I am not a natural born shopper. The idea that shopping is an enjoyable activity, a viable form of recreation, is quite foreign to me. And sometimes this is reflected in the poor selection of clothes in my wardrobe.
Ahead of a night out in a chic city bar, I wondered what to wear. When a pair of two-year-old ripped white jeans was top of my list, I decided a shopping trip was in order. Zara had opened in Sylvia Park so that's where I headed.
Over the years I've discovered that it's advisable to embark on shopping expeditions in the right mood. All too often, I've entered a clothes store short of time and feeling hangry. It's not a recipe conducive to purchasing.
So one morning last week, I set out on my adventure. I was hydrated, rested, well fed and time-rich.
Zara buzzes. It is packed with customers. You will not feel like a lone exhibit at a zoo as you peruse the clothes. You will not feel like the staff members are scrutinising your every move.
There are plenty of staff members roaming but they leave you alone. No one asks: "Are you after anything in particular?" You do not reply: "Just looking, thanks". You do not need to wonder whether a duller, more impotent dialogue has ever been conducted.
Do you know what else won't happen here? My pet shopping gripe, that's what. Say you're on a mission and have grabbed quite a few items you'd like to try on. Then, once you have all this gear precariously balanced, a shop assistant materialises to relieve you of these items. They're only trying to help but, at this stage, it isn't easy to offload the stuff. Also, it's pointless since by now you're usually just three steps from a changing room.
As far as I can tell, at Zara you could stagger around carrying multiple items and no one would address you until you queued up to try on the clothes. That's right: there's a roped off area where customers line up for one of nineteen changing rooms. You must join the queue and reveal how many garments you have. You are also required to hold your handbag against a wall, presumably so some technological device can confirm you've not stolen anything.
Once you reach the front of the queue, a concierge will point you in the direction of the next free changing room. I tried on my seven garments only to find they were all too big. I advised the concierge that I'd like to try on four of them in the next size down. She advised me which ones were available in this size and said I'd have to harvest them from the racks myself.
Oh no! That meant I'd lose my changing room and the queue was longer than ever. I took a deep breath. I could do this. I found the garments, joined the line, scanned my bag and got my changing room. I decided to buy a pair of ripped blue jeans, a cropped orange top and an ornate jacket that (apart from its chain store origins) looked very Gilda Kirkpatrick.
As I went to join the line to pay, a pleated sleeveless top caught my eye. There was no way I was queuing for a changing room again so I figured I'd buy it and bring it back if necessary. (A sign advised that customers could return unused clothes for a refund within 30 days.)
I paid, left and then I saw a leopard print camisole-style top in another shop. I went in to try it on along with a pair of ripped white jeans. (Leopard print. More ripped jeans. What can I say? I am all class.)
In the changing room I tried on my Gilda jacket to see if it worked with these new clothes. Then I did something sneaky. I tried on the Zara pleated top for the first time. It looked bad. So after making my two new purchases I went straight back to Zara, returned the top and received the refund - all the while feeling guilty for using another retailer's changing room.
As I exited the store, Zara's security guard stopped me because allegedly some alarm had been triggered. She suggested that I return to have the garments checked for security tags. I explained that I'd already left with these items, returned with them and now I was leaving with one fewer item. How could there possibly be a problem the third time through these doors?
It was nearly twelve o'clock. In two hours I'd bought six items of clothing, returned one, had my handbag scanned twice, been in three changing rooms and joined four queues. I was over it. I told this security lady: "Sorry, I am not queueing up again." She shrugged as if to say: "Whatever."
I went on my merry way in need of a lie down and a cup of tea. How anyone can find clothes shopping anything other than a test of stamina and sheer determination is a mystery to me.