Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, July 28, 2005

10,000 Villlages / Story Hour at CAtO

While there's no doubt that I'm missing Timmy's blogging these days, at least Princess Monkey has been doing a great job filling in for him at Voice in the Wilderness. I enjoyed her recent snapshot of street life, involving the kind of situation most of us have probably encountered more than once - especially if we live in a city. And after my criticisms of the Maclean's article on Wal-Mart the other day, she posted a much more constructive response, which talked about 10,000 Villages - a chain of stores which I highly recommend and which was founded for the purpose of doing 'fair' trade and trying to improve the lives of the people whose goods are sold in the store (for more info, follow the link).

In honour of that post, I'm going to leave aside the politics today and just tell a somewhat humourous personal story involving me, my girlfriend and Ten Thousand Villages. It doesn't really have a point, or a moral, it's just a little story1.

The story takes place in Victoria, in the weeks before Christmas, sometime after the turn of the millennium. Me and my girlfriend (let's call her B for the sake of this story) were in the 10,000 villages store in the Broadmead Mall for the second time in a couple of weeks and B was looking for a gift for a friend. B was taking her time and was also pausing frequently to look at a brightly coloured set of matching scarf, hat and mittens from Peru. I was getting restless, as I tend to do in any store which doesn't sell books, and was passing time at the listening station, enjoying a Putamayo 'Mississippi Blues' CD. B found a gift for her friend, but, after agonizing over it for a while, passed on buying the scarf, figuring it was too expensive or maybe impractical since she already had winter clothes.

Being the observant boyfriend that I am (good thing B doesn't read this blog - or that line would have either made her laugh or gotten her angry - depending on what things I haven't been noticing lately :) I found time in the next week or so to sneak off to the store and buy the scarf and hat (the mittens were the wrong size) as a surprise Christmas present.

This was the point at which things started to go wrong. It was a few days later and we were headed out shopping to buy something or other (groceries perhaps). Then B says, 'We have to stop at 10,000 thousand villages because I've decided I'm going to buy that scarf after all'. It's true that I'm not all that observant, but I have learned to recognize a certain tone in B's voice, a tone that tells me that a decision has been made and nothing short of all out warfare is going to change it. I may have made some token effort to dissuade her (I don't recall) but if I did, it certainly didn't work. The situation clearly called for desperate measures. As we headed out the door, I feigned having to go the bathroom and darted back inside, surreptitiously grabbing the cordless phone and the phone book, locked myself into the bathroom, turned on the tap for a little background cover noise and called the store.

The lady who answered the phone (probably a volunteer) patiently listened as I explained my predicament. Somewhat to my surprise, she was even agreeable to my request that she take the scarf and hat off the shelves and hide them for the duration of our visit. I mentioned to the lady that B, having decided to buy the scarf, was likely to be quite persistent, so she wasn't likely to be deterred by a simple empty shelf. The lady assured that me she could handle it.

20 minutes later we arrived at the store and, sure enough, there wasn't a brightly coloured Peruvian hat or scarf to be seen. I had given the salesperson a description of me and B and she spotted us right off and was lurking helpfully nearby when B went looking for answers.

'No I'm sorry we're sold out of that item'

'Yes, I know we had some of them just the other day, but they were quite popular and they sold quickly.'

'Well, I could order it, but I think even the warehouse is out of stock so we'd have to wait and see if they're getting another shipment in'.

'No I don't think the other store [there are two 10,000 villages stores in Victoria] has any either - I'm sorry.'

It was a virtuoso performance which left B frustrated, but scarfless. I silently mouthed a thank-you to the salesperson, but I felt that I should buy something as a thank-you, especially since having the scarf and hat off the shelves for the half-hour or so could conceivably have cost the store a sale. So I decided to buy the Mississippi Blues album. B told me it probably wasn't any good and that it was a waste of money but I figured she was just cranky about the scarf, plus I couldn't tell her my real reason for buying it, so I just went ahead and bought it anyway over her protests.

We got about 10 steps out of the store, and I was breathing a huge sigh of relief at having been successful with the scarf deception when B confronted me. 'Why did you have go and buy that CD', she asked, 'you shouldn't buy things for yourself this close to Christmas.' It turned out that B, having seen me listening to the CD on our previous visit, had gone out and bought me a copy as a surprise Christmas present! She was pretty annoyed that I had gone ahead and bought a copy of my own, so we turned around and went back into the store to return the CD.

We were about two steps back into the store, when I suddenly froze. Thinking we had left, the salesperson had probably put the hat and scarf back on the shelf (which was located prominently in the center of the store). I looked over and, sure enough, there they were in all their brightly coloured - and hard to miss - glory.

'What's wrong?', B asked.
'Nothing', I replied, trying to keep my voice light, while simultaneously trying to subtly maneuver myself between B and the shelf with the scarf. She looked a little skeptical, but I made some excuse and hurried her to the counter to get our refund. It was a nervous couple of minutes, but I managed to stay between B and the shelf and get her out of the store without her seeing the scarf.

Needless to say, it was hard to hold my tongue when B gave me a hard time about buying the CD, but it was all worth it on Christmas day, when she opened the present and I could see how happy (and surprised) she was to get the scarf and the hat.

The End.

1 I've been listening to the brilliant CD, 'A Grand Don't Come for Free' by The Streets lately, a CD which documents a few fairly routine days in the life of a typical English 'lad', so perhaps this explains, at least in part, why I felt like people might actually be interested in hearing about the random details of my life.

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  • Hi Declan: hilarious. I can't believe you managed to keep B from seeing the scarves. What a great story - thanks.

    By Blogger Princess Monkey, at 5:21 PM  

  • I have always liked this story :)

    By Blogger the Mom, at 8:00 AM  

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