The ground was getting closer as the plane swooped over the Potomac for the landing at Washington National airport—our first trip to spend a long weekend with my brother-in-law Chris and his wife, since his transfer there in the summer of 1989. Upon researching the area he lived in, McLean, Va., I was delighted to discover that it was in the vicinity of Tyson’s Corner Center, one of the top five malls in the USA. The Center is the landmark of every high end department store, including the one that was music to my ears—the famous Bloomingdale’s! Sophie Kinsella described it in her book “Shopaholic takes Manhattan” as a shrine, a wonder store where your hopes and dreams can be fulfilled.
Once we arrived at the house and enjoyed supper in the garden, the topic of sightseeing came up for the following day. Was it going to be the White House, the Pentagon, the Vietnam or the Iwo Jima War Memorial? Everyone was taken aback when I mentioned that the only site I wished to visit was Bloomingdale’s at Tyson’s Corner Center. I explained my fascination with this famous shopping mecca, a kind of an avant-garde modern museum displaying the latest women’s fashion styles from numerous brands—where one can gain insight into the most becoming current trends and designs. I suggested that they go ahead and see the monuments in Washington after dropping me off at the mall for the day. Everyone seemed somewhat concerned about my lack of interest in visiting the historic sites that every tourist comes to see in Washington but I promised to join them the following day.
In the morning Chris drove me straight to Bloomingdale’s. I was in a trance from the moment we entered, overpowered by the glass and steel staircase ascending to the third floor, the gleaming white marble under my feet, the elegant displays and smiling salesclerks in black uniforms beckoning me to shop, shop, shop. Chris took me directly to the ladies department on the second floor and promised to pick me up at the main entrance at 4.30pm. I can’t even remember waving goodbye. One of the displays, a hot pink dress, had already caught my attention. What a selection, love this white blouse in the corner and these khaki capri pants—look at that long flowered skirt on the mannequin—“Oh it’s the last one? Fitting room number 5? Thank you.”
The clock started ticking. I tried on one outfit after another. What can I say, I kept pinching myself, maybe I was hallucinating but everything seemed to fit like a glove—either the color or the style was just right. My sales lady, Alicia, with whom I was on a first name basis by now, was marking the parcels for delivery to Canada. The boxes were piling up—the thought occurred to me that I would need a really good story to explain their arrival back home.
Time stood still, the fitting room was getting crowded, and thank goodness for my workouts: the marathon “try-ons” were going quite well. Holding my breath, I was just trying to squeeze myself into another perfect shipping order when I heard Chris’s distressed voice outside.
“Have you seen a blonde lady from Canada? I have been looking for her all over the mall since 4.30pm. She didn't show up at our pre-arranged meeting place. As a last resort, I decided to check the ladies department as this was the first place I dropped her off this morning.”
“Oh, yes,” said Alicia, “ she is in the fitting room back there, just trying on another outfit.”
I checked my watch—what happened? It was 5.30pm already—seemed like I just got here! Coming out of the room, I made eye contact with Alicia, my comrade, looking toward the boxes marked for shipping, a finger on my lips—she acknowledged my sign.
I apologized profusely in the car gushing that only at Bloomingdale’s can one spend the whole day shopping. Silence followed me all the way home. That night, I was an exemplary, helpful guest, vowing to accompany everyone on the remaining sightseeing tour—the full package, lay it all out—Arlington Cemetery, Old Town Alexandria—the works! The next day, keeping my word, I followed them everywhere—from morning until late afternoon—playing the eager tourist, ooh-ing and aah-ing at every monument, grave site, historical building and museum we visited.
Don’t ask me to recall what I heard or saw on that tour—to this day I cannot remember a thing. My head was swirling with visions of Bloomingdale’s packages arriving at my front door in Canada.