not labeled for individual retail sale

5.8.05

sniff your underwear

But I shan't be fooled twice.

I rounded back to the place where I fleetingly saw the shadow of an outlet that was placed (sooo strategically) out of view. Since all the thick, boring cylinders that held up the ceiling looked more or less the same, I had a ton of difficulty locating the suggestive location again. I know you're wondering, spine erect and completely at the edge of your seats, the same question I asked myself: Why didn't I just use it the first time? Because I was afraid my mother wouldn't be able to see me, even though no matter what, I would still be able to catch the flight on my own.

This time I was left without any choice. Yes, the outlet was indeed working - as connected to it was a large machine holding seven different scratch-off cards, none of which I would win anything promised. And yes, this bulky and inelegant object blocked my peripheral vision until I no longer had any. How lovely. I get to obscure myself further.

Upon entrance, the green light flashed, and turned orange. Yay! Now if I just turn down the brightness...

There.

The lowest level of visibility was set, and I was on my way in Hogwarts trying hopelessly to thwart the awful, terrible, mean, naughty, no-good Draco Malfoy. Unaware of any lapse in real time (except for the mournful coos of "It's thirteen forteeee-fiive" that emanate out of my speakers every fifteen minutes), I didn't even notice the battery meter - something I had been checking every two minutes when I first sat down. There was a mere thirty minutes of charging left, when suddenly, I leapt up and decided to find Mom.

"Excuse me," I said in the sweetest voice possible. Frankly, my voice is always sweet, so, um, go fuck yourself! "Can you watch this laptop for just a few seconds? I want to go find my mother and tell her where I am."

Awww. What a dutiful and pretty daughter. Let's give her some stale peanuts.

Hopefully, those weren't the thoughts running through the stewardess's head. But whatevsky; she replied positively, so I dashed off only to knock right into an Asian woman that oddly resembled my own mother. Hey, what do you know? It is my mother!

"The boarding session has already started!" she said in shrill Mandarin.

Hwa? The boarding session has already begun? "But mom, I told you to stand in place so we won't have to split seats again!" I replied wearily. The last time we were forced to sit in the middle seat at two different places, and for coach class, that translates to Being Squashed Between Two Titanium Walls [BSBTTW]. I was not looking forward to three and half hours of vertical pressurization, whilst trying to thwart the awful, terrible, mean, naughty no-good Draco Malfoy and balancing a small transparent cup full of cranberry juice.

In case I die before I finish this post, I'll go ahead and relieve you of your suspense. I got an aisle seat.

Moving on. As I heroically cascade through three different time zones, I was also forced to relieve past memories of hope. This summer, I have originally been planning to finish 12,000 more words in my novel, code a kickass calculus program so I wouldn't have to do any math work during my first year at the Academy, get a boyfriend, and vacuum my room. Really? Did I really hope that? Damn! I'm so naïve.

**Present-day America, July 28th - August 2nd, 2005**

These days have gone by monotonously. When I wake up, I doubt that another day has come, eventually convince myself otherwise, skip breakfast, sleep, and wake up again. The highlights that puncture my routine are trips to Indianapolis to shop.

Most of you know also that I am going to be moving into a cramped dorm room soon, full of mildew, hidden cameras planted by Vicki Barton, and excruciating heat. And probably the lost ghost of Erdős. But I like Erdős. I have an Erdős number of 5. So you see, the only good thing that comes out of this is Katy Bowling, because she's more awesome than you are.

This is not to say that I'm an ungrateful little brat, though that I am as well. This is to say that I have shopped some fifty hours just this week, and I have a lot of stuff. Like this halogen lamp...and...um...this saved scrap of the draft of my first Strongbad email...and...a doormat...and...um. Yeah.

One of these escapades was particularly ferocious. Let me set the scene, or as we say in Spanish class, use a lot of "eras" and "abas". It was a nice Saturday morning. The birds were chirping. The earth was spinning. At least one person at Princeton, NJ choked on his coffee. Ha-ha. I had been given a heads-up beforehand by Mom, stating plainly that if I wanted to go, I would need to hit the sack early. I followed this order to the last letter. Unfortunately, I still decided to wake up late that day. In fact, the only reason I woke up at all was because my mum was yelling at the phone (she never talks) with Helen's mother.

