Saturday, August 20, 2011
Doing our Tour of Endless Vacation Gift Emporiums last week in Cape Cod, Carlo said to me, "Did you see Stuart Little in the case?"
I had not.
He led me to a curio filled with knicknacks, including a series of winsome mouse figurines, all about the size of a nickel. Cute, but nothing special, I thought -- till I zoomed in on what looked like Stuart Little in his roadster. Having just done a blog post about Stuart, which reacquainted me with one of my favorite childhood stories, I squealed with delight. The case door happened to be unlocked, so I pulled him out, turned him over to see the price, and squealed again, "I must have him!" After all, he was only $11.
Carlo and I admired his snazzy red car, and we agreed again that I should commemorate our vacation with this small token. "I can't believe he's so cheap," I declared. And then Carlo, sensing retail danger, took Stuart from my grasp, turned him over to doublecheck, and said, "Karen -- he's not $11. He's $110."
End of squealing.
There would, of course, be no spending $110 on a figurine the size of a nickel, however cute. We shared our dismay and disbelief. If $11 seemed a tad low for something of this nature, well-crafted and winsome as it was, $110 was clearly absurd. Twenty-nine-ninety-five seemed like about the right price.
Days went by, and we made several return trips to our souvenir emporium, which happened also to be a splendid ice cream shack and candy store. But each trip for me was more bittersweet than sweet. I'd visit Stuart, see if the price had changed, notice that it hadn't, then look doubtfully at the teenager manning the cash register in the gift section. She simply did not look like someone with whom any dealing could be done.
We did other lovely vacationy things together, though I was unable to forget Stuart in the red car. In downtime from whale watching and ice-cream-eating, I hopped on the internet to find Stuart in his car on eBay. I'd show that overpriced souvenir shop! Everything is available on eBay, right?
It seems not. Not only did I fail to find him there, he went unrepresented even on the website of the figurine manufacturer, which offered, literally, hundreds of other miniature mice doing winsome things in fetching garb with tiny little accessories. There were even two other mice in cars, but both were, sadly, girls wearing dumb flowered hats. They did not remotely put one in mind of Stuart.
Stuart was nowhere, not even in the category of "retired" figurines, some of which were selling for upwards of $300.
Well, I told myself, this is what being a grownup is all about. Sometimes, however much we want something, and feel not merely entitled to have it but that we were MEANT to have it, we must acknowledge that we cannot have it.
And then, one afternoon when Thing Three and I had a hankering to nap, Carlo seemed still full of energy and in need of an errand. "Why don't you to go the candy store and talk them into giving you a deal on Stuart?" I said blithely.
This was probably a cheap shot, and certainly not in the spirit of the lecture I'd given myself on self-sacrifice. Unlike me, Carlo relishes the act of bargaining -- even when such endeavors seem fraught or unlikely to succeed. He loves to shop, he lives to ask for a discount, and he's usually at least nominally successful. It should be a lesson to us all, really, but somehow I don't have the same verve when it comes to purchases. I assume when a shopkeeper writes "$11" on the ticket -- or $110 -- that's what she means.
Anyway, Carlo charged off with Thing Four, and they returned about 90 minutes later with rock candy on wooden sticks and a plastic bag. The teenage girl at the cash register was, as I expected, unable to make a deal. She was, however, willing to phone someone with authority, who eventually called her back and agreed to a modest discount on Stuart.
The discount did not put the mouse in $29.95 range, but it did represent a kind of success from which Carlo was unable to retreat. Stuart came home wrapped lovingly in tissue paper inside a box inside a plastic bag, and now he sits on a little shelf in my dining room, doing nothing but making me happy when I gaze upon him.