My favorite of all thrift stores is called “Buffalo Exchange” and more specifically, the one off of Burnside in Portland, Oregon, and this is why: The Buffalo Exchange employees have already taken the time to sort through all of the other (less awesome) second-hand stores in order to sort through the junk, and therefore they end up with only the coolest (and biggest brand names) of all of the clothing items. Since Buffalo Exchange is the raddest of all of the thrift shop chains, they attract only the raddest of customers. Their customers are the youngest, most beautiful, thinnest, trendiest, most piercing-est, and hipster-esque of all of the Portland population, of which does not (and probably should not) include me. Since I do not exactly fit the stereotype, I do my best to hide my iced coffee behind my back (no food or drinks allowed), quietly do my shopping, and exit as inconspicuously as possible. I generally follow these guidelines to a T, however I made a few technical errors during my latest visit…
Rea suggested that we stop by Buffalo Exchange on our way home from McMenamin’s Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon (which is the most amazing place I’ve been to in a long time, but I will save that for another post). I was feeling sort of melancholy about having to return to “real life” after such a fun adventure, and Rea, being the sweetheart that she is, knew that suggesting a stop at my favorite thrift store would be sure to cheer me up. Of course I thought that it was a fantastic idea, but (as I explained to Rea) I was feeling fat and bloated after a few too many Ruby ales, gin & tonics, and cajun tots the night before, and the thought of trying to blend/squeeze in amongst all of Portland’s finest hipsters did not sound nearly as appealing as it normally would. Rea just shrugged, reassured me that she loved me despite my overindulgence of all of the temptations that McMenamins has to offer, and said that it was up to me.
I had all but decided to just head straight for home, when suddenly I could not help but daydream about the multitude of clothing clothing racks filled to the brim with the likes of “American Eagle”, “Hollister”, vintage “Adidas” and “Nike”, (not to mention t-shirts that say things like: “Dolphins: Aren’t They Really Just Gay Sharks?”) and after a few seconds of silence, I made my announcement: “Well, I guess we might as well stop there for a few minutes…since you want to go so bad.”
On such a beautiful Fall afternoon in downtown Portland, after hitting every single red light, driving up and down a hundred one-way streets in hopes of finding a single parking space (only to end up in the Powell’s Books underground parking lot, which is of course where Rea suggested that we park in the first place), Buffalo Exchange did not disappoint. The store was abundantly full of only the finest mix of vintage/retro, brand names, and hipsters, and I quickly became engulfed within the clouds of Thrift Store Heaven. Rea wisely made her way to the other side of the store before I could accuse her of breaking my concentration, and within twenty minutes (or so) I could barely see above the array of clothing items that I held in my arms. Rea had already tried on the few things that she’d found, so she helped me to make my way back to the fitting rooms, and just planned to stand outside of my door so that I could model my outfits for her as needed.
Buffalo Exchange’s fitting room “doors” are actually curtains (probably vintage) that are not nearly big enough to hide everything that goes on behind them, but with Rea standing outside to stand guard, I felt much safer. I tried on the shirts and jackets first, and none of them fit exactly right, so I decided to move on to the jeans. Rea asked me how I was doing, and I assured her that I was almost finished. I had discovered two pair of “Diesel” brand, men’s bootcut jeans, that I loved so much that I even caught myself whisper praying that they would fit. I knew that if I found them in a department store they would be more than one hundred dollars per pair, so for twenty bucks each I was determined to squeeze the lower half of my body into them, come hell or high water.
I hate to try things on in stores, so since they were the same brand and style of jeans, I knew that if I tried one pair on and they fit, then both of them should fit, and we’d be happily on our way. Unfortunately I barely had the first pair past my knees before it became obvious that there was a better chance of seeing a blue-haired pig drive by in a Smart Car than there was of me getting this pair of jeans pulled all the way up and buttoned successfully.
I will be the first to admit that I am no Math Wiz, but in hindsight I know for a fact that if I had listened to my original reasoning, being that if one pair fit, then the other pair (being the same size and style) would also fit, then logically one would assume that the reverse would also be true. However, I also worked in retail for several years, and I know that sometimes you can try on two pair of the same size/style of jeans, and one pair is at least a size larger than the other pair. In this instance, I was choosing to believe in the power of prayer, and that God, as busy at He tends to be, would actually care deeply at that moment about whether or not these beloved Diesel bootcut jeans would fit me just right; enough that He would snap His finger and add four inches of material, or even better, that He would take four inches of material off of my arse.
