Or maybe it was a Cub Scout merit badge or something. This week I was given a homework assignment by one of my therapists. She asked me to simply go to a mall and try to do some Christmas shopping for my wife. Only it had to be on my own. It just sounds plain silly to think about that as a 50-year-old but it was quite an undertaking. Driving to the mall on a dark, rainy evening – Check. Eventually finding a parking spot – Check. Walking around amidst people holiday shopping – uh, Check. Finding a gift idea for my wife that wasn’t going to require playing the brain injury card as an excuse – Check. Completely unintended and serendipitous discovery – Check. It happened because I needed to duck out of the moving crowd that I stopped into the Victorinox store to look at the pocket knives they had on display. Once my sister got me one of these some 25 years ago I’ve rarely been without one. I’d already made my wife a believer in these gadgets so they were out as a gift. I just needed a time out from the Koyaanisqatsi movie my world becomes when there are more than 50 people nearby.
So this nice young salesperson comes over and pleasantly strikes up a conversation about the knives. I like the little Midnite Manager model so we were mutually extolling the geeky little niceties of those things. I’m not sure why but I noticed the luggage they had on display and that gave me the idea to get a good piece for my wife to use on her business trips. They get beaten up when she has to travel all the time so I thought it made sense to buy a good one once instead of cheap ones multiple times.
The whole point of this post was to mention this very nice young lady. I forgot her name (of course) and it isn’t printed on the receipt but I wish I remembered it because I’d give her her own personal commercial right here. She made the shopping experience very nice. If we had children, she could have been one of their much younger sisters. I don’t know why but I get a kick out of saying that for some reason. Anyway, she was very patient with me as I texted back and forth with my wife about this prospective sale – yeah, I’m not one for those Christmas morning surprise gifts. If you’re ever in that Victorinox store in the Mall at Short Hills, she is somewhere in her mid-20’s, medium height with straight-ish brown hair, glasses (maybe?) and a very easy and cheerful conversational manner. She actually wasn’t trying to ‘sell’ me even though it was her job. She made it feel more like I was chatting with her about luggage in an airport lounge. It was just a better approach for me anyway.
The other reason I’m mentioning her is that she noticed the prism decal I need on my left eye-glass lens. Lately I’ve begun shifting over from immediately referring to my brain injury to trying not to talk about it if I don’t have to. She said something about it that actually didn’t strike me as odd and annoying so while we were waiting for text messages to come back from my wife I told her about why I needed it. I think she may have been the first total stranger to have a comfortable brain injury conversation with me. I showed her the note to myself about my homework assignment written on my phone’s scratch pad app. Sure, I got the “You don’t look like you had an accident…” sort of comments but it wasn’t weird with her. I didn’t even mind showing her the text from my wife that said “And I am very impressed with how long you’ve been there!” like she was proud of her big boy going to the mall all by himself for the first time. All growed up! I’m so proud of you! I can’t wait to call Aunt Rita…
Yes. Yes. Yes. I know that disclosing such personal information like that to a stranger poses some risk. I’m not going to close by saying you should all go out and do that. It just seemed comfortable in that moment. I mean, it’s not like I’m being all that secretive when I write this stuff here either. I showed her this site in the course of showing her the crashed bike helmet so who knows? Maybe she’ll see this and message me or something. I hope she does ’cause I know my wife would steal her away from that store if she could. Interactions like that are few and far between for me these days and it was worth staying up late to write about her.
::Tangent Warning:: As I was driving over there I was listening to the CD my wife had been playing in the car. Again I was reminded of how lucky I was that my appreciation of music wasn’t messed up by the TBI. I always liked Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U and this was the first time I’d heard it in a long long time. There’s an incredible moment, to me at least, at about the 3:10 mark on the words another try and it hit me just like it usually did. It’s like the whole song before it is merely a set up for that one chord change. Prince really wrote some great stuff right there.