Part 28: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

In the timeless tale, The Wizard of Oz, our heroine Dorothy and her endearing companions are warned to remain on the yellow brick road. Had they heeded the Good Witch’s advice, they would have avoided powerful trouble. