I came across a connect the dots book in the euro store the other day (the German equivalent of a dollar store). What caught my attention was the cartoon, dot to dot version of the Mona Lisa on the cover. For two euros, this learned art historian had to have it. I hoped that other would reveal themselves before my eyes under my steady hand.
I couldn’t flip thought the book because my arms held name brand window spray and toilet cleaner (half price!), a ream of copier paper, stereo cables, a phone charger for the car, resealable sandwich bags, paper towels, and an industrial pack of glue sticks. Basically the usual for the euro store. Of course I didn’t opt for a basket as I was just going in to buy one thing.
I grasped the dot to dot book with my pinky finger and struggled to the cash register followed by my daughter, her arms just as laden with goods as mine. We spilled the must have items onto the band and shook out our cramped arms.
The cashier scanned our items until he came to the Mona Lisa book. He attempted to scan. Instead of the usual peeping noise, the machine grunted. The man furrowed his brow and tried again. Groan. He zapped the bar code with the hand held scanner, and again a disgruntled cash register noise.
“It says I’m not allowed to sell you this,” he said.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“The register says ‘not for sale’.”
“But it was on the shelf,” I stated.
I young lady in hijab appeared, her straight posture, efficient steps and keyring weighted down by metal, revealing her elevated status in the euro store.
“Was this item alone?” she asked me.
“I don’t know. I just grabbed it from the top of the pile,” I said.
“There was a huge pile of them,” my loyal daughter confirmed.
“Sometimes it happens that items aren’t entered in the system,” she explained. “I’ll read you the numbers,” she directed her colleague.
I didn’t care about the 2 euro book, but I admit I was fascinated by why they wouldn’t be allowed to sell it to me. I wanted to stick around and get to the bottom of this.
She dictated the numbers as the cashier pecked at the keyboard.
“Item not for sale,” she read off the screen.
She called out to the store manager, “The book comes up ‘not for sale’, can I override?” “No. Then it’s not for sale,” he stated.
Now I really wanted the connect the dots book. There must be mysteries held within its pages, I thought.
“Can’t I just give you two euros?” I asked.
“I’m not authorized to do that,” the manager said, “we get daily updates which items are not for sale and we need to take them off the shelves.”
“I’ll pay you double,” I said.
“No, I can’t do that. There’s a reason it’s not for sale. I’m not saying it’s toxic with poisonous dyes, but we’re not allowed to sell it.”
“Toxic? Poisonous?” I repeated, wondering if the dyes could have seeped into my skin yet.
“Maybe some of the numbers are out of sequence or something,” he volunteered.
“Or maybe it’s DDR code,” the cashier snickered.
“Ok,” I said, worried for our safety, and just wanting to leave the store, “it’s not important.”
I tried to make eye contact with my daughter to get her to slide the book under the copier paper, but she was engrossed in the pages of her mandala coloring book.
I considered snatching the dot to dot from the cashier’s hands and making a run for it, but my daughter wouldn’t be able to keep up with her armload of art supplies. I also wasn’t willing to get caught stealing a two euro connect the dots book. The Village is smaller than one thinks and reputations stick.
I paid for the remaining items and we turned to leave the store. I glanced back one last time at the cartoon Mona Lisa blandly gazing at me. I made eye contact with her lifeless eyes and promised I’d return and try to rescue her from the madness. Unless some other unauthorized item caught my eye.