At my beloved T.J. Maxx, you can waltz in and be left to your own devices. You’re not a target. You get your personal space.
I’ll no longer enter a tiny boutique, just for browsing purposes, if I look through the windows and see that it’s empty. Been there, done that, a few too many times, having the owner latch onto me, providing a detailed history of each item I suggest looks cute, laying on the passive-aggressive guilt trip if I leave without a bag in my hand.
Retail is not my therapy.
It’s outdoor holiday market season in the city. I work a block away from one. Another market is on my route home. Each vendor’s stall is a tinier version of a tiny boutique. My strategy this year was to walk through them with my earbuds tightly in place, to keep the artisans from pouncing, to keep them clinging to the assumption that any of their stories or proposals would fall on deaf ears. I forbid myself from buying anything that couldn’t be eaten. NO MORE JEWELRY was my main market mantra.
It got off to a promising start – macaroon dealers; the smells of Korean barbecue floating through the air; beautiful hand-crafted necklaces that I glanced at but didn’t dare go near; bundled-up out-of-towners, visibly thrilled to experience Christmas in New York.
I made five seconds of eye contact with a vendor who took on a troubled expression, moving her lips enough to get me to remove one earbud. I thought she was in pain.
“Can I borrow your hand?” she asked.
The phrasing caught me off guard. Pouncing ensued. She grabbed my hand, dipped her fingertips into the waxy puddle of a small burning candle, and massaged the wax into my skin, talking up its restorative benefits.
“These would make good gifts,” I heard myself say.
“Yes,” she agreed, gently rubbing, “they would.”
“I walk through here pretty much every night,” (also untrue), “so maybe I’ll swing back by and pick a few up later.” How’s that for a proper goodbye?
She smiled. I didn't go back for the candles, but look forward to wearing my new earrings and pointer-finger ring to Christmas dinner.