"Oh, our Demie...she's so tall, don't worry about it/Yep, it's a teenager thing, Demie is getting *gasp* moody!" Oh noes! Moody! That is so terrible, considering the type of stress I'm experiencing, with writing my novel and whatnot! I'm supposed to be superhuman, remember? But wait! I never told you of my plans to publish it, pay for Nettie's university fees, and do something worthwhile, 'cause every day you wake up you bitch about how useless and worthless I am because I'm always on the computer! Why should I bother with spilling the beans to you, then?

I groaned and my eyes fluttered open, subconsciously ranting against my mother. Oh. Look at the time. It's ten thirty.

Whoa! The mathematician! And his genius son!

I shot straight up, levitating another seven feet. This time, I wasn't the least bit surprised, because I knew our ceiling was built that high. I closed my eyes and fell sideways again, my hair pouring over an invisible edge. Helen's mum is married to Mister Jin Zhi Ren, one of the few people who truly understands me. He's this hilarious guy...and...yeah okay, I'll stop there, because if I continue I'll go into a rant about how cool and amusing and awesome and sock-rocking and smart and interesting and I WISH HE WAS MY DADDY and... yeah. And yes, his son is a fucking prodigy.

Right. I woke up and laid in my curled position for about ten more minutes, listening to the loud laughter thankfully muffled by a door. Finally, I obligated myself to fly down, jump in a cute skirt, and step out into the living room. My mum saw me and bid the caller goodbye.

The road to Indianapolis was riddled with Strauss, Nelly, and complaints to shut the damn music off. I've been telling Mum I need new headphones for over a year now, but she refuses to buy them because they're too "expensiiiiiive, nya nya nyaaah." By the way, if you're reading this, you had better give me a new pair for my birthday. Count on it, suckah.

So the big dilemma, while we jostled around the minivan, was whether to eat lunch first, or pay Kohl's a nice visit. At first, my mum was pissed that I had woken up so late, because she had imparted her aspirations to me yesterday that she wanted to go early so we can shop at Kohl's. Then we realized that we could either go on the way or on the way back without cutting through the gas too much. That took a lot of thinking, man!

First stop: Macy's.

I ran around in circles screaming on the top of my lungs that I needed a comforter and if the laundry god would just help me again, I'd repay him in ways he'd never known. Suddenly, I spotted a wonderful deal and I called my mum over to a 39.99 object stuffed with a bunch of goosefeathers. Mother felt it and proceeded to scold me for about two hours how awful and uncomfortable this felt against her sensitive skin, and that because I was a little brat, so it'd feel worse against mine. Then she ranted about how quality > price and that I should get a nice down or something. I looked around. All the downs cost ninety dollars or more.

"Well," Mother stuttered, "whatever." This bold, intimidating woman standing before me was no longer standing before me when she strode over in front of an Egyptian cotton blanket. "This is 14.99," she said stiffly. "And I like it."

I slapped my hand over my head.

The truth is, I liked it too. I loved it! In fact, the first time I went to Macy's to shop seriously for my dorm supplies, I pointed and whined and clawed and cried and made a big ruckus, but she refused to hear me out.

"It's cotton," she retorted in the same stiff voice. "And it unravels if you wash it."

Okay, so now she's telling me she likes it as if she found this first and I was just a wannabe poser. I can take that. I glared and swiped the blanket away from the shelf, muttered something that sounded like "that's what I thought", and went to pay for it. The end.

Second stop: Target.

Oh yeah baby, Target! Target is my favorite store ever for the reasons I subtly noted in part one. I basically just rocked there, buying my mini lava lamp that lights up when I plug the USB cord into my iBook, trashing the place, and overall, singing loudly through the shoe aisles.

Third stop: Kohl's.

Yeah well, Kohl's is an expensive slut, so I went next door and found a really cheesy looking store that had great deals. They were so great, they were better than the gummi bears I foolishly bought after a very talented salesman spewed some esoteric words that I didn't understand. In my face. I had heard that there was a store specializing in only bedding items; this vast area of merchandise included the Perfect Down I was looking for, and maybe even one of those plush pillows filled with refreshing beads. Or rice. Or goosefeathers.

