Hat on Top, Coat Below


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November 24, 2002

The last time I was at REI, I saw a sweater I was immediately drawn to. It was a cardigan with a snowflake design knitted in ivory on a heathery purple gray background. I fondled it; so soft. I looked at the price tag; so affordable, on sale for $29.99. I picked it up and went over to the mock turtlenecks to see what colors would look good with it. I was imagining how perfect it would be to wear on a ski trip. I could see myself snuggled up in it in the dining room at Snowpine Lodge at Alta, laughing and talking with my travel companions. Then I noticed another woman with the same sweater in her hands, she was over by the turtlenecks. I started to doubt. Did I really want to the same sweater as this other lady? (Never mind that I didn’t know her and would probably never run into her again.) Seeing someone else with the object of my desire cooled my ardor. I started to talk myself out of it. I already have a lot of sweaters. I wouldn’t get that much use out of this one; it would only look really appropriate during the winter. It had to be hand washed or dry cleaned; that’s a hassle. And then there was the mohair; the ivory snowflakes were mohair, and that might itch or get all over the rest of my clothes. I folded the sweater and put it back on the table where I’d found it, feeling a little bit virtuous for not spending the money.

But the sweater haunted me. I wished I’d bought it; other lady, snowflakes, hand washing, mohair and all. I tried to ignore my visions of it, telling myself it was just the opposite of buyer’s remorse (put-backer’s regret, maybe?) and it would pass. It did not pass. Finally, yesterday afternoon, I decided to settle the issue by going back to REI. If the sweater was still there in my size, I’d take that as a sign it was meant to be mine and buy it, and if it wasn’t there, that was a sign I’d made the right choice to leave it in the store in the first place. Once at the store, the seasonal display in the front distracted me from my sweater hunt. “Hey, Christmas cards; I need cards, and oh look, these are pretty.” When I got back to the women’s clothing section, I was alarmed to see a couple standing by the table where the sweater had been when I last saw it— the woman in the couple was fondling a sweater just like the one I wanted it, picking it up, trying it on. I lurked over by the clearance rack for a while, looking at things I had no intention of buying, all the while keeping an eye on the interlopers. “If only I hadn’t stopped to look at the cards,” I thought, “maybe I would have gotten to the sweater before she did”. I knew it wouldn’t be polite to rush the table and snatch the sweater away from her, so I skulked around the women’s wear until they moved away from the table. They’d put two—two!—of the coveted sweaters in their basket. “Greedy yuppies,” I thought. (“Takes one to know one”, my internal critic replied.)

I practically ran over to the table. There was one sweater in the coveted colors left. (There were plenty in the navy on ivory scheme, but that was not at all a suitable substitute.) I held my breath as I turned my head to read the tag at the collar—would it be my size? It was! Yes! I grabbed it up off the table and clutched it to my chest. The sweater and I were meant to be together! It was going home with me; the other woman could have hers. (No, I probably wouldn’t have tried to take them out of her basket, but I might have stayed in the store until she actually bought them, hoping she’d change her mind.) I felt a warm glow of triumph—the sweater and I had overcome the forces that conspired to keep us apart. Well, okay, it wasn’t all that dramatic, but I was happy to check out and bring my fuzzy purchase home. Bring on the cold and snow—I have the perfect sweater now!


At the same time as I posted this entry, I posted one for yesterday, so use those “previous” links at the top or bottom of the page.

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