Friday, December 12, 2008

Worn Down by Sportswear

Sales Pitches Off the Pitch

Blind girlfriend Amy says:
"I just LOVE this Social Networking hat!"

My underdressed girlfriend Amy is always cold, especially during the chilly holiday season, so whenever we go out I let her "don my gay apparel" - which tends to be outdoor stadium-friendly soccer gear. Thus, on a recent reluctant visit to the Towson Mall to buy Christmas presents at Hot Topic for my niece, Amy was bundled up in my FC Barcelona knit cap and Arsenal Gunners scarf. No sooner had we made our way past Macy's into the Mall Proper when we were stopped by a kiosk vendor, who was selling electric mobile thingies.

"Where you from?" She excitedly asked Amy, pointing at her scarf.

"I'm from here," Amy replied. Sensing that the saleswoman was commenting on Amy's Asian features, I piped in, "But her Mom's from Japan."

The young woman looked confused, and again pointed to Amy's scarf, saying "Ah, Arsenal!"

"Yes, Arsenal - it's my boyfriend's scarf. Why, where are you from?" Amy inquired, wondering if the young woman was perhaps from Japan (though she certainly didn't look it), or yet another stranger that mistook her ethnicity (a frequent occurance she's been mistaken for everything from Chinese and Korean to Fillipino and Mexican!)

"I from Argentina," she replied. "You know, we have many football teams, like Boca and River Plate and my team Racing. You like Arsenal?"

Everyone, Everywhere Loves Some Arse

Being a natural blond, it takes me a while to figure out most things in life, so it took me several minutes to understand that the girl thought Amy's scarf was for Arsenal de Sarandí (Argentina's Primera Division club, and 2007 Copa Sudamericana winner, from Avellaneda, whose team nickname "El Arse" loses something in translation - but gains a snicker or two from me!) and not their more famous namesakes from North London. Now it made sense, especially when I realised that "Racing" refered to Racing Club de Avellaneda - one of two other teams (along with Club Atletico Independiente) in this chick's hometown of Avellaneda - a port city in the greater metropolitan area of Buenos Aires. Whatever.

It's too cold for London's Arsenal to celebrate like this!

Amy's scarf - and our confusion - merely served as a hook for this enthusiastic young woman to make an aggressive sales pitch for her overpriced, non-essential knick-knacks. "Why us?," I mused.

"No, really, these are very nice," Amy told the woman, Shayla. "But we're just here to buy clothes for his niece - his brother's daughter."

Aye carumba! Once you stop and open the door of conversation to salespeople, you're stuck. It's like panhandlers - you either walk past them or you're stuck hearing their long-winded stories and feeling guilt-ridden when they wish you a "blessed" day.

"So, how old is your daughter," Shayla asked. "She like this?"

"No, she's not our daughter," I responded. "She's 23, but we're heading to Hot Topic to get her something."

Shayla still was either utterly confused or not listening. "So, your daughter live with you?" she asked.

"No, we don't live together," Amy said and, continuing with way Too Much Information, added, "and we don't have a daughter. You see, I'm too old for children anyway, though he's not."

Geeze, I felt like Amy was pimpin' me out as a baby-making fertility machine with that his-boys-can-still-swim-upstream comment! Anyway, 10 minutes later we finally escaped, guilt-ridden that we couldn't help Shayla with a sale, and frustrated by the language barrier that somehow left her with the impression that we didn't love our non-existant daughter enough to lavish her with non-essential and expensive doo-dads.

We had barely walked three feet before another vendor stopped us.

"Barcelona!" a young man exclaimed, approaching us with what we thought were food samples, but turned out to be body lotion samples.

"Oh, no! Here we go again!" says blind girlfriend Amy

Mes Que un Hat

Amy laughed and looked at me, saying, "You and your hat!"

Only the day before we were walking through Belvedere Market when the counter guy at Neopol Savory Smokery pointed at Amy's cap and shouted out "Viva Barcelona!" Stepping out from the counter we saw he was wearing a nifty FC Barcelona jersey.

"Mes que un club," I replied, giving him the thumbs up as I repeated the team's motto ("More than a club").

Apparently my hat was also more than a hat, as it allowed pesky mall vendors to stop us under the guise of complimenting Barca, only to further their own sales agenda.

Things Get Messi

Back at the Mall, the young man bearing lotion samples exclaimed, "I love Barcelona! Here, I give you gift, if only for Messi!" (That would be Lionel Messi, pictured at left, the pint-sized Argentine footballer who looks like a young Roman Polanski and plays winger for Barca like the reincarnation of fellow Argentine legend Diego Maradona.)

"Since you love Barcelona, I give you free demonstration!" Alas, the "gift" turned out to be another sales pitch.

With that the swarthy looking young salesman of indeterminant ethnicity (Indian? Middle Eastern?) grabbed Amy's left hand and started rubbing the lotion into her thumbnail, the whole time pitching his sale.

"This your wife? Girlfriend? You love her?"

Before I could respond, he continued, "She is beautiful, no? She deserve to stay beautiful, no, and this [Expensive Nail Polisher Product of Indeterminant Name] would make great Christmas present for her. Normally $49.95 but today, since you love Barca and you love her, I give you $24.99, what you say?"

After much apologetic banter - not to mention Amy's momentary waffling as she admitted "Hmmm, my nail does look really shiny now" - we finished explaining our economic hardship case to the determined salesman of indeterminant ethincity and creeped away, downrodden and guilt-ridden again. How quickly those smiles on the faces of salespeople turn to frowns when you don't show them the money.

Walking towards Norstrom's, Amy handed me the hat folded the scarf under her coat.

"I'm taking these off! We'll never make it to Hot Topic with your goofy hat."

Yes, it's best to look as unapproachable as possible around the Mall! No brand name clothes, no clothing expressing slogans, catchphrases, or athletic, political or musical opinions of any sort!

That said, we proceeded to enter the Mecca of Message Garb, Hot Topic.


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