Sometimes I think shopping is a penance delivered down to us male of the species by a revengeful superior being. The females of this world, by and large, enjoy this activity though some purport not to and try to hoodwink us into thinking they are like us. Not true. Nobody has the trials and tribulations that we men do when we undertake to go shopping for some little clothing purchase.
There is a completely different strategy adopted here as well. I, and this is a personal account of things, tend to use the blitz approach, whereby I head for the nearest store, do a five or ten minute recce, see the item I need, pick it up, march to the sales counter, pay for it, bag it and walk away. End of story. Some lady buyers however seem to use the stealth approach, where they may over-fly a huge number of shops, find the very item they want, pick it up, look at it, turn it round, put it back on the rail, go away, come back to it, pick it up, look at it, turn it round, put it back on the rail and go away. Maybe even leave the store altogether, and do the same procedure in a huge number of shops, eventually to return to the first one to discover the size they wanted has now gone, and so the whole process starts again to find a suitable alternative.
We, or at least I, cannot quite figure that out, but apparently it’s all to do with choice and maybe, just maybe out there somewhere is a better bargain that if discovered after purchasing the first choice would be a disaster of cataclysmic proportions. Ok, I can see some logic in this, but the trauma of having to go through the ultimate shopping horror over and over again just appals me and I couldn’t cope with that. This ultimate shopping horror is of course the dreaded ‘trying-it-on’ process. I really detest this part of shopping, and can very happily purchase socks, underwear, shirts in general, casual or otherwise, but trousers …. I begin to break down into a cold sweat and start to shake violently at the very thought of it. It brings back far, far too many disastrous memories of moments of sheer and utter bedlam that has befallen me over the years.
The first approach to buying trousers, be they smart dress ones or simply casual jeans or chinos or suchlike, is to go and weigh up the choices. Not one store has the same size in all their trousers. Each style though it may like to think they have a universal sizing regime in place is just kidding itself. I know from experience that this is simply not true. They are all made by some little foreign tailor half way up a mountain in some far off country and his selection of sizes differ greatly from his pal in another far off country. A size 36 waist in one is a size 34 or even a size 38 in another. A leg length of 34” in one is a 32” in another and so on it goes. This means that I have to ‘try them on’. A relatively simple process, that hundreds of men are capable of doing day in day out. Why then do you think it causes me so much grief and distress ? Is it me … or is it that there is some kind of hidden force field surrounding those horror chambers they called ‘Fitting Rooms’.
I generally find that after a long time looking and wondering and holding up alongside me I finally have the strength to take two pairs to the ‘Fitting Rooms’ and I stride off in search of an assistant. Within seconds of my approach towards these little cubicles, there appears three or more of these people, each one eager to help and ‘assist’. I faff about with my purchase and she then leads me off and into their inner sanctum, and guides me through the opening and there before me is a choice of three small cupboards with a sliding curtain concealing the entrance. This she sweeps aside in a confident manner and ushers me through with the now familiar words … “There you go sir, and just give me a shout if you need any assistance”.
I am now inside this ‘room’, which if I’m lucky is about three feet square with a large mirror on the opposite wall. This mirror is almost always at least one human head length too low. I look across at it and can see myself from the neck down to my knees. There is no head and no feet visible. I try to stand farther back a bit to see if the view improves, but not really I then try the one foot forward and one foot back approach where I am standing like some Robin Hood archer ready to shoot off a whole quiver of arrows. This stance does allow for one foot and a fair section of my head to be seen. I lower myself a fraction more and there, I can see most of my long body in the mirror now. Just then the curtain swings back and the assistant pokes her head in again, and sees me in this squatting position, still dressed as I went into the cubicle, and gives me a long hard look before uttering …
“I’m just awa fir ma tea, so if you’re needing ony help then Rita will be here for you”.
Then after a long pause as she holds the curtain back so Rita can also see my unusual position, she leans a bit farther in and says …
“Yer aaricht aren’t ye … yer nae haeing a seizure are ye?”
