Monday, January 09, 2006
The emperor’s new clothes
Last Tuesday, the annual winter sales period, or ‘solden’ (Flemish)/Soldes (French) as they are called, started again. That’s a mighty big deal here; journalists all over the country give almost live coverage of the whole event. Every year, the big question is which stores didn’t respect the official and legally permitted period of time to sell their goods at a much reduced price. And every year some shopkeepers and even big chains keep up the old Belgian tradition of using the law as something to wipe your feet off when you unwittingly trampled into something left behind by a dog that wasn’t taken out to do ‘walkies’ all week. OOOOH, the scandals, the drama, the passion…
Me, I couldn’t care less. In fact, I hate this period to the last fibre. But there was no escape this year; I really needed new winter clothes. I put it off last year because of an unexpected electricity bill that was so high that I started to wonder if I was the one that had to pay for lighting the Belgian road network. And the previous year, I just didn’t feel like going, because I didn’t feel like doing anything at all, because I was chronically ill. Don’t ask me what it was. Apparently you get it from kissing, which was a coincidence because I just started a relationship with the woman that will be my wife in a couple of months.
So I had nothing to wear, apart from some rags. Some of my trousers were ripped at very inconvenient places, causing people to give me the nickname ‘the blue shrimp’. Urgent action was needed.
And so I left the apartment, fully determined to succeed, even cheerful by the prospect of finding new garment. And held at gunpoint by my girlfriend. However, five minutes after plunging myself into the melee, I already felt the urge to kill all shoppers in the store in a particularly brutish and distasteful manner. Too many people, nothing in my size – am I the only one wanting to buy an eXtra Large – too much noise, a girlfriend darting everywhere without notice…
Also, the colours of this year’s winter collection were chosen by a panel of colour-blind people, presided by Ray Charles. Either that or the Chinese had one ecological disaster too many that fucked up their sheep, cotton fields, designers and production facilities. Or they were simply taking revenge for the EU’s restrictive trade policies. Anyway, it was damn difficult to find something that didn’t make me look like a complete arse. Every time I thought I found something nice, it had either a pink, a gleamy blue or a flashy orange stripe at the sleeves or around the neck. To make things worse, when I finally did find a couple of T-shirts, my girlfriend only handed two of the three that I selected over to the saleswoman. I only found out in the next shop that I’m missing a T-shirt, so we have to return to the first shop to get the T-shirt and queue AGAIN to pay the damn thing.
But I persisted (still being held at gunpoint by my lovely fiancé) and after three and a half hours of agonizing shopping experience, victory was mine. I am now two pants, three T-shirts with long sleeves, two turtleneck sweaters, one woollen sweater with a drawing of a polar bear and six long and warm socks the richer. Hooray!
Should liberate me from having to experience this again for the next five to ten years.