Nightmare on Oxford Street

shoppingYesterday morning I found myself amongst one of the many hundreds of eager, idiotic shoppers queued outside Selfridges on the busiest sales shopping day of the year. All around me my fellow shoppers were amusingly prepared. Several came equipped with shopping lists, both the traditional form and cleverly disguised on iphones. The women behind me were siking themselves up like Olympic athletes at the start line. The woman beside me kept a steely gaze to the front, composed herself and took a deep breath. She clearly had a plan. In the background I could hear a group of friends chatting excitedly about their potential purchases, clearly unaware of the rib crushing reality awaiting them inside. I began to panic. What was a mildly agoraphobic, crowd hating, queue loathing person doing standing outside a department store on Boxing Day anyway? I must still be drunk.


In the midst of my panic the doors opened and the crowds began to shuffle and speed up, picking many of us up in what felt like a total body Mexican wave. The first woman pounced up the escalator like a springbok in season, eyes wide, ready to pounce on her victim. A Miu Miu vitello and a Philip Lim dress in this case. The look of relief on her face was palpable as she grasped her purchases for dear life. The ones that followed as driven as their predecessor looked almost feral in their quest for discounted goods. Snatching and grabbing and grasping at garments, armfuls of accessories, hoards and hoards of bodies scrambling for the best deals.


And then I saw it. A dress I’d coveted since I first laid eyes upon it. It wasn’t in my size but I could lose weight, have it taken in, let out. In the face of a bargain, who really needs clothes to fit properly anyway. And still there it hung in all it’s marked down glory. And then I saw her. Eyeing up the same dress. We locked eyes. Was it my post Christmas stupor or did she stamp her feet and snarl? I pretended I wasn’t really interested and took a casual, rather aloof stroll over to look at some other things that happened to be daringly close to my desired item. Apparently my opposition had the same idea and amidst scouring the racks took a self-assured snatch at the dress, only to be met by my hand at the other end of the hanger and so we tumbled, hair pulling all the way down and plummeted to the floor. The other customers so consumed in their spending jaunts barely raised an eyebrow.


Okay, so that didn’t happen but there was considerable atmosphere and more than one evil eyed glare.


Catching yourself with bared teeth in the harsh glare of a department store mirror isn’t the most becoming of images, nor was it my proudest moment. But that goes to show how crazed we become at the mention of a sale, affix with ‘the biggest of the year’ and we’re there with stark raving loony bells on. I’d watched the crowds from last year’s sales, an event deemed important enough to be news worthy, heard rumours of the catfights, of crazed women crammed in like sardines, beating each other down with handbag straps and shoe laces. Despite this I had no indication, nor preparation for what lay in store for me. Queuing for ages, some had literally been there since Christmas night and by morning, over two thousand gathered. Surely there must be some left over mulled wine, I remember thinking.


As for the dress, it now stands pretty in my wardrobe. But it wasn’t from the frantic, chaotic scenes of the bustling Oxford Circus but rather, the comfort of my own bed from their website. A little pocket of calm nestled forgotten in the mania of the sales. And in my size too.