ADVENTURES IN SUBURBIA – Joshua Zeiring

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I’d never heard a house music remix of Taylor Swift before. I tried not to listen as she crooned about how we were never going to get back together. I consider our imaginary relationship: she’s awful in bed and decide our break up was for the best— I mean, who has a phobia of me seeing the bottom of their feet? It was the picture I Snapchatted to her and all of her friends containing just the soles of her feet that finally made her leave me. Chuckling, I think of the perfect caption, “She’s not Sole-less.” I shake my head left and right, “Get your head in the game Ziering. Morons can navigate a mall and you can too.”

I was lost in the maternity department of what felt like the world’s largest H&M. Expecting mothers were lumbering about and I was hunting for a flight of stairs I wasn’t sure existed. Dodging bellies, I finally found a dark corner that led down.

Minutes earlier, I’d started the endeavor.

“I’d like to try these pants on.” I told Karen, the pleasant teenager working behind the counter. She’s folding shirts furiously and manages to keep folding while she answers me.

“Well, the dressing rooms up here are not in service. But if you’d like to go to our store downstairs and try them on you can.” She said with all the vigor of someone solely working at a store only for the discount it affords.

“Do you guys have some kind of clothing chute or a bat-pole I can use to get there so I don’t end up accidentally shoplifting potentially poorly fitting pants?” I was trying for a laugh, and missed.

“We have a stairwell you can take on the other side of the maternity department.” She says.

I wince knowing I’ll have to navigate all the women shopping for two. It’s a cruel joke they make the aisles so narrow. They should be double wide. Instead of two ships passing in the night, it’s like sumo wrestling.

The dressing rooms are lit like a doctors office. I start taking off my pants behind their curtain. Pointing away from the mirror there is a tiny place to sit, but my knees stick up in the air as I start working on the new pants. Frustrated with the whole process I stand up with one leg in the pants, and start trying to put on the other one. A girl shrieks “Adorbs!!” in the next room and I start to fall over. Grabbing for the curtain, it opens slightly as I steady myself in panic. I see a familiar belly bump as one of the pregnant women from upstairs is looking into the little room. She gives me a disapproving look of either my predicament or that I’m trying to pull off a 32 waist when I’m clearly a 34.

Defeated, I trek back up the stairs to get my 34 and get in line to see Karen again. Dressing rooms are such a fickle thing. When they’re in service you’re a valued customer, when they’re not in service you’re some pervert taking off his pants at the mall. She dutifully rings up all my stuff and pouts a little bit.

“They declined your card.” she tells me quietly.

“Of course they did. Give me a minute.”

I call the bank and “Sarah” who has a thick indian accent tells me it’s unusual I’m spending money at a clothing retailer.

“You have no idea how unusual trying to spend money here is. But it’s real. So go ahead and greenlight me so I can get out of here.” She assures me it’ll work now. I ask her if she’s ever heard of Taylor Swift. She tells me she doesn’t see any charges from “Taylor Swift” on my card.

I get back in line to see Karen. She pouts again, “Still declined. Do you want to try another card?”

“No. Let me give them another call.”

This time I get “Melissa” who also has a sporty accent.

“Melissa, can you take off the fraud protection please? I might be in danger if you don’t.” I turn slowly towards Karen and look her right in the eyes.

“You see, I’m standing here with Karen. She’s been trying to ring me out but I keep getting declined. Each time she’s swiping my card she’s doing it more and more angrily. I’m not a professional but…. I think she’s close to losing it.”

Karen is laughing now, but I’ve decided to sell it.

“This store has a maternity section. Think of all the unborn children. And the born children! Miss, what’s your son’s name? Stevey? Melissa, think of little Stevey. If Karen loses it I just don’t know how it’s going to turn out for little Stevey. I saw Karen bending her own hangars earlier. By hand. She’s a total she hulk. Her coworker told me that the last guy who got declined had his debit card bit in half. She didn’t spit out the plastic. She ate that shit. Melissa, this has to work. Is it going to work?!”

“Sir, please stay calm. Yes. It’s going to work.”

“Melissa you don’t know what it’s like over here! I just don’t think the hostage negotiators are that good in this part of town, and it’s a weekend, so who knows who they’ll send. This whole store is women and children and then me. Can you guess who she’s going to kill first unless they get her a helicopter to Mexico?!”

“Sir.”

“Ok, Run it Karen.” I said as I started talking again.

“Melissa, oh my God, she’s running it. Her coworkers are sidling away slowly. Mel! I don’t want to be the first person in history to die from fraud protection.”

I whisper into the phone panicked, “I think She’s grinding her teeth.”

“Approved” Karen chirped. I grab my chest and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

“Oh thank God. Melissa, it worked. Thank you. Little Stevey thanks you too. He’s got a little league game later and without their star pitcher I don’t think they were going to win.”

“Well, thanks for banking with Bank Of America is there anything else we can do for you?”

“Did you know there is a house remix of Taylor Swift?”

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