I found a shirt I liked in one of the plethora of sales catalogs that stuff our mailboxes in January.

“Our mock-neck top in velvety-soft velour,” I read. The reason it caught my eye was that it was a plum color and I had just been thinking: “What I need to spice up my life is a trip to a tropical island or a purple shirt.” The purple shirt was $10 off the regular price. I opted for the shirt.

“Call any time,” the catalog invited. I dialed the 800 number and after the usual, “Sorry, all our operators are busy helping other cheapskates,” or something to that effect, and being advised that if I ordered on the internet, I wouldn’t have to wait, a real, live person came on.

“Have you ordered with us before?”she asked.

“Oh, yes, many times,” I assured her, most recently a Christmas gift for one of my sons. “I am, indeed, one of your most valued customers, according to the catalog cover.”

“What is your customer number?

“Would that be the pink or yellow box?”

“Yellow,” she said, and I read off the number.

“Hmmmmm,” she said. “That doesn’t sound like one of our numbers.” I read off the pink number and all the unidentified plain black numbers. None of them turned her computer on.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with this computer,” she said worriedly. “Let’s just look you up.” After a long pause, she said, “I don’t find a Mary McClure in here.”

“Well, who do you have?” I insisted, thinking maybe there was some variation although Mary is pretty hard to misspell. She read off a long list of McClures, not one in Oklahoma.

She couldn’t figure out what was wrong. “Well,” she said cheerfully, “let’s just start over and make you a new account.” I gave her all the information. Shipping address. Credit card.

She gave a sigh of relief. “Now, what is your first item?”

“LH86YX,” I read slowly, “large and in plum.”

There was a very long pause. “Large? Plum?” she repeated in a puzzled tone. Another long pause. “That’s not one of our stock numbers.” She sounded completely confused.

“Who are you anyway?” I asked, equally confused. She named a company with pecans in its title. “We sell pecans,” she added helpfully.

“Oh, dear,” I said embarrassed. “What is your phone number?” The numbers she gave were a digit off, across the line. I remembered reaching over to dial — which by now was a long time ago — from about two feet from the phone.

I wondered what the mythical quality control person that might be recording this call would think. Probably, “Of all the dumbbells available in the world, we get this one...”

I apologized profusely for wasting her time. I guess I’m lucky I didn’t end up with a hundred pound sack of pecans being delivered to my front door. I do love pecans, though. I wonder how a plum pecan pie in a “large” would have tasted? Especially if it were on sale.

Mary McClure lives in Lawton.

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