On Sunday, I saw a really nice Canuck jersey in the window of the Sally Ann Thrift Store on Broadway. So, being the naive girl that I am, I thought I could go into the store and buy said jersey. But alas, life is not that simple. When I went in on Monday* and inquired about the jersey, the woman at the counter looked at me like I was slightly crazy and said, “The items in the window are on sale on Wednesday. First come, first served.” “OK,” I said, “what time do you open?” “10 am,” she replies. And then she cryptically adds, “And people usually line up early.”
So, today, being Wednesday, I got myself up early** and made the trek down to Broadway, arriving around 9:30. No one is there, so I rejoice: the jersey will be mine! I sit outside the store, eating my rice cakes*** and reading my book until about quarter to, when another couple shows up. We start chatting and ask each other what item in the window we were there to get. To my relief****, they are after a fleece sweater and a jacket, so we figure we will all go home happy.
Then, a monkey wrench arrives in the form of a dark haired woman, who asks us, “Do you have numbers?” We look at her quizzically, “Numbers?” She points to some slips of paper on a table that we hadn’t noticed before… 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. I grab 5 and my new friends grab 6 and 7. Dark Hair informs us that she is 4, but 1 to 3 are nowhere to be found. “What item are you here for?” I ask, hoping she wants something different than the rest of us. “Oh no!” she exclaims, “I’m not getting into THAT again!” More puzzled looks from myself and the couple. “What? Why not?” I ask. “Because if you tell people what you are here for, they will take it just to spite you!” So I’m thinking, “Paranoid much lady?” But I, quite rationally I think, state, “Well, you are ahead of me and there is no point in me wasting my time staying here if you want what I want.” “OK,” she says, “but I’m only telling you because you aren’t ahead of me in line. I want the Canucks jersey!” “Damn!” I think. My new friends give me sympathetic looks, but I know are secretly happy that she didn’t want the fleece or the jacket. I admit defeat: “OK, well, I’m outta here then, because that’s what I wanted too.” Dark Hair then says, “But it might not fit me. You should stick around in case it doesn’t.” Then adds, with a hint of venom in her voice, “That is, if numbers 1 to 3 don’t get to it first.” OK, good point, it might not fit her, and since I’d already waited that long, what’s a few more minutes, right? So we wait, pondering on the whereabouts of numbers 1 to 3. It gets closer to 10 am and more people arrive. We inquire as to their numbers. Some people don’t have numbers and have no idea what we are talking about when we ask them… they stare at us with a look of confusion completely befitting the situation – they just want to go in to check out what’s in the store and this whole Wednesday morning madness is beyond their realm of comprehension. Then a boy with an X-box shows up and says he’s number 3. “Don’t tell anyone what we discussed,” Dark Hair whispers to me, “I only told you because you are behind me in line.” “Don’t worry,” I say, “I won’t tell.” I want to add, “I will take your secret to the grave!! No amount of torture would force the secret from my dying lips!” but I think better of it… she might buy the jersey even if it doesn’t fit her, just to spite me for making fun of her. I start to think the thrift store paranoia is rubbing off on me. More people arrive. Numbers 1 and 2 are now there. “What time did you get here?” we ask. “9:05” Number 1 informs us, adding bitterly, “I was late.”***** People start to crowd around the door, although I don’t understand why, since we all have numbers that determine the order in which we will purchase things, so crowding the door won’t help you get that coveted thrifty item. An older lady arrives and starts chatting. It turns out that Older Lady is like the Yoda of the Thrift Store. “Canucks jersey you desire? Hmmm. I sense much impatience in you, young Jedi. Sith Lords, I fear, seek to spite you, they do.” She informs us that we must never tell anyone in the lineup what we are there for, as people in front of you in the lineup will buy it and then offer to sell it to you for a higher price. Or they will buy it just to spite you. Looking around at the crowd with narrowed eyes, she tells us in a hushed tone, “some of these people are regulars.” We look around too, wondering which person or persons could be the buying-thrift-store-items-for-spite culprit. Or culprits. She tells us the Tale of the Louis Vuitton purses, where the young UBC student lost out on the 2 LV purses she wanted, which turned out to be knock offs, but ended up finding a real LV purse in the store instead, restoring our faith in the venerable principle of “what goes around comes around.” We stand, entranced by her story. OK, maybe not entranced. Maybe entertained by the sheer ridiculousness of this situation.
10 am. The moment of truth. The keepers of the coveted thrift store items open the door and declare, “Number One.” Number One enters the store and they close the door behind her. “They used to just let people in and trust that everyone would be fair about who got there first. But there were too many fights,” Yoda of the Thrift Store tells us, “Now they only let us in one by one.” Next Number Two goes in. Then Number Three. Then it’s Dark Hair’s turn; she rushes in and finds that the jersey is still there! She picks up a Leafs jersey and shows it to me through the window, pointing enthusiastically at the hideous thing, as if to say, “Ha ha! You are stuck with a friggin’ Leafs jersey, sucka!” And I’m thinking, “Can she really be so cruel as to taunt me this way? What did I do to her?” And I say, “I’d rather slit my throat than wear a Leafs jersey!!” to much laugher from the crowd still waiting outside. When they let me in, I head over to the fitting room, where Dark Hair is about to enter. I’m hoping against hope that the jersey won’t fit her. She calls out, “It’s a kids size!” To which I reply, “I fit into kids sizes!” She comes out of the fitting room, with the jersey clearly being way too tight for her and exclaims, “It fits me!” Then she adds, “I’m really sorry.” I know that if I say what I’m actually thinking (“Are you kidding me? You look ridiculous in that jersey!! You’ll need to change your name to Lumpy McLumpyson!!“), I would just sound like I was trying to get her to not buy the jersey so that I could have it. So instead I said, “No need to be sorry. You got here first, so you get the jersey. You win some, you lose some. The jersey looks really nice on you and I hope you enjoy the game tomorrow.******” And then she says, “Well, you can always get the other jersey.” I’m dumbfounded. It hits me that she actually thinks that if you don’t get the Canucks jersey, you would just wear a Leafs one. Is she on crack?? “It’s a Leafs jersey! A Leafs jersey!” I exclaim, the incredulity dripping from my voice. “I’m a Canucks fan! I’d honestly rather slit my throat than wear a Leafs jersey!” And as the realization that she wasn’t truly a Canucks fan, she didn’t understand the ways of hockey like I do, but she was going to get that cool jersey for cheap and I was going to walk away empty-handed, I felt that maybe all wasn’t right with the world. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s just a freakin’ shirt and this whole seedy underworld of thrift store Wednesday morning free-for-alls is not a place I want to become accustomed to!
*since they weren’t open on Sunday when I saw it.
**getting up before 10 am constitutes “early” in my books.
****because I would feel bad if they had come for the jersey and would be disappointed that I had been there first. Not bad enough to let them have it, but still.
*****I don’t know why she sounded so bitter, she got the first freaking number!
******as she had told me that she wanted the jersey because she was going to the Canucks game tomorrow night.