“No, no” says I, “I was just about to change me”
“Aye … ah weel, as lang as yer sure yer nae haein a seizure, as wir nae wantin nane o’ that kerry on in here”
“No, no, I’m fine”
Good job I hadn’t just whipped off my trousers at that point as Rita’s colleague was still holding the curtains wide open so everybody in the store could see and hear the ‘victim’ inside. Finally she let it slip and so I started to change me and took off my jacket. Now why is it there is only one silly little hook on the wall here. You would think they might have thought “Heh, these guys are going to take off jackets, trousers, shirts maybe, so let’s give them a few hooks and a couple of hangers etc” But no, one paltry hook, that’s it! Onto the hook goes my outside jacket, then since it’s possibly a cold day outside maybe a jumper too. Then it's time to get the trousers off. By this time I’m getting pretty fed up of all this de-robing in a cupboard the size of a cigarette packet. I’ve already banged my head and elbow on the opposing walls and am a tad annoyed, so decide that basically bugger it, I’m just going to pull the trousers off over my shoes, as I just can’t be arsed to untie and retie my shoes over and over again.
Most times I can generally slip the trouser leg off over a shoe no problem, but go inside a ‘fitting room’ and everything takes on an air of total disaster. I successfully managed to get one leg off, and was on the second leg when the trouser bottom jammed over the heel of the shoe and I was left hopping about the cupboard on one leg while trying to pull the errant leg off the shoe. I started to hop slightly more violently as I pulled ever harder on the offending trouser leg. This set in motion a series of events that neither Marks & Spencer, Rita the assistant and a few others were ever really ready for.
As I bounced around inside the room, I could feel my balance was going and so as I was now in a position with half my trousers around my ankles, one leg flapping freely while the other one impeded my forward progress somewhat, I lurched towards the wall. I was still holding onto the trapped trouser leg, and so stuck out my free hand to balance myself on the solid wall. Unfortunately I misjudged the actual wall position and so instead of connecting with the wall I shot past this and my hand went through the curtained opening instead. This resulted in me being propelled even faster forward and I grabbed desperately at the curtain, and managed to secure a grip on this to try and steady myself. However, as I made a rather fierce lunge at it, I inadvertently pulled the curtain from the rings securing it to the upper rail, and me, the curtain and my trousers shot out through the opening and I landed headfirst at the foot of a small Aberdonian wifie, who was sitting waiting patiently for her husband to emerge from another fitting room. This gave her a pretty nasty scare, as you can imagine, as sitting there minding her own business, suddenly there’s a 6ft plus guy who leaps out of a cubicle with no trousers on and attacks her. I think if she hadn’t possibly jumped up so quickly, things might have been calmer, but she shrieked loudly and on rising tripped over her chair and fell on top of me. At this point her husband stepped outside his cubicle wearing what I can only describe as a lurid deep red jacket and I think both of them must have been a trifle colour blind, but he was met with the scene of his wife of many years cavorting around the floor of Marks & Spencer with another man wearing no trousers.
Rita was beside herself, and summoned a whole host of substitute assistants who had been sitting on the bench seemingly awaiting just such an event, as within minutes I was surrounded by around six or seven of them, all trying to lift Mrs Aberdonian up off the top of me. Meanwhile Mr Flamingo ran around the sorry mess in a state of fear and alarm, trying to tell everybody that Mrs Aberdonian had never done this sort of thing before. I finally managed to get myself extricated from the heap and hauled on one leg of the trouser and the offending leg itself, and so there was a modicum of decorum at last. I gave my apologies to Elsie, as Mrs Aberdonian was called, and she was re-seated and tea was brought to calm the whole sorry situation down. I tried to explain what had happened and to be honest she was a sprightly peerie soul, and having now got over the initial fright began to see the funny side. Norman, Mr Flamingo, still wasn’t quite sure who had instigated the raucous behaviour and so stood a bit back from the scene, before finally taking up position in front of me and directly in front of Elsie and inquired of her …
“Well, after all that … what do you think?”
Elsie, looked up at him, looked across at me and then turned and said ...
“No Norman, No, I don’t think pink’s really your colour”.
I got my shoes off, hauled up my trousers, stood on a chair and rehooked the curtains to the rings, tidied up the mess and put the rest of my clothes all back on again, before finally seeing that Elsie was ok and said my goodbyes. As I left the fitting rooms, Rita the super-assistant, called after me …. “Are ye nae wanting tae try on the ither pair then ….”
I looked back and saw a line up of M&S assistants all grinning like a row of Cheshire Cats, waving two pairs of trousers at me ….