ago, G. I. Joe and his military buddies were a passion of our oldest son West.
He memorized vehicles, accessories, weapons, outfits, uniforms advertised in magazines
and on television and carefully collected each branch of the armed forces. |
Christmas, he asked for
a G.I. Joe parachutist. It was the only one on his list.
In those pre-internet
days, we all “let our fingers do the walking,” using the yellow pages phone directory.
The only way to find a store that had what you wanted was to call and ask. Or…you
could drive to each possible store and go in and look. By about the fifth call
I located a store that said they had the right Joe.
On arriving, I realized
it was the kind of store that displayed one of each item with a number. You wrote
the numbers of items wanted, paid at the check-out line, took the receipt to an
attendant and waited for the order to come down a conveyor belt from upstairs.
The loudspeaker would announce your number when your order was ready.
found the G.I. Joe West wanted in one of the showroom cases, carefully copied
the number, paid, then went to the delivery area to wait.
At last, my number
was called. My purchase was in a sack, so I looked to be sure it was correct.
Sure enough, the label was clearly printed. Inside the clear plastic window of
the box, however, was a black G.I. Joe parachute man. Such things would not ordinarily
matter except West had shown me a picture of what he wanted and that one was not
I approached the busy attendant, who was also black. “Excuse me.
My order is not the same G.I. Joe in the case that I ordered.”
the ticket and looked in the bag. “It’s the parachute G.I. Joe. What’s the matter
“Well, it’s not the same as in the case.”
She took the
bag and I followed her into the display area to see the case.
Joe out of the bag and holding the box up next to the glass case said, “This is
the same one.”
Sheepishly, I said, almost in a whisper, “Well, it’s not
exactly the same.”
She looked at the case and the box next to it. “Oh.”
strode briskly back to the delivery area, box in hand, reached up to the microphone
and announced, “Lester, the lady down here don’t want the black G.I. Joe. She
wants a white one.”
By this time, the many customers and employees in
the area were looking at me, or at the attendant or at their shoes. I was also
looking at my shoes, trying not to feel the hot flush rising out of my collar.
home with Joe, I wrapped him and put him under the Christmas tree. On Christmas
morning, when West happily opened his gift, I told the family the story about
the purchase. His only comment was, “Well, you should have kept the black one.
It’s more valuable.”
There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Dianne West Short
Shoe Horse, Don't They?" November
29 , 2012 Column
Related Topics: Christmas
People | Columns
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