Imagine Festus Haggen of the old TV show, Gunsmoke, 40 years older than he was in the show, in the lingerie department of a modern-day, big-box, clothing store shopping for Miss Kitty some new bloomers for Christmas. And while you have that in mind, imagine him having consumed a pint or so of 100 proof moonshine before he wobbled into the store.
Since I am not allowed to talk about Loretta’s unmentionables in the newspaper anymore, let’s just say that the week before Christmas I was in such a store shopping for panties for someone, that it’s really not important who they were for, and leave my wife completely out of the discussion.
Even though I have not had a sip of anything containing alcohol, Mr. Parkinson usually causes me to wobble about and messes with my equilibrium to the point that I often feel and appear to be inebriated anytime I’m in the confines of a big-box store. And, since I was decked out in well-worn jeans, a big western style hat and a heavy, barn-coat-like, winter jacket on this particular shopping excursion, it occurred to me that I probably looked a lot like a not-so-well aged version of Festus.
I finally found the lingerie department in the very back of the store, about, what felt like, half a mile from the check-out registers. I also discovered they had enough panties to supply every woman in central Kentucky with several pairs if said ladies were not overly particular about colors and shapes and sizes.
In fact, sizes were the first trouble I ran into. After browsing around, without actually touching the merchandise, I came upon a stack that I figured would not shock the undertaker should the person for whom I was intent on purchasing them be involved in a fatal accident. I reached into the inside breast pocket of my jacket and discovered that I’d left my glasses in the car.
Do not be laughing at me until you have tried reading the size of panties without actually holding them up, eye level, by the waistband and then discovering that the number is too small to read no matter how long you stare and twist it about for a better perspective.
As it happened there was a young, 30-ish, stylishly-dressed, fellow, wearing glasses, also browsing the ladies’ underwear racks. I managed to get his attention and quietly asked him if he would mind helping me read the sizes on the stack I had in mind.
“What size does she wear?” the guy practically bellowed so loudly that I’m reasonably sure they heard him in the parking lot.
“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” I whispered. “She’s somewhere in the store and I don’t want her and the rest of the free world to know what I’m doing. But I don’t have my glasses and I do need a little help here.”
I told him the size I needed and he promptly held up a pair, waved them about as though he’d captured the enemy flag and said, “Here you go. Man, they’re on a half-price sale. Are you just getting her one pair?”
I told him I needed three pairs and pointed to different colors. After way too much waving them about and scrutinizing the labels, he found two more pairs of the size I needed.
I quickly took them over to the sleepwear section where I purchased Loretta some pricey pajamas. I’m reasonably sure I can get away with mentioning her pjs in the paper. Anyway, I figured I could use the pajamas to conceal the more delicate stuff until I weaved and wobbled the long trek to the cash registers.
In the 37 consecutive years I’ve been doing this, I’ve always encountered women at checkout. Women act like it’s the most common thing in the world for old men to be buying ladies’ underwear, but this year there were seven women and one man operating the registers.
After spending what felt like the better part of the night standing in line, when I finally got to the front the man yelled, “Next!” He tried to keep a straight face as he rang me up and said that’ll be $89.86.
I must have gasped first because it felt like every eye in the store was focused on me. “I thought these things were half price,” I told him.
He said, “Well the pajamas were, but the PANTIES were buy one pair, get 50% off the next one. You have three pairs of panties and I have to charge you full price for two of ‘em.”
People sitting in their cars outside, windows up, listening to Elvis belt out “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me”, are still wondering who yelled PANTIES.
In the meantime the spectacle of Festus arguing over the price of bloomers flashed before my eyes as I handed the guy a hundred dollar bill and told him to please hand over the change because I was in a hurry to get out of the place.
Next year I intend to do my delicate shopping online.