Sunday, November 05, 2006

Big Box Blues

My jacket is missing a button. With a vacation trip just a day away, I need a jacket with all its buttons. I hopped in my car and drove to the local Jo-Anne's, which had recently moved from a small shop down the street to a much larger store a few more miles away, in a new shopping plaza next to Lowe's and Circuit City and Bed, Bath and Beyond. I parked and headed through the big automatic doors.

The doors opened and I squinted. The walls, floors, and ceilings went on forever and were all painted stark white. I wished I had sunglasses. I gazed down the long aisles in front of me, trying to find my way to the buttons. One black button with four holes. That was all I needed.

In front of me were Christmas decorations. Bins and bins of green and red, glittery, shiny, sparkly, plastic and nylon junk went on forever. Fake plastic reindeer with blinking red noses, singing Santa's with white fuzzy beards and red plastic boots, bright while angels with fuzzy silver wings and sparkling gold halos, piled up high and hanging from the rafters. Christmas was everywhere.

To my right was the Scrapbooking section. Aisles and aisles of stickers and tape, markers and papers. Silver and gold trinkets and charms, frames, and glue and glitter. Neon pens and pencils. Pink and yellow dinosaur stencils and garden fairy stamps. Plastic crimpers and rollers and scissors, in every color of the rainbow.

In the far right corner of the store, was the yarn. "Okay, this is my world", I thought. I was wrong. Synthetic fluff and fur and glitter and metallics were overflowing from white wire bins. The colors were bright and loud and garish. I was reminded of a big raucous New Year's Eve party, with sparkles and confetti spread on tables, where the band plays too loud and you have to yell to talk to your date. Where was the sock yarn? Where were the solid colors? Where were the tweeds? I longed for the local yarn shop, with wooden shelves full of natural fibers.

Then for a moment, I was excited. Hanging on a pegboard at the furthest end of the section was a display of bamboo needles. Ahhh! I thought, I need a pair of 16 inch circs, #5. Hopeful, I approached the wall of familiar green packages, only to find sizes 10, 10.5, and 13. The perfect size for a fun fur scarf, but not what I needed. The button search resumed.

Finally, after walking past silver frames, black bordered mirrors, holiday scented potpourri candles, bright red and gold silk geraniums, purple polka dot fabric lined baskets, covered bridge puzzles and neon bright play-doh, I spied the buttons. After walking through two aisles of crystals, beads, rhinestones, bells, and assorted novelties of every shape and size, I saw a single rack of black buttons.

I picked up a package of two buttons, held them close against my jacket and compared. The color was right. Black around the edges, with a swirl of black and grey in the center and four little holes. But the size wasn't right, a little too small. I reached for the next largest size. Too big. They looked like dinner plates compared to what I was wearing. Sigh. I reached to put these back, when I realized that between the big and small, there was an empty hook. A million buttons, but the size I needed was sold out.

Determined to have a wearable jacket, I thought I could use the smaller size, if I replaced all the buttons. Only three buttons. That was possible. I contemplated my two choices again, and decided that, yes, the smaller buttons would do the trick. I grabbed two strips from the rack and headed back to the front of the store to the cashier.

Where was the checkout area?? I scanned the horizon and finally spotted the lighted numbers 1 through 7 overhead, that indicated seven registers lined up in a row. I headed off to the right, but then realized that the only route to the counter was a long twisting aisle, surrounded on both sides by candy. A tunnel of candy. There was no exit, except through this never-ending tunnel of candy.

At that moment, my senses overwhelmed and my patience worn thin, I cursed all the executives of the Jo-Anne's corporation. Evil, every last one of them. I imagined the poor tired Mom, who, with little time to spare in her busy day browses the aisles of the local Jo-Anne's with Junior strapped into the carriage. She is hoping to find a simple craft, something to relax her in those few quiet moments at night, after the dishes are washed and the kids are asleep. Maybe a rug-hooking kit or a scrapbook page full of jack o' lanterns to dress up the photos of Junior taken on Halloween. And after pushing that damn cart through every manner of plastic junk and synthetic sparkle, all of which is ultimately destined for a landfill somewhere, she comes upon this evil sugar tunnel. Perfectly positioned within toddler reach. Pure evil. I scowled, paid my $2 for four buttons and headed out through the automatic doors.

As I sat in my little car, and started up the engine, I took a deep breath, placed the four wrong-sized buttons in my purse, and eagerly anticipated the quiet of my little house.

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