Dollar Day Virgin

Nine-fifteen Sunday morning, I passed a woman sitting on a cement barrier outside the Goodwill Store on my way to check their hours posted on the door beyond her. Another woman walked up next to me. I turned to her and said, “They don’t open until ten.”

In a gravelly voice, she replied, “I always get here early.” She peeked through a glass wall into the store. “I already knew the colors. Just checking.”

“It’s blue and yellow today,” said a commanding voice. The woman from the cement barrier walked up. Her words carried across the nearly empty parking lot. “We should block those guys when they show up so they can’t see the colors before the doors open.”

The woman with the gravelly voice turned to me. “Watch for two big guys. One’s thinner than the other. They usually get here when the line reaches the parking lot.”

I didn’t know the Goodwill Store was so popular. I’d been donating to, and shopping at, Goodwill for years, but this was my first Sunday morning shopping visit.

The loud woman inched closer to me with each exchange. “The last two weeks those guys stood over there near that blue pole. They waited until the last minute to slide in front of us, like they were checking the colors, but then they rushed the doors.” Her words cracked like a whip across my face and over the parking lot.

I stepped back.

“They almost knocked down the woman opening up,” Gravelly Voice added. “I don’t know why those guys want to get inside ahead of us. They’ve seen us going to women’s clothes. They always head straight for electronics.”

I wondered how big the men were.

“They’re usually here by now,” said the loud woman. “Let’s not let them through. As soon as they show up, we can all stand near the door and block them.” I didn’t commit to her woman’s movement for a shoving match to be first inside Goodwill. Glad that she had taken my hint and kept an appropriate conversational distance, I prepared to keep an appropriate distance from both women if the men showed up.

“Get a cart right away.” I was suddenly touched by Gravelly’s tip and Loud Woman nodding.

I glanced at the line of shopping carts neatly hugging each other in their conga line behind the glass walls of the store. How could there be room in the store’s isles for all of them, and us?

“I don’t think I’ll need a cart. I’m only looking for a few blouses and a dress,” I said.

Gravelly’s eyes focused beyond where I stood. I braced myself to see two large men. Instead, as I glanced behind me, two petite women got in line and smiled.

Gravelly lowered her voice. “Take a cart anyway before they’re gone. Everything marked with a blue or yellow sticker is only a dollar. Fill your cart. Even if some things don’t fit, you still make out. I go right to women’s size 8. They sell fast on e-bay.”

A line of people started forming next to the barriers and blue poles. I couldn’t believe my luck in being mentored by seasoned shoppers. And being part of their confident heat outside the front doors to Goodwill.  

I faced sideways to include others in our conversation. One of the petite women said, “I was shopping at another store and asked the sales guy where the women’s section was. He said, ‘Feminine clothing on the left. Masculine clothing on the right.’ Some people are so sensitive. Why do they have to be politically correct all the time? I just wanted to know where the women’s section was. If you’re not a woman or a man, what are you?”

“A person.” Somehow, this switched the topic to breast feeding in public.

In the pleasant fall morning, outside Goodwill, our conversation became a benign community exchange.

“I’m glad I came early,” I said to the people around me. “I didn’t know about the sale. If I saw this line when I pulled up, I would’ve gone home.”

“The sale runs every Sunday,” said the loud woman. Was she encouraging me to come back next week?

Gravelly Voice added, “They don’t tell you what the colors’ll be. My niece works at a different store. She’s not supposed to say, but she tells me the colors before I get here.” This sensitive information, offered with a childish titter by a well-coiffured woman wearing clothes that looked like they were tailored to fit her, made it hard not to titter along with her.

The woman repulsed by babies breastfeeding in public, said, “I usually wind up buying clothes for my niece because I have trouble finding my size. But I like coming every week anyway.”

The Rocky Horror Picture Show announcement ‘Virgin’ that’s yelled in the theatre when someone was experiencing the show for the first time popped into my head. “I feel like the Goodwill Dollar Day Virgin.”

We laughed. Then straightened our line. Someone inside the store came to the glass doors. Forty-five minutes had time warped. No man had slinked in front of us, but the gravelly-voiced woman had gotten in front of me. Was she being protective, or taking advantage? I didn’t care. I was enjoying being part of the group’s entity.

The person inside unlocked one door. “Just let me get out of the way before you come in,” she said as the gravelly-voiced woman pushed on the door.

The two dresses and two blouses I purchased didn’t have blue or yellow stickers. No sale benefit from Dollar Day sapped some of my excitement. However, at regular Goodwill prices, they were worth more than I paid.

I arrived home feeling like I had returned from an adventure. Between waiting outside Goodwill, going through racks of clothes, standing in line for the changing rooms and to check out, I needed to grab a late lunch and put my feet up. However, I’ll value my Goodwill Dollar Day Sunday initiation forever.  



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