But alas, I had been swindled again! I meandered pointlessly in the hot, sweltering sun, asking first the people at Kohl's, then the people at that other store, then crossing two busy streets to reach two connected strip [topology!!!!] malls so I could better read their signs. I was hoping one of them named themselves Awesome Bedding Materials™ (So Awesome We're Better Than Gummi Bears) ABM (SAWBTGB), but... wait... Swedish Beauty and Australian Gold tanning lotions?? Hwa?

Okay, this just took my adventure to a new degree of scariness.

And, to top it off, all of the individual stores were closed! Except on the very end. Dominoes Pizza. Late night hours, too. Wow, finally, a contrasting, decent, hard-working place serving the general population undyingly even during the wee hours. We need more places like Dominoes, yo! [Hear, hear)

The second hear is unbounded, in case you thought it was a typo. Quit trying to trip me up over a mistake I didn't make.

Finding myself a sixth of a mile away from Kohl's, I begrudgingly exited the air-conditioned dining parlor and walked all the way back again. After all, I admit, this was my undoing.

I called my mom to tell her I was coming back. She answered the phone with renewed tones of happiness, so I could only suspect that she has found something worthy of attention. Sure enough, when I walked in, she held up a very ugly pair of pants and went on to coo at it like Marzipan talking to a sandwich that Homestar Runner made. The laundry god was on my side this time; therefore, her cooing did not extend through the rest of the day, but ended within twenty minutes.

"Let's go buy it!" she concluded firmly.

We marched up to the sales register and expected to leave in less than five minutes. To our utter surprise, however, the woman's computer refused to ring up the item in question.

75476811

25000000

25000?

10783000

Because she was bewildered, she kept on punching in random numbers that were printed on the tag. It was totally silly because a) some of the ink has worn off through fatigue and age and b) the number that denotes every article of clothing should be at the same location. Also, there can't have been that many numbers, so was she starting to put these numbers in a matrix and type in their eigenvalues? I had a hunch that, because 25 was too little to be the correct entry, she added zeros to bluff the computer. Well, the computer certainly wasn't going to take that shit.

"Right," I said, after a while. "Is it not coming up?"

It was a rhetorical question, but, you know, a lot of good, insightful conversations start with rhetorical questions. Instead, she ignored me completely and went on with the mindless striking.

"Umm," I began again, this time trying to sound tentative and polite. A lot of people don't like fourteen-year-old girls appearing even remotely cheeky. "If it's not working, don't you think you should get your manager or something?"

Again, the ignoring thing. Finally, she had the sense to lift up her beige phone and press the intercom button. "All available to number six, all available to number six."

It's always fun to hear that around the entire mall and see the source saying the words at the same time. Kind of akin to when you walk into a radio station and see the guy talking to the whole city, only a lot less enthralling, because a mall is not a city. I like amplification.

Sometime afterwards the phone rang again, and the woman, whom I shall conveniently entitle Labbaba, picked it up and spoke into it.

"Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah."

I won't bore you with more yeahs, because the rest of it is just "yeah" until I couldn't believe it physically possible for any human to say yeah anymore.

Labbaba hung up.

"Listen, I don't know what's wrong with our computer, but it's not ringing up," she pointed a long, manicured finger at the pants. "So, I'm sorry. I can't do anything for you."

A thick (not to mention, embarrassing) silence built up. It was so thick, I probably could've taken my pocketknife and sliced a nice donut out of the air. This wishful thinking, desgraciadamente, is hampered by two facts:

a) I didn't have a pocketknife and
b) Air is invisible, so I wouldn't be able to prove anything

The lady behind us smiled, as if her well-intentioned smile could dispel such tension. You see, at first, we were still digesting this piece of information. We didn't know what she meant by "I can't do anything for you." Then it struck us: we're not allowed to buy them!

Mother and I exchanged enigmatic looks.

"What?!" I finally spoke. (Don't blame me; I just couldn't hold it in any longer! Something like that merits some type of dramatic outburst, don't you think?) "You mean, we're not allowed to buy it?"

