Does the world stink? I mean, literally, does everyone smell bad? Are we especially pungent at Christmas? Is it the eggnog?
I ask because people sure do like their soaps. They really get excited about their soaps. You could even say they get in a lather about their soaps. Go ahead: say it.
I was in a soap store on Saturday. Let’s call it Mush. This particular Mush was not a big store. It was about the size of an indie coffee shop, except smelling like strawberry and with no one hogging a booth for hours as he “writes” his “novel.”
Normally, if I needed soap – which, contrary to rumour, I do – I would go to the pharmacy, walk to the appropriate aisle and pick up whatever’s on sale. Except Irish Spring. Irish Spring smells like something used to disinfect prison cells.
Then I would walk to the cash, which would normally be placed near the exit. I would leave, looking forward to my new soap. I’m 51; I get excitement where I can.
At Mush, it’s all soap all over. Sorry: beauty products. Never “handsome products,” by the way, or “desperate maintenance products” or “futile-dam-against-the-relentless-tide-of-aging products.” Always “beauty products.”
The beauty products covered every surface. There were vats of oils on tables and stacks of unguents on shelves. Balls for bubbles and tubes for hair. Greases and oils and creams that seemed edible. But don’t eat them.
They had cutsie names like “Bacchus Road Jam,” “Feet of Cray-Cray” and “Sex in the Tub.” They could have been shooters for a girls’ night out. But don’t drink them.
And there were people. So many people. People searching for soaps and shampoos and creams in all the pastel colours of the pastelliest rainbow. None of the people seemed especially stinky. Aha! But they were Christmas shopping, presumably for stinky friends and family members left at home, thankfully, because it was tight in there!
And unlike at my serviceable pharmacy, with sensible soaps like “U-Clean” and “Grandma’s Dirt Stripper,” the cash registers at Mush were at the back of the store. Customers had to push their way through, then swim upstream to get out. Some liberally applied lubricants would have come in handy.
Deb and I were at Mush to buy bath bombs. I’m not exactly sure what bath bombs are, but they look like those powdery lollipops that are the last things eaten out of the Halloween stash.
It was so crowded, we couldn’t get close enough to browse the bombs. Instead, we desperately grabbed a “gift pack” that cost more than the parking ticket we got for taking too long in the store.
I lined up at the cash, people jostling me. I thought to myself, “This is madness. This is Christmas. This is soap.”
The poor staff were doing their best in the jammed boutique. But there were also employees doing demos and offering samples, which, frankly, was not the time. As I stood in line, a young girl walked up to me. She had a little tin bucket of goo hooked to her belt.
“Would you like some hand cream?” she asked me.
“I’m okay,” I said.
“Oh, come on,” she said. “You look like someone who could use a little cream.” I get that a lot. “Let me see your hand.” She took my left hand, scooped some goo out of her pot with a stick and plopped it onto the back of my hand. “A little hand massage. Relieves stress.”
She began rubbing the goo into my hand.
“You’re super tense. Let yourself relax,” she gently scolded. She kept her eyes on mine the whole time. A stranger is staring at me, rubbing goo into my hand, and my other hand is holding 80 dollars’ worth of “beauty products” that will dissolve upon first use when my daughter takes one of her three-hour baths. There are crazy soap people everywhere. It’s madness. It’s Christmas. It’s soap. So, yes, I’m tense.
But hers were kind eyes on a kind face. Plus, the goo and the rubbing actually felt good. “That’s better,” she said. Then: “I’m not even trying to sell you something right now.”
“Just chilling?” I said, because I’m super hip like that.
“Yeah, taking a little break,” she said.
“A little human contact amid the chaos,” I suggested.
“Yeah,” she chuckled, “a little human contact amid the chaos. I like that.”
The funny thing is, I did too. For that one minute in Mush holding hands with a stranger, even a stranger doing her job, staring at each other, I suddenly felt less crazed. I left Mush feeling better than when I went in. It doesn’t take much, actually. A little human contact goes a long way. Much like hand goo.