Seems like a girl just can’t get any privacy in the middle of REI when she’s waiting for her boyfriend to get back from going across the street to the other outdoor store to look at the shoes they have over there. Apparently REI doesn’t have enough shoes—on sale shoes, at that—and so this girl, this hypothetical girl who somehow has that aforementioned boyfriend’s laptop with her in the middle of the store, is obliged to wait it out and write a journal entry. I guess it does look weird. Obviously it’s weird. One little girl gave me this big funny face when I sat down on this bench and scooted over to see what I was doing. One of the sales dudes in the green vests has been by this bench about eight times in the last fifteen minutes, going “So! Getting some work done there?” Clearly it’s not 1999 anymore because when I first moved here you’d be hard pressed to find people who weren’t typing furiously in the middle of the store, in the coffee house, in the car, on the chairlift at Stevens Pass. Stupid economic downturn, making me feel all dumb over here. I guess it is a bit precious, to pretend that the Muse takes one when it will, at one’s peril. “Best not disturb her, Ma. She’s takin’ one of her writin’ spells agin. I tole you we shouldn’t have learned her to read! She ain’t even appreciating the 35% off on at least half the outdoor apparel in the store!”

I am just pretty much shopped out, as I girded up my loins and actually bought clothes yesterday, after giving away half of what I owned and continuing to hate the rest. Otherwise I’d be over there in Women’s, trying to find a sportsbra that fit and wasn’t made of cotton and thus would not feel clammy and gross when you get it wet, which is occasionally what happens when you wear a sportsbra and like, sweat in it or something, or take it camping and then leave it in the tent which gets some water in it from the rain that rained pretty much the whole time of your trip to the hot springs over the weekend. Shopping, that’s what I did with my government-job-holiday. I went freaking downtown to the freaking Old Navy and did my biannual crouching down into the garishly lit dressing room with tears running down my fat little cheeks. I got a sweater on sale only after trying on everything in the store, no matter how garishly flowered, striped, or nipple-showing. It’s thick and bulky and black, and quite warm, this sweater, thanks. Nothing looks cute on me. I did get an outfit for this wedding I’m going to as well as a pair of high-heeled Mary Janes, though, at another non-Old Navy store. I guess all is not lost when you have a fake suede (completely machine washable!) skirt.

Okay, now Carl is back from the other outdoorsy store, and we’ve moved into the Footwear section, and Carl is now conferring with a green-vested sales dude (but not my green-vested sales dude) about trail runners. It’s six thirty. I say we don’t get out of here for at least another hour. I’m saying it all like Carl forced me into the car and down Westlake and into the store, because it was actually my idea to come here and take advantage of the sale and get him some shoes that…how can I put this?…don’t allow his toes to protrude in such a garish fashion. This was my bright idea, and now I want nothing more than to be in my house with my dishes washed and a movie in and some hot chocolate and a Hob Nob. It doesn’t help that REI is choosing to play all the great disco hits of the seventies over here. Burn baby burn, indeed.

So, after all that Valentine’s Day stuff I wrote about last week, it turned out to be pretty dumb. We snapped at each other a lot and ate Chinese food on the floor of my room and watched a movie. At about ten that night we decided to in fact go on the trip we’d planned to go on, and so then had to find all the outdoor gear and get the packs packed and I had to do some magical ceremony with my thermarest to get it ready for its inaugural trip, and then we had to remember what kind of food we wanted to bring, and if we had a map or directions, and then Carl had left the digital camera at his work and so we’d have to go get that in the morning. Saturday it was totally pissing down rain…all y’all Midwesterners and East Coasters, I know you don’t care about rain, I know you’re huddled over the remains of your furniture which you’ve broken down and are burning in a vain effort to keep warm. Soon the ice weasels will come. I’m just saying, in Seattle it was raining and chilly. Now don’t forget your hat, okay?
Anyway, we drove over the horrible road that was equal parts pothole and gigantic jagged boulder, and then forded the icy-cold stream, and then…we were there. It was really pretty simple. I felt like we were cheating, a little. My ankles stung a little from the cold water, but I couldn’t help feeling as though I didn’t deserve a hot springs after almost no effort. We decided not to think of it as a hiking trip, but instead as a trip to a very low-rent resort, and booked it to the springs with all haste as soon as the tent was up and the food was hung. Soaked for six hours, and then spent the rest of the time in the tent, eating chocolate and reading books. I apparently go on only two types of trips: really hard and grueling where I enter into some Zen state to take my mind off of the cliff I’m about to tumble down, or the type where you bring along a Martha Stewart. No middle ground here.

