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Why did shopping have to hurt so much?

September 29, 2010|By Kristen Brakeman

I've been to a little place in parenting hell and its name is Hollister.

My sixth-grade daughter asked for a few new shirts to start the school year. She lobbied hard for a trip to Hollister because she heard they had "cute tanks" on sale. Since she had recently outgrown kid stores and cleverly showed price awareness, I relented.

Hollister, it turns out, is the slightly less perfumed spawn of Abercrombie and Fitch. It has a beach-themed façade and the clothes in the window displays are indeed quite cute. I could understand why my daughter wanted to shop there.

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But, as I walked into the store, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sound of thumping, booming, ear-splitting pop music.

I'm not noise sensitive. I'm actually married to a sound mixer and in my own line of work I have had to stand right next to speaker columns during rock concerts. I've videotaped airplane take-offs and I was even on pit road during the Daytona 500. But, none of these experiences prepared me for the deafening decibels I endured at Hollister. It was like a top-40 terror attack on my senses.

My daughter, unbothered by the rave-level beat, bolted for the back of the store where the desired sale items were housed. I tried to follow, but kept bumping into tables and clothing racks. Was I getting cataracts? The store was so very dark. Did Hollister forget to pay its electric bill?

I worried, what if I stumbled and fell, hopelessly injured? No one would find me or hear my screams, my body concealed by darkness and my stench of death masked by perfume.

Wishing I had night vision goggles to guide me, I reached out for the clothes to steady myself as I searched for my daughter. The workers went about their business as if they could see clearly. Apparently, Hollister found employees who were part mole-people.

Finally, I found her. I yelled over the music. "Did you find some things to try on?" Her lips moved as if she were speaking to me.

"What? Are you talking? I can't hear you." I screamed back.

Eyes rolling, she used hand signals to indicate she needed a dressing room. We found one, locked, of course. The omnipresent employees had suddenly vanished. In any other store I would have shouted, "Hello" or "Yoo-hoo" to get some attention, but here I would have needed a vuvuzela, the horn so popular with South Africans cheering at a soccer match.

We trekked to the front of the store and found a young worker. I mouthed the words, "She wants to try these on."

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