Sam and Sylvie – a very loving couple in their mid 30’s whom folks say are made for each other and that their match was made in heaven with St. Peter presiding, nothing less! He loves supping his beer post sundown while she loves watching her soaps. This they indulge in, everyday, rather religiously before supper. The moot point of whether the beer or soaps take precedence over the partner, nobody knows. Not even St Peter – although he was instrumental in making them man and wife! But I guess that’s the way it was always supposed to be.
He loves his weekend naps while Sylvia loves to twiddle with the remote trying to catch up on almost every tear-jerking soap and two-bit movie that she’s missed out during the week. And then she has this inexplicable predilection for watching those pathetic song & dance routines too. To be brutally honest, Sam would love to give those pelvic-jerks a good kick in the butt – so that they wouldn’t be able to fritter other people’s time as well. No sir, they shouldn’t – not anymore! Although he doesn’t have the heart to tell her, he prefers her to watch that mushy stuff of hers on mute. Little does he know is that she’d give her right arm and left leg to hear him snore on mute too! A classic impasse and nobody is any wiser! But that’s Sam and Sylvia for you and for them, its plain routine.
A mid level management executive, he’s a go-getter despite a marked proclivity to dream for almost the impossible. Oh yeah, he’d do mighty well by aiming for the sky first! That notwithstanding; the fact that he touches the mere roof hardly deters him. Of late, he’s been harbouring aspirations of heading the regional office – being right there at the pinnacle where the view is at its very best. Rather, it has been an overpowering obsession with him. Sylvie however is more practical. With his money, she prefers to invest in shares, some additional life insurance for him, and the latest sofa-sets – with covers to match the exact shade of the wall – nothing less, and loves to scout for the latest deals from Ikea, Sony, Gap, Bossini & suchlike. Oh, but not necessarily in that order!
Anyway, it’s a typical idyllic Friday late noon, almost 5 pm, and there lay Sam curled-up beneath his blanket and snoring away to glory. Oh yeah, dreaming and dreaming big in vivid colour – like it would appear on the Giga-pixels of Sylvie’s latest Bravia Plasma TV. What a powerful feeling – of being in the Big Bosses huge impressive looking leather chair, swivelling round and exhorting the scurrying minions while taking in the magnificent seaside view. Sigh!
The high-pitched shriek, almost klaxon-like wail cuts through the shroud of his sleep and abruptly stifles Sam’s next snore. A moment or two of pin-drop silence ensues and before he can complete even a half-turn,
"It’s five pm and you’d promised to take me out shopping."
"Uh duh, did I now?" Sam mutters as his eyes open up in a jiffy albeit at half-mast, more annoyed than startled and looks around him fuzzy eyed.
"Oh! It’s you! Sure, at around 6.30" he says to Sylvia and promptly rolls over with the hope that he can at least get to swivel some more in that chair before he’s woken up again!
"But you promised me last week and you always do this to me" goes the relentless whine again.
That’s it! Sam knows from that whinging tone that he won’t be allowed any more moments of peaceful slumber. The word ‘always’ grates on a raw nerve coz he knows that it’s simply untrue. Now, he does agree that he’s worse than a grouchy old coot with fistula when it comes to shopping. And what’s better? He’s magnanimous enough to accept the fact that it stems from a shortcoming in his family gene-pool. Perhaps the only mistake he did was by not mentioning it to her prior to marriage. In retrospect, not to say that it would have helped him much! Just a passing thought, but for the life of him he’d never know and he’s happier that way.
At exactly 5 ft and not even the breadth-of-a-whisker more, she knows exactly what she wants! Or rather, that’s what she likes to delude herself although the contrary is spot on. Sam attributes both to a shortfall in her gene-pool and thanks Mendel and his pea-plant experiments for enlightening him on the issue.
An hour or so later, feeling more or less human again after a quick shower, they set out. To be candid, both could have been ready in about half an hour but then deciding on the choice of shopping mall gobbled up the other part.
"Sigh! What a start and yet again. How did I ever get talked into this?" he groans inwardly while plodding on behind his wife’s energetic steps and even more enthusiastic patter.
True to time-tried custom, the first stop is inevitably the very first boutique in the closest mall in the vicinity. A breezy walk to the ladies section is just the beginning of what promises to be nothing less torturous than the Way of the Cross. Or at best, a literal nightmare – at least for a short-in-the-fuse-department-chap like Sam!