But this Labbaba, oh man, she avoided my question even though I attacked her with it several times using different variations. She simply stated again and again, "I can't help you."

No shit, Sherlock! I can see that! But why don't you just tell us whether we can buy it or not? So you're saying we can't buy it? But we're your customers! This is the fault of your badly behaving technology, not the people who pay you! Which is weird, isn't it, because most stores are begging for purchase, whereas here, we're being denied it. Why don't you just believe us when we say, "The original red sticker was 15.00, and there was a 70% discount on it."? Oh, because –

Wait a minute. Some old lady is coming over. Covergirl, again. She's so wrinkly! And she smells like Mrs. Mitchell, my middle school principal, because she's wearing so much perfume.

"What's going on here?" she asked.

Note: the above is slightly fabricated because the authoress didn't have time to put in the correct sequence of correspondence. That is, I couldn't find an eloquent yet short way to phrase the fact that Labbaba called over her manager first, and then the manager asked about what was going on. That is to say (further), that because I couldn't find an eloquent yet short way to express this, I used a note, which is automatically excluded by the 'eloquent', 'short' parameters of blogwriting.

"These people are like, taking up my time, and I don't want to deal with them," whined Labbaba. "Like, they want to acquire something that isn't in our database, so, um, if you could like, give me a raise, I'd totally appreciate it. Enough to buy you some sandals for your birthday. You're fifty, right? But let me tell you, you look like you're sixty-one."

The manager looked at us, then at the pants, and then at Labbaba. Finally, she said, "Let me see what I can do."

She disappeared immediately into the thicket of overpriced clothes and fake brand-name substances. After a while, the manager emerged with another pair of pants that looked completely different from the one we were hoping to buy.

"Do an override," she said. But since Labbaba was quite inept at handling her own computer, it ended up being the manager who carried out her own orders.

The screen flashed up.

10.00

"为设麽银幕上写十块钱?" I asked Mum.

"I think there will be a discount," she said in English, indirectly hinting that there was something wrong to Labbaba.

Labbaba, being the insensitive clerk she was...yep, you guessed it, ignored us.

The screen quickly showed a correction of three dollars. We relaxed.

Just as we were walking toward the main exit, though, my mother found a glaring error in the receipt. Although it read

10.00
-3.00

We were actually charged 15 dollars.

"Stop," my mother commanded in her motherly voice. She dragged me painfully back by the wrist and rounded upon Labbaba again.

But, of course, Labbaba ignored everything my mother said (rudely) and imposed, "You pay ten dollars. That pair of pants costs ten dollars. End of story."

Even in the face of my mother's leet logic!

"But," my mom bravely said in broken English, "that pair of pants was completely different from the pair I bought! How can you just override them like that? They're not equivalent! I also – "

" – They're ten dollars," interrupted Labbaba.

Obviously we weren't going to get much out of her.

Next step: March up to the customer service department.

The worker behind the desk was blonde, and her hair was frizzied up from overperming/restless sleep. It seemed like she had never seen a comb in her life, because in retrospect, "frizzied up" may just be too gentle for what I'm talking about. She had like, an afro or something. And if it isn't an afro, it could be portrayed as "the change in velocity", because her hair definitely looked like a delta sign miles away.

"Hello," said the woman (her name was Sandra), after a brief wait. "How may I help you today?"

"Yes," my mother said. And proceeded to pour out her soul-touching story.

Sandra mistook our situation quite like Labbaba did at first. She was, however, much more intelligent and open-minded. She was willing to hear my mother out.

"So it was 15 dollars," Sandra reiterated. "And she charged you ten dollars. But you're really only supposed to pay nine. So she overcharged you by a buck."

The last sentence was uttered with an almost revolting air, as if we were bickering about something so little.

"No no no," I interjected. "It was 15 dollars, but we get 70% off because it was placed in the red-ticket clearance racks. Honestly," I added, catching her eye.

"I believe you. But 70% off of 15 is nine."

I looked at mother incredulously. A large bubble of laughter started to grow at the bottom of my stomach (as well as Mum's), and I had to fight it with all my strength to keep it from erupting.

