BY CHANA SHAPIRO / AJT //
As luck would have it, I spotted the thrift store while en route to another destination in the area. I pulled into the parking lot and found that it was senior citizen discount day. I had no choice: I had to go in.
The shop was filled with all sorts of alluring items, and after a fun-filled hour and a half, I made my way to the check-out counter to pay for two books, a fuzzy scarf and a curtain rod. Near the counter were a couple of racks onto which customers could hang any last minute rejects, without giving up their place in line.
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There were several people ahead of me. I was number four, allowing me plenty of time to scrutinize everything hanging on those racks.
What immediately caught my eye was a bright green hoodie. (I love hoodies, and I love green. Many of us consider green to be the new black, and black goes with everything. You can do the math.)
Lest I’d lose my place in line, I managed to maintain my spot while contorting my less-than supple body far enough over to check the hoodie’s label. Yep, it was huge, just my size. The line moved forward: I was now number three. The green hoodie was calling my name. Once again, I had no choice.
The woman directly in line behind me was also assessing the rack of clothing, and I noticed that she, too, was directing her gaze at the hoodie. In order to make sure that it didn’t make its way into her hands, I reached way over again and pulled it from the rack, hanger and all.
With the senior discount, the price would be less than four dollars, but was it worth it? I slid the zipper up and down a few times and checked for stains, tears and other flaws. It was perfect.
The line moved forward. I could feel the eyes and breath of the woman behind me as I struggled out of the hoodie I was currently wearing (brown) and tried on the green one.
There was no nearby mirror, and I was certainly not going to give up my place in line in order to find one. What else could I do? I put it on and turned to the woman behind me.
She was about my age and size, dressed in a slinky leopard-print outfit.
“What do you think?” I asked. At thrift stores, even if two of us desire the same object, the “winner” typically enlists the honesty of the “loser”.
We’re all in the “no returns, no refunds” boat together, and a counter-intuitive sense of camaraderie typically prevails.
“Turn around. Let’s see how it looks in back,” the woman said. “The front kind of pooches.”
I resisted telling her that it was probably my stomach that was pooching. I had faith in the hoodie.
“I’m not crazy about that metal zipper,” she offered. “It’s kind of old fashioned.”
“They don’t use metal zippers anymore?” I asked, hoping she hadn’t spotted the metal zipper on the brown hoodie I’d just taken off.
“Only on couture stuff,” the tiger-print woman explained. “Big metal zippers are like accessories, you know, for looks, not for zipping.”
The customer directly in front of me was readying herself for the cashier, but the fact that she was a teenager, a de facto expert of contemporary style, forced me to address her.
“Excuse me,” I said to the back of her head. She turned around, with an unmistakable look of annoyance. I pointed to the zipper. “Does this hoodie look out-of-date?”
“You really wanna know what I think?”
“Is it the pooching?” I asked.
“Not really, although I do see that pooch. But that’s probably just your stomach. No, what I think is that my grandma wouldn’t wear a bright green hoodie, especially with that big zipper. She’d say it’s too youthful.” She moved up to the counter.
Using amazing self-control, I thanked her for her candor (who did she think she was, anyway?) and quickly turned back to the equally unsupportive woman behind me, who’d been on high alert during the last interchange.
“That wasn’t nice!” she said, shaking her head. “That girl’s grandmother’s probably older than you, anyway. Well, at least as old.” She paused for a couple of beats. Then, “So, you gonna buy that hoodie?”
We all moved forward, as the teenager paid for her faux crocodile purse and shiny stiletto boots.
“Why ask teenagers to give their opinion about anything?” I fake-laughed. But my bonhomie was weakening, along with my ego. Did I have to forego bright green clothing from now on?
“I guess I’ll leave it here,” I answered. The teenager had gotten to me. The color; the zipper; the pooching.
I leapt out of line to rehang the hoodie on the reject rack, then stepped up to the register. I paid for my purchases and headed to the door.
I waved ‘goodbye’ to the hoodie and Ms. Leopard Print, who was at the counter, paying for her purchases. I glanced at the things she was buying, and sure enough, there was the green hoodie. I don’t think she even tried it on first. Why should she? I’d executed the test run.
Chana Shapiro hastens to assure her readers that the green hoodie incident did not ruin her day. It turned out fine, after all, because her grandchildren liked one of the two books, the fuzzy scarf didn’t shrink all that much when she washed it, and the curtain rod fit one of her house’s windows, even though it wasn’t the one she bought it for. Furthermore, to underscore the fact that she’d made the right decision, several stylish teenagers and other fashionable acquaintances informed Chana that orange, not green, is the new black.