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I’m not a shopper, so online buying has been great for me, even before the pandemic. When I do have to physically go to a store, I try to be in-and-out. If a store doesn’t have what I’m looking for, I’m out of there: I’m not going to browse around. I have done all of my Christmas shopping in one day, during my lunch hour. Before I go in, I have a game plan, and I stick to it – no need to vary from the path.

Bill and I recently had to make a trip to Springfield, Mo., and while we were there, I thought I would run by a store at the mall to pick one thing; another one of my in-and-out trips. That was my first mistake.

It had been years since I have been inside this mall, and the last time I was there was a quick trip with my sister-in-law, who knew where she was going. Surely it wouldn’t be that hard to find one store in the mall. That was my second mistake.

We parked the truck near an entrance I thought would be close to the store I wanted. Even if it wasn’t right at the door, how far could it be? There aren’t that many stores in the mall, right? I asked Bill if he was going to come with me. He laughed, tilted his seat back, and put his hat over his face for a bit of nap.

“I’m going to stay right here,” he said. “Take your time.”

As I made my way through the entrance, I remembered why I never go there. There were people everywhere, and I instantly felt like a fish out of water. 

I found a map, but nowhere did the words “You are here” appear. I located the store I was looking for and started to make my way there. This is when mistake number three occurred.

I walked for what seemed like miles. Corridors shot to the left and right, in front of and behind me. I was lost, yet surrounded by people. I figured I would ask someone for directions. That’s where my fourth mistake happened.

I asked a woman and her daughter if they knew where this store was. At first they said no, then they asked me if I knew where another store was. If I went to that store, the store I was looking for was on the other side. It would be easier, they said, to go all the way through the store because once I made it to the other entrance, it would be down the hall and to the right. Mistake number five.

I found the store they mentioned and began to make my way through it. There was apparently a big sale going on because it was packed. Finally, after walking through women’s wear, men’s clothes, household goods and kid’s clearance, I found the other entrance/exit.

I walked out, made a right, just as the mother and daughter told me to do, thinking I would soon reach my original destination. If you’re keeping track, that’s mistake number six.

I kept walking and walking, and walking, but there was no sign of the store. There wasn’t even any sign of it on the signs hanging from the ceiling.

I asked someone for directions, only to be told, again, that I was going the wrong way, again. 

I had been roaming the building for an hour, and I was done, finished and was over it. I didn’t need what I thought I needed enough to stay there any longer.

As I tried to retrace my steps, I figured Bill would be worried about me because I am never in a store that long. He left his cell phone at home, so I couldn’t call him. I was on my own, lost in a strange land. 

Finally, things started to look a little more familiar, and I saw a glowing “EXIT” sign. As I walked out the door and felt the sunshine hit my face, I knew I was free, free from that place. As I looked across the parking lot, I realized something very important – this is not where I parked. Dang it. Mistake number six.

I finally made it to the truck and was not in the best of humor.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Bill asked.

“No, I couldn’t even find the store,” I replied.

“Did you ask someone for directions?” he said, to which I replied yes. “I saw people walking around with sacks from that store. Did you ask them where it was?”

“I didn’t see anyone with those bags,” I replied.

Bill shook his head and said, “Jules, your first mistake was not going online…”

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]

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