It’s gotten so that I don’t enjoy going to the local shopping mall.
The reason? Kiosks.
In particular, there’s a kiosk at the mall that is invariably staffed by salespeople who barely speak English, who are selling sea-salt skin products, and who snag their customers by reaching out and grabbing them.
Once, many years ago, I made the mistake of being accosted by one of these salespeople. One of my nails on my right hand was filed to the point where it was so shiny I could see my reflection in what was left. I was embarassed by this for a month; that was how long it took for my nail to grow out and look normal.
I don’t want their skin care products. I wouldn’t use them.
But they don’t take no for an answer.
What I’ve learned to avoid these kiosks. One, do not make eye contact. Two, do not slow down. Three, do not react when you hear someone talking to you as you pass quickly by. Four, feign talking on your cellphone if you must.
Learn these skills. Your fingernails will thank you. Your wallet will thank you.
I bring this up as prologue to the events of Saturday.
I was out of town, and I was making my way through a shopping mall. I successfully navigated my way around the kiosk of the nail filers, and I was quickly approaching the escalator that would take me to the parking garage.
I saw someone at a kiosk. She said hello and smiled. I nodded in reply, and suddenly I found myself with a thing around my neck.
“Do you know about aromatherapy?” she said, her accent thick.
I was confused. What had just happened? “Listen, I’m meeting someone for lunch.”
“Just feel your pores open. It is warm, because we can put it in the microwave, and the spices inside allow your skin to breathe.”
“No, really, I have to go.”
Suddenly, there was something warm wrapped around my lower back, held to me by velcro straps.
“Does that not feel good?”
I had to admit that it did. It was likewise warm.
Before I knew it, I had another thing strapped to me. This time, it was something around my wrist.
Unfortunately, I had no way of making a getaway. This is how they trap you. Their English is barely decipherable — she was from an Israeli kibbutz, I learned when I asked about her accent, and I think this was the only thing that let me get away. And then, they manhandle you, slap things to your neck, wrist, or back, meaning you simply cannot make a run for it. So you have to listen to the sales pitch until you can get their crap off of you. But you have to be careful — they’re going to assume that you’re going to buy, and she tried to make me buy a half-dozen aromatherapy things.
I finally made my escape. I dithered when confronted with a choice of colors (asking me about a favorite color is generally not a good thing; I’m indifferent to color), and I repeated my insistent plea that I absolutely had to meet someone for lunch. (A lie, but a plausible one.)
I promised I would return after lunch. She said she trusted me, and that she wouldn’t take her lunch break until I came back.
Yes, I felt a twinge of guilt that I hightailed it out of that shopping mall.
Don’t be accosted at the mall! Be firm! And, if necessary, be like Brave Sir Robin and run as fast as you can!