was verbally barraged with the following soliloquy I could only stare blankly:
I told him that I was just having a look. This did not deter him.
My non-commited approach towards any of the garments being swung in my face had him a tiny bit worried. But it was the kind of worry that only sharpened his determination to break down each and every boundary between the two of us.
I was feeling somewhat violated from these probing questions, while he literally followed me around the shop. Literally. Switching back to more relevant topics when I clammed up like an oyster.
I think he was just beginning to grasp that I was a stone cold ice queen and (as I'd told him) wanted to rumage through the clothes on my own, when I found a garment I knew I should try. I knew I should...but...
He smellt my indecision like a rat and instantaneously buffeted me with blows of:
In true cheerleading-squad style.
I scuttled for the privacy of the changing room, hoping it would be a haven of peace and solace. But as his voice incessantly chatted away outside the door -
- I realised the daunting situation I was facing:
The changing room was just a small cubicle with a mirror so close that I could only view the garment with a scope of about 10 centimetres. The jersey cost almost $80 and it was kind of what I'd been looking for.... but in order to make a decision about my money I would have to get a better view at what I was wearing. There were big mirrors on the walls outside the cubicles.
In a perfectly rational attempt to avoid the certain barrage of jabber from the Retail Assistant, I tried instead to flatten myself back against the far wall. This gave me an extra 15cm of viewing scope... but still not enough.
I glanced towards the chatter.
I would have to open the door.
I took a deep breath and twisted the lock.
His eyes were practically rolled back in his head with the anticipation of a sale. I tried to shrink back into the far corners of my cave but his stare never left the wooly shroud around my shoulders, which I now realised was actually quite fugly and I didn't want to buy it at all.
"It's not really my thing." I said.
"IT LOOKS AMAZING ON YOU! IT'S BOTH COMFORTABLE AND GOOD-LOOKING!"
"I don't really like the look."
The details on the ensuing converstation are going to be a little boring. It was basically a big fat cycle of
and my own (progressively more blunt) objections.
I was on trial for not buying something I didn't want, because for every reason that I offered, I was given an answer arguing the opposite.
Eventually I handed back the clothes and for a second I almost saw this:
Before he spun around, and, literally, stalked off. He may have even said "FINE" and gone to sulk.
And that's how I ended up with no warm clothes this winter.