Sunday, January 23, 2011

Self Reliance at Kohl's

The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm. 
    ---Swedish proverb

Or, if you’re shopping at Kohl’s, at the end of a pair of barbecue tongs. 

The thing about Kohl’s that nobody tells you is that absolutely nobody works there. Okay, you might, if you look really hard, find one suicidal cashier, but trust me, that’s pretty much it in terms of employees. The good part about nobody working there is, of course, that they can afford to sell their stuff cheap. The bad part, is that this peculiar dearth encourages—nay, demands—that its shoppers be capable of self reliance. As someone who has always regarded self reliance as some kind of disease, I was clearly not meant to shop at Kohl’s ever. And yet one day, in need of a pillow, I did.

The pillow in question—the only pillow in the store that would possibly do--was taunting me from so high a shelf that I could not get near it even by jumping. Had I been at Dread, Wrath & Foregone, an employee would have hopped on a ladder and brought it down to me, but since Kohl’s has neither employees nor ladders (nor, on that particular day, any visible shoppers over 5’3”) I was forced to seek help from, yes, my own self. Indeed, I was forced to travel all the way from Bed & Bath to Kitchen & Dining into the kingdom that is Bobby Flay. Within minutes I was skittering back into Bed wielding a pair of Bobby Flay’s 14" locking barbecue tongs. After several more minutes of leaping and plucking, the pillow popped forth and onto my head.

As proud as I was of this personal triumph, I felt no need to ever repeat it, yet repeat it I did---in fact I would say I even surpassed it. Since only Christmas itself could have driven me back into that deep Emersonian pit, this happened just before Christmas Eve when I suddenly noticed I needed a gift for Mrs. Pep, my uncannily non-aging sister. I found it, the One Perfect Nightgown (perfect in that it reversed from festive red garment to stately black shroud and was, resultantly, really two nightgowns) in the second floor’s Intimates section, which was located, conveniently enough, just between Bobby Flay’s Empire and Unreachable Bedding. Thrilled with my finding (it not only reversed, it fit all, and cost nothing!), I couldn’t wait to fly down the escalator, make my purchase, and get safely home.

Which was when I realized that, as much as nobody works there when it’s not Christmas, even more people don’t when it is. The line to that one suicidal cashier was as serpentine as it was Soviet, and everyone in it was buying six items at least, if not seven, if not--or so it seemed to me--forty-two.

I stood in it anyway, for maybe a minute, or until I could feel my face start to twitch. Torn between two evil prospects (stand in line and implode, or return my perfect gift to its rack and come back the next day when it would surely be gone), I felt a lightbulb form over my head. A lightbulb which, since this was Kohl’s, no employee would ever notice, let alone dust, let alone, no matter how burned out it was, ever think to reach up and change. And back up the escalator I flew.

It--The Crockpot—sat not far away from Mr. Flay's tongs, perched on a shelf displaying itself--a crockpot not meant to be sold so much as admired. Glancing around lest someone (but who?) catch me (but for what? Was I stealing?  No, just rearranging!), I lifted its lid, slipped in the gown, put the lid quietly back into place and, still expecting to be seized by security, skittered like a (like a?) paranoid all the way home.

I can’t say why exactly it felt so delicious to return the next morning (when the cashier’s line was no longer long) and lift up that lid to find it still sitting there so very placid and so undisturbed--I just know that it did.   

What’s more, Mrs. Pep likes it.  She even wears it.  It fits her, she says--both sides!--like a glove.


  1. At first I thought you were running out with the crockpot containing the nightgown, somehow figuring you'd be less likely to be caught than just with the nightgown.
    Glad it all worked out.

  2. It's the little victories in life that get us thru' ... good for ingenious you!