Sylvie’s sole objective is to get a ?feel’ of the pattern, the texture, the material, the best possible near-perfect to perfect visual fit, sans the manufacturing defects of course! To simplify matters, Sam refers to it as Round 1. Naturally, that translates to the coolest and trendiest possible shades in various colours that catch her eye. You bet – they obviously must hold untold promises of compatibility, comparability and flexibility with her existing wardrobe. Obviously, Sam’s positive that’s not all of it! Thank God she didn’t study about Flexural Rigidity, Young’s Modulus of Elasticity, Shear Stress, Strain, Deflection, Bending Moments etc. as he has no doubts whatsoever she would have hesitated to put them all to the test – right there in the mall!
…The word ‘always’ grates on a raw nerve coz he knows that it’s simply untrue.……
Any Quality Control/Quality Assurance (QA/QC) Inspector watching the whole damn exercise would take immense pride in the meticulous inspection of Tops/Tank Tops/Shirts/Trousers/T-shirts etc as Sylvie wife puts them under her CT scanner. He has often wondered as to why there have been no visiting QA/QC’s around whenever Sylvie is around shopping. By Jove, they’d have made her VP of QA/QC in no time!
The poor salesman looks quite harried by now coz the practiced but forced smile is beginning to wilt. It’s a wonder that Sylvie hasn’t enquired to see his CV and testimonials to boot! One look at his martyred air leaves Sam wishing that he could have blended unobtrusively into the wall. Ah, he can’t help but notice that familiar look in his wife’s eyes. She is almost in trance now and for all that matters, he could be just the pair of jocks on the mannequin in the corner!
"Are you done with selecting your stuff?" Sam asks her after looking at his watch for the hundredth time.
"Sure! Shall I try these?" pat whizzes the reply, accompanied by a zillion Watt smile. Triumphant in Round 1, it’s over to Round 2! It’s amazing that she doesn’t ask for a wheeled-trolley to cart her stuff to the trial room. It must be her New Years resolution, nothing less, coz ordinary signboards or notices such as ?Only Three Items Allowed Inside at a Time’ didn’t seem to dissuade her before. But that’s encouraging in a way too. Coz by now, Sam is convinced that she must have found at least one itsy-bitsy thing that she must have liked. And that too after almost an hour and after passing her stringent Quality Control. Phew!
"Thank God for small favours" he mutters under his breath.
The ?Trial Room’; an innocuous sounding enough place – but why does that so eerily remind Sam of some medieval Torture Chamber? Some questions are best left unanswered, he decides. But that’s where the actual fun begins – for her that is, while for him, his misery piles on. Like it or not, he has to stand outside the Trial Room with a huge pile of clothes while she takes in some of her clothes inside. Oh yeah, it’s a thankless job all right – a laden Llama cum sentry. More so, coz although his opinions about the fit are eagerly solicited every now and then as she dresses-up and struts and preens inside the cramped up trial room, none are heeded.
"Eli Eli Lama Sabachtani", (Aramaic – Jesus’ words prior to crucifixion which translates as ? ?My Lord, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’) he rues to himself as he stares vacuously into the distance. Oh, that’s to evade other shoppers looking daggers at him as the queue outside the Trial Room snakes behind him. Thank God people don’t tote horns with them when they shop. Or else, everybody would have been honking behind him!
Either the width of the hem of the top is distinctly un-hip with current trends, or the patterns are vaguely floral thereby hinting at a happy-go-lucky attitude. And if by any off-chance, the design, colour, material, shade, pattern etc passes muster, it looks definitively bourgeois’. Gosh, what would her upwardly-mobile colleagues at work think? Nope, that won’t do for her Ladyship, will it? She knows exactly what she wants you see!
"Well, err, Syl, ahem, didn’t you notice all that during your visual examination cum spatial orientation exercise (Round 1)?" asks Sam?
"Oh, Sam, must you be such a killjoy with your juvenile quips? I’m almost done!" interjects Sylvia and he’s aware that he’s been unceremoniously brushed beneath the carpet – just like that!
The look and accompanying smile that he gets in mild reproach looks disarmingly cute in it’s outwardly docility. But that is by sheer design knows Sam and solely for the impatiently queued-up shoppers, watching no doubt. Boy! That look would have pulverized even the jocks on the mannequin by the corner if he wasn’t inured to it by now! There is more to hear about it later.