But no, Valentine’s wasn’t the greatest, although I made Carl a really cool card when my work had a stamping crafty day, and although he gave me some purple tulips just like I gave him last year. The hike wasn’t the greatest, and the shopping certainly was NOT the greatest. You know what else isn’t the greatest? The shoes that Carl is pacing around in right now. I can’t even begin to know how to describe them. They are black and white and red striped, and they don’t’ have laces, they have these weird wires on them that you pull shut with a toggle. I wish I had the camera with me right now because I have never seen any article of clothing come close to how ugly these are, and I say this as someone who owned a denim miniskirt with white leather fringe on it in the late eighties. Red and black and white striped, with weird non-laces and a toggle. “I can’t help it!” wailed Carl when I looked up and made this face of horror (although, to be fair, some of that was due to the Super Hits of the Seventies, which are really driving me mad). “They just feel really good!” But what about my eyes?

Oh, okay, now this other green-vested sales dude a) asked me if I was doing homework, and b) recognized the make and model of my trail runners at ten paces. I’m impressed. Do I really look like a student? Should I be flattered? The whole reason I got the spy glasses, though, was so that I wouldn’t look like a grad student. Sigh. Why didn’t he ask if I was writing another entry in my funny and insightful online journal, which garners nearly twenty hits a day? Do I just not have that certain something, that little gleam in my eyes, that little spring in my step and that sultry yet quirky way I toss my hair, that lets the world know I am an Online Journaller? Of sorts? Not, like, one of the famous ones or anything, but one who’s been doing this for over a year now? One who hates her journal design but one who can’t seem to learn HTML for some reason? Why can’t he see? Why didn’t he say something sultry yet quirky…wait, that was my hair, wasn’t it…that I could co-opt for this entry, that maybe I could even use as the title? Huh? Huh? Why, Mr. Green-Vested Sales Dude At REI?

I have to say though, this guy is being really nice. All these yuppies who are fussing over arch support and waterproof-osity and tread grips, all so they can stride purposefully…into the office. He’s calling everyone sir, even the people younger than himself, like Carl, who, for those of you following along at home, has given up the heinous shoes of black-white-and-red-stripeyness and is currently looking at…wait, where’d he go? Over by this weird part of the store where they’ve made a fake mountain so you can test for your ownself the arch support and everything, because sometimes we just need a little more help getting over to the cubicle without spilling the mocha, you know what I mean? He’s looking at a pair of sensible beige and black ones, that come with about eight pages of product documentation.

Anyway, this guy. I occasionally have these weird moments when I’ll be, say, at the REI when waiting for my boyfriend to choose a pair of shoes. I just looked up at this guy, in his green vest with all the fake carabiners on the back loop, and just had this sudden image of him. Of him having lunch with some of the other guys who work here, of him getting into his car and going home at the end of the day. I wondered what he likes to listen to in the car, and if he’s married and had kids, and about what he wanted to be when he grew up, and what he does on weekends. I guess, if he works here, he must be pretty outdoorsy…you pretty much have to be to get a job here. Is he a kayaker or a rock-climber? Maybe just a plain hiker who gets out on the weekends as much as he can. Knows a lot about shoes, obviously…in fact I just noticed he’s wearing my red shoes, except his are black and gray instead of red and brown like mine. They look very good on him. And do you ever have moments when you realize that all the other people around you that you see every day on the bus and in the store, in their cars on the freeway when you’re in your car on the freeway, all of them aren’t just this sort of moving wallpaper, but all of them have lives and they go home to wherever they go home to, if they have a home, and to their different types of families, if they have one. They are all in their own heads just as much as I am, or they’re just as worried about the world, or they have their own online journals. I don’t know how to say this without sounding kind of stoned, like, “Yeah, man, we’re just all interconnected, you know?” but do you know what I mean? Behind every face a pair of eyes looking out, a history, memories, a voice. It makes me a little sad, for some reason. All these people you can’t ever know, who don’t even seem real most of the time outside these weird moments.

Well, I was going somewhere with that, a couple of minutes ago, but then a small troll-like man came up to me and peered over my shoulder and sneered, “Oh, you can’t be away from the office for just a minute?” No, dude. I can’t be away from these deep realizations that I’m sharing with the dozens over here. I can’t stop looking around at all the people in Footwear this evening, wondering what they’re thinking and where they’re going and what they’re seeing when they look at me in my black sweater, typing away in the middle of REI.

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