Wikipedia identifies Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. as “an American-owned chain of domestic merchandise retail stores [that] sell goods primarily for the bedroom and bathroom, as well as kitchen and dining room.
For those unschooled in the Way of the Shopper, Bed Bath and Beyond may be the Jurassic Park of merchants. To venture there leaves the survivor forever changed. Every now and then, necessity overcomes fear, and compels this observer to undertake an adrenaline-soaked return to this vendor. With due respect for the sensibilities of the reader, the following is his True Account of a recent experience.
After assembling suitable kit, consisting of military grade undergarments, expedition khakis and tactical sneakers, this reporter experienced an uneventful transit to the jumping-off point, a deceptively innocuous Portal lowering over a tranquil expanse of asphalt and shimmering SUV windscreens. A brief pause, accompanied by the expected wrench of anticipation, was followed by an uneventful leave-taking of the Sunlit Lands.
On entry, an initial encounter with the usual jumbled sensory welter led to rapid onset of the Syndrome, a stunned and slack-jawed numbing that entombs the mind of even the best prepared — a riot of sights and sounds that pummels consciousness into insensibility. Recovering slightly, your now disoriented reporter acquired from assembled transport a suitable carrier. Swiveling unexpectedly into a Shark® upright vacuum display promising grotesque manufacturer’s rebates, I thought, You’re gonna need a bigger cart, reselected appropriately, and set off into the Interior for experiences on the edge of the unspeakable.
Shreds of clarity fought mounting unease with each step deeper into the unknown. On a far wall, an expanse of cunning devices “as seen on TV”, clearly meant to subdue and eviscerate, hung. In the middle ground, a tract of gleaming stainless and glass containers foretold the arrival of disarticulated specimens. On the right, authentic Peruvian rainforest sounds drifted in from the perimeter of the T-Fal® (allegedly a line of “cookware”) Enclosure. The tang of fear-tinged sweat and dank reek of Tropical Forest (Yankee Candles®, $9.95) assailed flaring nostrils. Malign appliances crouched on end caps.
Sensing a presence, my head snapped left into penetrating eyes. “Sheets!” I screamed. The apparition, a native docent who had apparently been tracking me, just smiled. With a show of gleaming teeth and a sideways jerk of the head, he conducted me, uncomprehending, deeper into the Interior.
After adventures, the hazards of which have left on only confused memories, my guide led me to what must have been the 100% Egyptian Cotton Quadrangle. Walls groaning under a textile mélange announced categories beyond simple comprehension. Once again, the clammy hand of the Syndrome stole in, paring away sentience, instilling despair. My guide: “Any preference?” The welter of unresolved choice completed the erosion of psyche. “Cheap!” I bleated. Some undefined time later I found my conveyance burdened with bundles, marked, “Complete Set, $29.95.” Leaving my guide, I set off, understandably shaken, toward the Portal and the Sunlit Lands.
Bumping along the final leg, the sound of distant thunder could be heard over forest rainfall. Turning, this reporter met an array of subtle contrivances, variously denominated HoMedics, Sound Spa and Zen Sleep. A docent, doe-eyed, with the tranquil look of a thousand years, said, “Take and you will find peace. $79.50, essential oils included.” Momentarily stunned, I retreated, sitting heavily on a pile of coastal-themed entry mats, scrambling crab-wise to an imagined place of safety. “The horror, the horror,” I croaked.
Invoking the Name of the Almighty, this reporter, having recovered a remnant of coherence, clawed his way toward the exit. It was with inexpressible gratitude that I found my assigned vehicle, now burdened with acquisitions obtained at great personal cost, but nevertheless at a steep discount, rolling to a stop for final processing.
The checker rang up the items, asked if a purchased bag would be needed, accepted payment and delivered a receipt.
“Thank you,” I said.
The checker replied, “What?”
“Thanks.” Stunned silence. “Thanks for your help.”
Checker: “Nobody has ever said that to me.”
WTF, I thought. “You’re kidding,” I said.
“Seriously,” he said. “No customer has ever thanked me for doing this job.”
It seemed I had encountered the most astonishing thing in an astonishing day.
Seeing no one else approaching the line, the floodgates of rhetoric opened in a manner perhaps attributable to the euphoria of recent escape. The uses of civil discourse needed to be briefly explained. As in, civility is the cement of any culture. It is in short supply and should be encouraged. And, in the absence of real civility, ironic civility would do.
“Say it,” I said, “especially if you don’t mean it.” The gentleman was asked to consider branching out from simple insincere thanks to insincere gratitude, as in, “I love Mondays,” and “I look forward to unpaid overtime.” The idea is that belief follows behavior, and feigned civility or gratitude leads to the real thing. Plus, it makes for a decent standing gag if not overused. Having been hooked by the “Thank you,” this person was ok with the brief rest of the spiel.
Mission complete and ordeal endured, your reporter left, returning to the Sunlit Lands confident in newfound knowledge, Skittles and two bags of 200 thread count linens. This brief account is a True Account, offered by your inglorious reporter for the public and cautionary use of those that choose to cross the Portal.