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November 28, 2008

Can I just pay here?

November 28. Day 151.

I started the day with the best intentions -- to pay homage to San Diego merchants and help the American economy by participating in that mystical exercise called Black Friday. Join the pilgrimage. Prepare for the holidays. Incant with the rest of the masses: "Could I please see that in my size?" Slide my credit card. And, repeat!

My mother and I headed to Fashion Valley, central San Diego's shopping mecca. But 30 seconds after pulling into the parking lot, we had a simultaneous epiphany: What were we thinking?? Just the line to find parking was infernal -- why would we ever venture to a mall on Black Friday??

She put on her turn signal and we managed to squeeze out with a narrow u-turn, thanks to a nice guy in an SUV and another in a beemer who let us pass. Thanks, dudes!

Next stop: Adams Avenue, whose antiques shops my mother had frequented decades before, picking up small treasures here and there. But everything was cheap and overpriced. Crappy baubles and trinkets, faux this and that, QVC style delicacies, at full retail price. I noticed a teapot made of glass, almost identical to what's selling at a store I love (World Market) -- at triple the cost. I wanted to ask the sweet old lady sitting at the counter, "Have you ever set foot in another store besides your own? Do you know that there are these things called 'competitors' out there, and they're kicking your ass?"

But I held my tongue.

Finally, we stopped at a gift store and cool-thing boutique on the way home, because I wanted to pick up a present for my friend, I, whom I'd visited in NY in September. I was going to her baby shower Saturday, and I had a present, but the more I thought about it, it wasn't quite right.

So I picked up a jewelry box and a pearl bracelet for her daughter to be, and my mother happened to find a book of Japanese prints she liked.

The man at the jewelry counter, frail and vaguely elderly looking (40? 80? hard to say!), explained he could only ring up the bracelet - we'd have to wait in the normal line for the other items.

As it happened, that line was very long -- Black Friday long -- so I used every drop of charm, every whit of wit, to explain that it was just two more items, what's another zap or two of his scanning gun, and what's policy when you have a happy customer?

He shuffled behind the counter unconvinced, looking for a gift box for the jewelry, and meanwhile, I set up the two items on the counter, barcode up.

"Thank you!" I replied, so relieved, when he got back, as if it were a fait accompli. He rang everything up together. By that point, it was just as easy to help as not.

Gained: 20 minutes or so.
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