The Man-Chair

It is the most valuable piece of real estate in the shopping mall.

We long for it.

We covet it.


At times, we worship it.

It is the man-chair.


Every self-respecting woman’s clothing store has one. The solitary chair sitting just outside the entrance to the dressing rooms. It waits for us, patiently, as we move through the mall at the pace of a herd of grazing cattle. It never complains of boredom, or overuse, or the long hours. It just waits – for its next client.

And invariably, we come. Laden like camels on a Sahara crossing, we follow our mates through the tangle of women’s shops that outnumber every other type of store in almost every mall in the civilized world by a minimum of two-to-one. Store after store, our load getting heavier every hour, we soldier on in search of the next man-chair.

On quiet days, the competition for the man-chair is light. It sits for hours with no cheeks pressing on its padding. The husband or boyfriend entering the store has options. He can browse with his gal and nod approvingly at her selections. Sometimes even risk a comment. I’m not sure that mint green vest really goes with your flaming red hair. Then, when the time is right, he sidles across the store and stakes his claim.

Packages rest on the ground around him like discarded confetti as he stretches his arms and legs and wiggles his toes. A contented smile slowly creeps across his face. Cloud nine exists. And at this precise moment, he owns it.

Until the competition arrives. Another beast of burden enters the store and warily circles the 70% off racks. He makes his first pass, checking to see if the store has the obligatory single man-chair, or they’ve gone all out and provided two.

One. A solitaire. And it’s taken. The game is on.

The newcomer retreats to his mate and nudges her toward the sale rack, all the while throwing quick, dagger-like glances at the resting male. Nothing threatening, just a challenge on the time limit. Man-chairs are much like public tennis courts – don’t overstay your welcome or prepare for the look.

Subtle measures aren’t working. The entrenched male isn’t moving and the newbie’s wife is firmly fixed on the New Arrivals rack. It’s a double whammy. No man-chair – full price clothes. Wait, it’s a triple. All this is happening while his beloved Seattle Seahawks are playing. He’s close to a meltdown.

This is on a normal day. Christmas changes everything. The malls are busy, the pace frenetic, man-chairs in all-time high demand. No longer can the savvy male enter the store and wander aimlessly about, ignoring the man-chair while wondering how long it will take to get out of the parking lot when it’s time to leave. He needs a plan.

It’s a rare occasion when the man-chair is empty, and stalking the prize is necessary. Akin to trolling the aisles looking for a parking spot, this is not a sport for the weak or timid. Like the telltale puff of smoke from an exhaust pipe, the existing man-chair tenant will give signs of preparing to leave. A slight movement toward one of the bags tucked close to a chair leg. A roll of the eyes at the thought of reentering the madness of the mall. Timing is everything. It’s musical chairs meets the gridiron. The winner is the male who can time the departure of the butt-cheeks to the millisecond. His prize is ten minutes of rest for his aching feet. The losers continue on, with aching feet, aching backs, and a new-found appreciation for women’s stamina.

Sometimes, the unthinkable happens. Even after his wife has left the store, the dominant peacock refuses to move. He gives her a quick smile and tells her he’ll see her in a few minutes. He proudly nests on the man-chair, like an Emperor Penguin on its egg. The man-chair is his. He owns it. Maybe he’ll stay until Boxing Day. Perhaps longer.

Occasionally, a store will manage to squeeze an extra few dollars from the two-hundred percent markup on their clothes to buy a second man-chair. This introduces an entirely new angle. Conversation. For a few moments, competitors become buddies. The two who control the man-chairs watch the women shop and the competition covet their prize.

“It’s busy today,” the younger one says.

“Was worse in 2004,” the grizzled vet answers. “That was hell.”

“This is my first year clothes shopping with her,” the rookie admits. “I only saw the inside of the big-box electronic stores in ’04.”

“Lucky you. There wasn’t a man-chair to be had. Every one snapped up the second it opened. The young guys like you were dropping like flies.”

“I notice a lot of you older guys get the man-chairs. How is that?”

“We’ve got the moves – the experience. It’s not all about speed, you know.”

“Here’s my wife,” the younger man says as a woman walked toward them with a blouse sporting a price tag.

“That looks good on her,” the older man whispers under his breath. “Try; What a cute little top.”

“What do you think?” the woman asks.

There is no hesitation. “What a cute little top.”

She smiles and returns to the dressing room. The old fox has taken the young pup in and given him a classic man-chair line. Friends for the moment, but possible adversaries in the next store.

If unfolds like this every day, in every mall across North America. Probably in quite a few remote African villages as well, providing they have a man-chair, or its close cousin, the man-stool. It’s happened since the first European merchant said, That’s twenty percent off today, and it’ll continue to happen until women realize how important football is to us and let us stay home to watch the game.

But there is a shining light. Right here in my home town of Calgary, Canada. A beacon of hope for every man who enters the gladiator ring (and our largest mall) commonly known as Chinook Centre.

RW.

The Mecca of man-chairs exists in RW. A grouping of leather couches, facing each other with a large table in the center, covered with magazines. Take the savvy man-chair-lover to Chinook and ask him what’s a good store to drop a few hundred dollars, and the answer is always the same.

The Sony Store.

Well…you have to be a bit more specific. Ask him what’s a good store to drop a few hundred dollars on women’s clothes and the answer is RW.

Retail gurus, the proof is in the pudding. Provide the man-chair and we will come.

Provide the Mecca of man-chairs and we will stay until the little digits are worn off the credit card.

Because, as genetics would suggest, we are men, not camels.

 


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