"Umm, let's see here," I said, taking out my cell phone. Demonstration is the key. "15...times...point seven...equals 10 point five...15...minus 10 point five...four point five..."

Sandra swiftly turned away from us and went farther in. The tapping of her fingers was so noisy that I wondered just how big her calculator was. Probably one of those mirror-sized calculators in which the display alone is bigger than my two thumbs combined. If I had an extra hand, bigger than my three thumbs combined. For some reason, though, she took a very long time with her calculation. Finally she grumbled and turned around.

"So you pay $4.50..."

We left the store giggling like a pair of Japanese schoolgirls, which is only quarter correct because we're Chinese and only I am a schoolgirl. That took a bit of a strain on our shopping schedule, but it was well worth it. I mean, I won't claim to be an expert on complex analysis, but I will take to bitching about an adult woman not knowing how to calculate percentages while WORKING AS A STORE CLERK. *cough.

Oh, and, did I say intelligent? Oops.

Fourth stop: Wal-Mart.

Little Miss Demosthenes walked complacently in through the sliding doors, hair uplifted as if she touched an intensely static megalomaniac. In reality though, it was the welcoming Wal-Mart vents, blowing cool and hot hair continuously whenever a new client dares to enter. The hidden speakers were booming a message so loud that Demosthenes could no longer distinguish what it said; the beginning was something like, "WE'RE SORRY, WE CANNOT AFFORD TO KILL YOU ALL. BUT, WAL-MART EMPLOYEES? YOU GUYS ARE ENCOURAGED TO SWITCH TO FREEBSD NOW TO SPARE YOURSELVES ANY PHYSICAL HARM. SCREW THEM CUSTOMER BITCHES..."

For some reason, the message made Demie's hair stand on end - and every single strand of it. If the air and the incomprehensible booming wasn't enough, the lights were virtually off, giving the dirty discount store a dim glare. All the TVs overhead were churning with white noise, combined harmonically to drown the dull roar of conversation. Seeing all of them at once from a safe distance reminded her of the mosaics they did in art class...though she had never taken art. False, implanted memory? Perhaps so.

It was then that Demie realized the entire power had been cut off not long ago. Sound waves altered their pitch as Demie went under each air vent, finding locked bathrooms, entering an open one illuminated only by two emergency lights and the flickering, strobe-esque pipes...

Fifth stop: County Market.

Just kidding.

***

"Why yes. Yes indeed," I said, while twirling my hair. "Of course. Excellent. Well then, we have nothing else to say, do we?"

Pause.

"Goodnight, Albert."

Click.

Mwahahahhaha. One more step to controlling the entire country of Belgium.

9 Comments:

  • Belgium? who cares about belgium?

    What kind of functionality would you be programming into this awesome calc machine dealie? TI-89s already have CASs and are required for BC.

    By Anonymous Anónimo, at 23:49  

  • i care about belgium.

    what kind of functionality? anonymous, i was thinking of typing in a problem and having the answer pop out. sounds far-fetched? actually, with a bit of tweaking i'm sure it will work. in fact, i had the original syntax basically planned out.......

    -demdems

    ps: i don't have an 89 yet
    pps: you didn't read the whole blog post. i can tell

    By Blogger little miss demosthenes, at 12:16  

  • i did read the whole thing... i'd comment on the general incompetence of store clerks, but i thought ti-89s were more interesting :-P

    By Anonymous Anónimo, at 19:32  

  • heh.

    By Blogger little miss demosthenes, at 08:43  

  • la de da, excellent post!

    By Anonymous Anónimo, at 10:09  

  • ... that he was going to leave a comment earlier and is now endeavoring to meet all such obligations.

    By Anonymous Jeremy Michael, at 16:36  

  • i love you all. seriously.

    -d

    By Blogger little miss demosthenes, at 15:34  

  • There's a moth flying around my light. I wouldn't mind but it's shadow keeps crossing my keyboard which is very distractioning

    R

    By Anonymous Anónimo, at 22:36  

  • i'm really sorry about that, anonymous. i hope the moth stops flying. or the light goes dead. or you become less bitchy about tiny things.

    heh ;)

    love you all
    -demosthenes

    By Blogger little miss demosthenes, at 08:11  

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