Sunday, March 06, 2011

I Went Berserk in a Department Store

Last week at the mall, I noticed several new, life-sized, white fiberglass mannequins in a store window. The mannequins had both arms and legs. At the same time, I noticed that the mannequins in the window of a neighboring teen-oriented store had no arms. (Maybe armless mannequins are cheaper.) However, the mannequins in the teen store had heads and faces, and they looked like “real” people. The white fiberglass mannequins in the other store had only half heads. Yes, that’s right—half heads. They looked, well, sort of like aliens that had missed the turnoff to their own planet and ended up on Earth.

I wondered if the half-headed mannequins had freaked out any little kids.

They would have freaked out the two-year-old me.

When I was a toddler, my aunt worked as a combination salesclerk/bookkeeper at a department store. My mother shopped there frequently, and she preferred to shop alone. She took me with her only when she had no other choice.

On those days, Mom crossed her fingers and told me to stay close to her. She knew what would happen if the sales clerks were in the middle of changing the clothing displays. As soon as I spotted a mannequin with an arm or a leg, or better yet, a head, missing, I’d throw myself on the floor and scream like crazy.

Outside, pedestrians would forget where they were going and peek in the windows to see what all the fuss was about. If my aunt happened to be working on the floor, she would flee to the back office. That left my red-faced mother to explain my fear of dismembered dummies to anyone who seemed alarmed by my behavior.

As soon as the store owner thought he could keep a straight face, he’d emerge from his office, walk over to my mother, point a finger at me, and say, “Get her out of here. She’s ruining my business.”

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