I have never been able to get in and out of a Best Buy in fewer than three hours, and without having fended off at least half a dozen sales guys and fielded offers of enough warrantees and insurance to nearly double the cost of whatever I’m buying. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that experience is not unique to me.
I would have rather driven toothpicks under my nails than go on Tuesday, except as I was flying by on the freeway after picking up Jack, I realized he had yet to buy his brother a birthday present for his party the next day.
Colin doesn’t ask for much. He barely even talked about his birthday except when prodded, and then asked his brother specifically for a pair of gaming headphones.
We refer to the shopping mall and everything in a two-mile radius as The Heart of Darkness. That includes the mall proper, and any ancillary chain restaurants, big box movie theaters, massive sporting goods stores and other bastions of excess, harbingers of societal ruin, and brokers of chintzy, mass-produced-on-an-assembly-line crapola.
I wouldn’t be heading there at this point were it not for a boy who asks for almost nothing and was to turn twelve the next day.
“Do you know what gaming headphones are?” I asked as we turned onto the exit for the Fiery Depths of Hell. Jack looked at me like I’d just asked him if he’d ever mastered the art of tying his own shoes.
So I found myself attempting a quick run through Best Buy with a fifteen year old, imploring him to help navigate straight to the gaming headphones without any detours to gawk at gadgets. It was a little like Walter White trying to keep Pinkman focused for a whole weekend in a mobile meth lab. We had to check out iPhone cases, and various and sundry tablets, and walk really … very … slowly … through aisles of video games.
Jack stopped me at one point near a neon green and black display. He tried on a set of headphones.
“Mom, what do these look like on me?”
I squinted at him. “Like headphones?”
“No, mom, how do they look?”
I was going to suggest Wolfman Jack, without the facial hair, but I was pretty sure he wouldn’t get the reference.
“Um, like a space helmet?” Jack’s shoulders dropped. Nope. That wasn’t it.
We were perilously close to the computer aisle, and sure to be set upon by a dozen pimply-faced salesmen within seconds. I just wanted to grab what we were after and escape. Jack formed an instant bond with the headphones he’d tried on.
Cue negotiations: I’m not getting those for you. You can’t pay me back. You just told me how much you have stashed at home. With Colin’s present, plus the hoodie you wanted last week, a pair of $60 headphones will put you in the red.
I don’t care if they do look like Wolfman Jack’s space helmet.
No, I will not float you the money. We’ve been over this. You say you’ll pay me back. I forget about it until the next time you ask for something, and you’re counting on my poor memory, lack of oversight, and bad math. I’m pretty sure that’ll land you a charge of embezzlement in the corporate world, and it’s just bad parenting to foster embezzlement habits.
You know what? Save the money, and when you have it I will even brave Best Buy again so you can get the green and black space helmet headphones.
… Which is how I get myself talked into another trip into the Vortex of Doom. Oh, and the fact it’ll probably be Christmas by the time we make our way back is just icing on the freaking crazy cake.
Somehow, even given the time for negotiations, we managed to grab a pair of the (less expensive) headphones Colin wanted and make our way out in record time. The check out girl tried to talk me into a rewards card, then a warrantee for our new $40 pair of fancy earmuffs. She probably would have pitched life insurance too, had I not flashed my best I’d-rather-chew-on-my-own-eyeballs-than-continue-this-conversation look.
I was assuming Jack would sulk on the way home because he didn’t get his space helmet headphones, when he started waxing sentimental. This took me off guard.
“You know,” he said, “if you and dad were into gaming, I’m pretty sure you’d be the best parents ever.”
“Your timing is awful. We’ve already left the store.”
“No, I mean it. I wish you liked gaming like Colin and me, but otherwise you’re great.”
I’m just going to run with it: Almost the Best Parents Ever. Gaming deficiencies notwithstanding. I mean perfection would be over the top, wouldn’t it?
I prefer to think – at least in those five minute increments when the planets align in some fashion so as to allow my teenager the insight into what awesome parents we are – that we’re the parenting equivalent of those those Navajo blankets with the deliberate imperfection designed into the pattern to let the bad spirits out.
And he wasn’t even mad at me for not buying a new space helmet headset, or calling him an embezzler.
But the downside is I’ve roped myself into another visit to Best Buy.
PS. In the interest of full disclosure, Jack has paid me back for the birthday present and the hoodie. I take back anything I said about embezzlement.
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photo by David Flores