But for now there are more pressing matters at hand – like the eagerly awaited results of Rounds 1 and 2. At the end of it all, if there is bound to be a problem with the fit – at least in the vicinity of a few microns either way, which is inevitably the case, it’s a repeat exercise in the next shop! And heavens forbid if Rounds 1 & 2 doesn’t measure up to her stringent requirements and expectations, it’s the next shop and the next one, failing which it’s the next mall altogether!
Well, to cut the crap and make a long story short, the fact remains that the heavens simply don’t intervene when Sylvia and Sam go out shopping! Divine providence – it’s anybody’s guess? But again, it only buttresses Sam’s philosophical approach towards life – ample proof that the Lord’s ways are indeed mysterious! Like in all the shops they go, nothing pleases Sylvia! For that matter, nothing in the next mall and even the one after that and finally she gives up.
Ikea is next and a more or less similar exercise ensues as in the boutiques. Intense scrutiny coupled with ferrety doggedness for the best deals, microscopic examination of minutiae, deliberations on compatibility and harmonious co-existence with existing furniture, spatial re-orientation of the existing furniture at home to accommodate the new?? well, it’s bewildering for Sam. But then, it’s nothing new for Sylvia. She literally thrives on it. It’s the core of her existence!
"Before WE buy stuff, I have to make up MY mind and it’s got to jell in MY minds eye, Sam" she offers by way of pedestrian explanation.
The astute usage of ?we’ ?I’ and ?my’ isn’t lost on Sam as he attributes it to more latent talent in her family gene-pool or is it yet another hurrah for the equality of the sexes? Simply translated, it means that she chooses what she wants while he pays without baulking or even a murmur. But here, he is on familiar turf with her parlance and can discern where the perennial issue lies – making up HER mind! Besides, neither is Sylvia the first to encounter difficulties with the issue nor will she be the last.
He surmises that it all started with Eve. Ha! Why? He would have laid his last penny on the line that no Adam, right from Genesis to Exodus – Judges – Revelations to Armageddon (whenever that is scheduled to be) could/would ever lay claim to having completely understood women. Who could ever understand that timeless veritable sub-species? Could he? Perish the mere thought! Ha and a double Ha! For the life of him, he couldn’t and still cant.
As Sam mulls over the intricacies of life in general and the thought processes of women in particular,
"Sam, I’m done with Ikea for today but I need more time to think before we can decide. Somehow, I can’t seem to decide on anything as I can’t visualize it today. Perhaps it will jell later on."
"Thank God!" he thinks to himself as he is in a hurry to get home.
An hour or two later, after a couple of beers have wet his parched gullet and the burps and dinner are done with, they are in bed. Sam has managed to nod off with his book still upturned on his rhythmically heaving chest. Sure, it’s back to swivelling in the Big Bosses spanking new chair ? in his dreams. Sylvia appears to be engrossed in some inane soap while in reality, she is still thinking of the stuff at Ikea and the clothes.
Sam’s sporadic snores punctuate the minimal volume of the Telly.
"Sam, wake up". Do YOU think that I should have chosen that fawn coloured sofa-set for OUR house? Perhaps next Friday we could go and have a good look again?
The snoring stops for a moment and encouraged a mite, goes on Sylvia:
"Were the polka dots too big on that skirt that WE saw?"
Snore??.and thankfully, the snoring doesn’t cease! Snore?????..
Ha! Women! Who could ever truly understand them ? be it at shopping or even otherwise?
Perish the thought, folks! For all his cussing, Sam’s a veritable saint when it comes to shopping. Oh yes, this is by way of anticipatory bail in case some of you’ll add up two and two, come up with twenty two and say ? "Hey dude, its you"!
With that done, I must confess to being an incorrigibly lousy shopper. I simply don’t have oodles of patience whilst shopping. At best, one could compare my attention span with that of a gnat! Even prayers can’t save me, I’m afraid!
However, during the rare occasions that I do accompany my wife, I know exactly what I want and its business right from the word ?go’. A quick look at whatever little that I need to splurge on and in a max of 5 to 10 minutes, I’m done. By now, the same rigid shopping schedule applies to the better half too.
?Spatial orientation and harmonious coexistence’ may be fine for students of Architecture. The Lord’s ways may indeed be mysterious – for those with a holistic approach to life or those with a religious bent of mind. But, honestly, shopping gives me a headache and sends the mercury shooting northbound.
Oh yeah, hereabouts, I do run a tight ship and while I do listen, at the end of the day, it’s my word that counts! Amen!
So Sam’s Sam – almost a saint and I’m still just me! But I guess I’m happier this way!
Author: Chris Rego- UAE