I am armed and ready for the biggest sale of the year. Like the brilliant war strategist, Gen. George S. Patton Jr., I am launching a full-scale offensive, leveraging an early lunch hour to attack the Sidewalk Sale systematically - block by block, store by store. My objective: to seek and acquire that bargain-priced must-have that I won't even know exists until I spot it.
I have been training for this day for months. I have studied ancient martial arts like Karate, Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do. Eye exercises have turned my baby blues into laser-precision bargain-seeking scopes. In two-a-day drills, I have perfected such maneuvers as speed browsing, baby stroller dodging, and hand-to-hand bra-and-panty combat.
I have run sprints and jogged long distances in military cadence: "I don't know but I've been told, girls gotta shop before they get old. Sound off, one-two. Sound off, three-four."
My purse is equipped with the proper munitions to ensure victory including cash in all denominations for speedy transactions and two plastic cards (one credit, one debit) for backup.
I have mapped out my route, noting the exact locations of each store I want to hit and the restrooms along the way. I am a 17-year-veteran of the Sidewalk Sale. I am prepared.
Boldly, I storm through the door of my building onto the concrete path below. The reflected glare burns my eyes but I'm quick with the sunglasses. Bond. Jane Bond. Stealth is my middle name.
I forge up 7th toward the bazaar-like scene on Mass. Street. I can see the other shoppers through the hazy waves of heat wafting up from the pavement. (I have seen the enemy and it is them.) With each step I take, I feel extreme warmth radiating up from the sidewalk and down from the cloudless sky. My body starts to perspire even though I have been outside for only twenty seconds. I have walked a half block and am only a few steps away from the first tabletop of irresistible bargains when, suddenly, I stop dead in my tracks and cry out to no one in particular: IT'S TOO HOT TO SHOP!
It's a bombshell realization that rattles me to the core. Because those must be the five words in the English language I was LEAST likely to string together and utter aloud. Right up there with "George Clooney turns me off" and "Chocolate cake? No thank you."
But it's true. It is too hot. Too hot even to shop. Even on the day when everything under the sun is on sale. Even though the perfect pair of size 9 1/2 wedge-heeled espadrilles might be right around the corner, waiting on a rack with colored dots on the side. I may be a retail warrior, but at 102 degrees and a heat index of 112, this is a suicide mission. And I'm not that much of a zealot.
I retreat to the cool confines of my workplace. As I breach the airlock, a cold gust of conditioned air hits me in the face and I know that surrender was the noble choice. It's time to leave this battle to the younger soldiers and new recruits. The pre-teen girls in skimpy shorts and tank tops; the bare-chested boys with their T-shirts tied, turban-style, around their heads. These are the lean, mean fighting machines of discount shopping. The new sidewalk sale foot soldiers.
As I slip into the ladies room to cool my flushed face with a wet paper towel, I imagine Patton himself in the mirror, standing behind me against a huge American flag backdrop. He's in full uniform, helmet on head, riding crop in hand and he barks, "Remember, Hamilton, you're never beaten until you admit it."
"That might be true, General Blood and Guts, sir," I answer back. "But with all due respect, you never had to fight for bargains in Kansas on one of the hottest days of the year. You only had to fight World War II."