This side up

Fit for shopping in Chicago


:There was a muffled rustle, something falling, and a sudden gasp.

From between the racks and the legs of people, I spotted a pair of feet, toes upward. Someone had fallen, although that seemed impossible given the clientele of this upscale store a stone’s throw from Michigan Avenue in the heart of Chicago. Everyone, customers and staff, looked no older than 45 and fit enough to run a 5K at a moment’s notice.

Surely, someone would spring into action, administer mouth-to-mouth and then step back when first responders rushed through the front door.

I looked around. My daughter, Diana, was lost in the crowd, pushing through racks of tight woven clothing that looked like it would cling like a second skin. In fact, some of the staff modeled the merchandise. There wasn’t much left to the imagination. They were showing off toned muscles, flat stomachs and everything else that was properly proportioned.

The thump, thump of the music didn’t miss a beat. A lean blonde, wearing black tights with sweat glistening on her face, continued circling her arms above her head as she performed a split in the display window. Nobody seemed to be paying attention to her from inside the store – they were too intent on the clothing. Those on the sidewalk gave glances but didn’t stop. I guess pretty women performing yoga in the center of town is not uncommon in Chicago.

In the meantime, the feet pointing up from under the racks didn’t move. To my amazement, someone stepped over them. There was no effort to help, especially in a post-Christmas sale.

“Some sale,” I thought. The tag on a pair of pants showed $102 marked down to $89, a whopping 10 percent. Yet the store was packed with people lined up at the register and much longer cues to get into three changing rooms.

A woman in robin egg blue tights with a black and white wool striped ski hat and fur topped boots, who looked like she had stepped out of an upscale vodka ad, cruised among the masses.

She was effective. Customers kept asking her questions. Maybe she would start doing yoga at any moment. She didn’t.

There was some more rustling. Finally someone noticed the body beneath the racks.

The headless body lifted from the floor by one of the staff shocked no one. A mannequin had been pushed over by the shoppers and was being slid back into the window display, not far from the girl who continued to do yoga. This is not what I expected when Diana said she wanted to go shopping as a Christmas gift.

“You want to go where?” I asked for the second time.

“Lululemon,” she said.

I had never heard of the store, but then I’m not hip to the style, or, for that matter, the fitness scene.

That was part of the lure for Diana. Lululemon is not found in Jackson, Wyo., where she lives. There was another, more compelling reason for me to fly to the Windy City for the weekend. Diana and her daughter Natalie were there, as was my son Jack, his wife Jennifer and their two children. Lululemon was just a momentary diversion. But what a great perspective on the up and moving young set and a limited view of the local economy.

“They can’t take the money fast enough,” said a young man who assumed a stance of patience beside me. We were both in front of a display about a collection of yoga classes, or sessions, or whatever you call them. It was one of the few places where people weren’t frantically pulling shirts and pants off racks and even stripping down to their underwear to try things on.

Steve, my newfound companion for this trip to Lululemon Land, worked in “IT” (information technology).

“I should have bought stock in this company,” he said. In fact, he proceeded to tell me, if he had just heeded what brands his wife bought and invested in those companies, he’d be able to afford her shopping forays.

His wife appeared from the throng. She was wearing heavy lipstick and a tan down parka with a fur collar. Steve looked at her hands and saw they were empty. He looked relieved.

“Couldn’t find anything she would like,” she announced. Steve told me she was looking for a gift but had suspected she was really shopping for herself.

“I love this place,” she said.

He rolled his eyes.

She disappeared among the racks again.

Moments later, Diana emerged from the changing room with a pair of pants that looked no bigger than a sock.

“That’s it?”

“Really didn’t find anything else,” she answered.

Steve flashed me a look, as if I just escaped being run over by a Mack truck. He looked positively envious.

“I think you need a shirt, too,” I said.

Steve looked at me incredulously. Diana picked up the cue and instantly went into shopping mode. I just smiled.

I can’t wait for a Lululemon to open in Warwick. That would be proof positive that the economy is on the rebound; even better, that Diana will be visiting.


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