Urban Outfitters, a clothes shop for which I have a real and expensive weakness, cheats me out of more money, just outside San Jose.
Last night after work we jumped in a cab and headed over to Santana Row, which is the upmarket shopping district of the city, a taxi ride away. It’s a gorgeous area, centred on the Row itself, a street which bisects a few blocks of beautiful buildings and expensive stores. Most are too expensive for myself and Sam, who have in any case just been across the road to the budget superstore and are cursed with give-away carrier bags made of stretched thin plastic.
My target in Santana Row is to quickly locate the Urban Outfitters, which I do, rapidly disappearing into the changing rooms with an armful of ridiculous clothes; I try some daft skinny jeans, a pair of trousers so enormous they would do the Prince Regent from TV’s wonderful Blackadder proud, some t-shirts and a jacket which makes me look like a cross between a Beatle and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Obviously, I keep that one and hand the rest back, before scuttling off to try on more. This all sounds very extravagant, I know, but the pound compares so favourably to the dollar at the moment that I have decided that it’s permissible to spend a couple of hundred dollars on clothes while I’m out here and hang the consequences. So I mop up another selection of clothes and dash back to the fitting room, worrying that the shop will be closing in, erm, an hour or so.
Half an hour later I have remedied my rashest impulses, and put back the more expensive items in favour of bargains – nice Levi jeans which will cost me the equivalent of twenty quid, a shirt, stuff like that. I walk to the counter, proud of my prudence, and take my credit card from my pocket. Then, in a sensible and measured way, befitting that of the sensible young professional, I delicately lay down the items on a nearby table, run upstairs, grab an expensive shirt which I had earlier dismissed and the frankly absurd (and expensive) jacket, and hot foot it back to the till, launching the items, as well as the stuff I’d put on the table, at the shop assistant before I have time to reconsider. “This is a terrible idea!”, I think, happily.
In a sense I’m being logical – here in San Jose there aren’t so many shops and, by blowing my entire shopping budget for the week, I’m insulating myself against the possibility that when I arrive in San Francisco I shall spend even more. Now I won’t be able to, and will thus be inspired to spend my time there doing brilliant, character-building things like contemplating beat poetry, riding the trams and spotting seals perched against the cold rocks of Alcatraz. I am free from the curse of shopping, I think! This was a genius move. And best of all, I’ve done Urban Outfitters now, and Gap, so the temptation won’t even be so strong.
At the tills in America they still make you sign for credit card payments, rather than use a PIN, but you sign a little electronic screen, rather than a piece of paper.
“We don’t have these in England!”, I tell the shop assistant, cheerfully.
“Oh, really?”, she replies, “you’re from England, cool. There are branches of Urban Outfitters there too though, right?”.
“Oh yes”, I reply, “but it works out cheaper here at the moment, which is good”.
“Okay. Are you in San Jose long?”, she asks.
“Just a couple more days – but then I’m going to San Francisco. Thought I’d try to get my shopping done here first though”, I tell her, feeling expansive, “and then it’s done”.
“Right, San Francisco is amazing”, she replies.
“I’m looking forward to it”.
“And you know”, she says, leaning forward conspiratorially, “San Francisco has the biggest branch of Urban Outfitters in the world!”.
I consider this, and then say, in a frantic, high pitched voice, “Where? TELL ME WHERE IT IS FOR WHEN I GET THERE!”.