I put both of my legs into this pair of jeans, pulled the material enough that both of my feet came out at the bottom, grabbed each side of the waist with both hands, and with fierce determination I pulled upward and hopped (overweight people should never hop; let this be a lesson to you all) at the same time. Instead of these jeans pulling up with ease, and covering my lower extremities in the most flattering of ways, the legs of the pants had fallen down, and because they were six inches too long for me (if only they’d used all of that excess material on the rest of the pants) they folded up under my feet, and when I landed, the ball of my right foot landed directly on the security tag.
All of this happened while Rea was standing outside the curtain, and according to her all she heard was, “Oh GOD! OUCH! DAMMIT! SHIT!” and then she heard several loud thuds, which she now knows as my body bouncing off of each wall. She did not even have time to ask me if I was okay, before I came flying out of the curtain backwards, ass first, with my pants around my ankles, and she had to jump to the side to avoid getting flattened beneath me.
It probably goes without saying but; this was my worst nightmare. Anyone who has known me for any length of time, knows that I am an extremely modest person. Several lifelong friends have teased me, saying that I used to make them turn their heads if I was going to change my socks. Therefore being sprawled out on my back, in my undies, with those fucking Diesel jeans around my ankles, in the middle of Buffalo Exchange, was not exactly ideal. What felt like an eternity (but Rea has since clarified that it was less than half of a second) I laid there trying to make sense of whether or not this had actually taken place.
Much like folks who have experienced near-death experiences, and explained how their whole lives flashed before their eyes, I had a collage of images flash through my brain. These images had more to do with seeing the expression on each of my audience members, aka Buffalo Exchange patrons, as they watched me, without warning, erupt backwards, half naked, out from behind the vintage curtain of my dressing room. It was like those dreams where everyone you’ve ever known in your entire life was in the same dream. Each and every person that I had seen, from the time I walked through the front door, until I made my way to the fitting room, was included in this flash of horror. Mostly it was a blur of facial piercings, greasy hair, skinny jeans, tiny butts, disinterested expressions, and for some reason they were all eating something, and most likely whatever they were eating was vegan.
Once this subconscious photo reel had replayed several times in my head, I had a revelation: This was really happening. I was on the ground, in the middle of the Buffalo Exchange fitting room area, in my underwear.
On the ground,
In the middle of Buffalo Exchange,
Just to be sure, I reached down to feel the sides of my hips, and sure enough I found flabby, white, pasty skin where denim should have been. The one saving grace was that I had a moment of clarity where I determined that it would all be much worse if I tried to stand on my feet from where I lay; it would take much longer, and my audience would see me from more angles than they cared to. Therefore my best option was something that I learned back in third-grade gym class: The Crab Crawl. I sat up, bent my knees up to my chest, and crab-crawled back into my fitting room like nobody’s business! (Rea describes it more as a ski-like motion, only using arms and butt cheeks instead of poles and skis.) Whatever you wanna call it, it was the fastest that I’ve ever hustled in my entire life.
By the time I got back into my fitting room, still on the ground, sweating and out of breath, Rea peeked her head inside and said, “Um…are you okay?”
I shouted back, “DON’T TALK ABOUT IT!”
Rea: “Okay, but really…are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?”
Me: “I hurt my pride.”
Rea: “And what about your bones…is anything broken?”
Me: “Don’t laugh! It’s too soon!!”
Rea: “Seriously, I’m not laughing, I’m just trying to figure out if I should call 911.”
Me: “No, I think I’m okay. I only WISH I was dead. WHY DIDN’T YOU CATCH ME?!”
That’s when she started laughing, and who could blame her? I wanted to laugh, but the rug-burn on my ass cheeks hurt too bad.
Rea, with her Southern drawl: “Sweetie, there’s no way on God’s Green Earth that I could’ve caught you. If there was, ya know I would’a.”
Me: “Did anyone else see?”
Rea: “No one saw anything except me. Everyone may have HEARD it happen, but no one else SAW anything.”
Rea: “Well the honest truth is, your head was covered the whole time by the curtain, so no one would even be able to identify you.”
Me: “Is that supposed to help? The fact that no one could identify me by anything other than my ASS CHEEKS?”
Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything, but instead Rea and I crab-crawled out of Buffalo Exchange as fast as we possibly could.