I was at dinner with my wife the other day. When the check arrived and she began fishing for her credit card, I had an idea. It was a manly idea. I excused myself from the table.
By the time I returned, she was adding in the tip.
"What's that?" she asked. I was carrying a garment bag.
"Sports jacket," I said, as matter-of-factly as I could. In the time a woman would have taken to go potty, I had slipped across the mall to a Jos. A. Bank, picked out a jacket I liked, tried it on, paid for it and returned.
Sure, this was a triumph of bullheaded decisiveness, but it was mostly a declaration of freedom. I hate shopping for clothes. If I am going to do it, I am going to do it on my terms, as a sporting event. In this case, I tried to set a land-speed record -- which, according to the admiring salesman, I did. ("For a major item," he amended. He had seen socks go quicker.)
Most often, my clothes-buying sport involves competitive frugality, which is why I shop only at Jos. A. Bank, a store that economizes even on its name. (Originally, it was known as Joseph A. Bank Clothiers, but shortened the name. I'm guessing this is an ongoing process; eventually, it will be J. Bk.)
Like those Persian rug stores that are somehow perpetually going out of business, Jos. A. Bank always has a sale on, and the sale always seems insane. Sometimes, it will be three suits for the price of one. Sometimes, you buy a suit and get, say, seven shirts and nine ties free. When one sale ends, another begins, as though it were lit from the burning ember of the previous one. These sales are always advertised on TV, and they always make me snap to attention. My wife rolls her eyes.
"B-but," I say, "if you buy three suits, they give you all the pants in the store and a bathrobe! I need a bathrobe!"
Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that I am a major tool -- that a store that always has a sale is a store that never has a sale, that it is simply juggling prices around to make you think you're getting a bargain, the way dealerships will give you a great price on a new car but then soak you horribly on your trade-in. Well, here is what I am thinking: I am thinking that I just wrote the longest sentence of my life not containing a semicolon -- Sixty-one words! -- and am feeling pretty awesome about it. (I am VERY competitive, even with myself.)
The other thing you might be thinking is that I'm not real picky about what I wear, and you would be right. Journalists are famous for dressing badly, but even among my nebbishy peers, I am known for my shocking indifference to fashion. Because I rely on my wife to tell me what combinations of colors and fabrics "work," and because my wife isn't always around to dress me, I basically stick to uniforms she has at some point in the past selected -- if the pants are khaki, for example, the shirt must be blue. All my shirts are the same blue, just to be safe. I dress with all the daring and panache of a waiter at the Cheesecake Factory.
Meanwhile, I see from my e-mails (I am on the Jos. A. Bank mailing list) that the last sale is over, and a new one has begun. In this sale, you get half-price on any suit, and a second suit free. By my calculations, that means four suits for the price of one. I'm pretty sure this is the biggest sale the store has ever had.
I'm heading back tomorrow, but not for the suits. I've got enough suits. What I'm after is socks. There's a record to be broken.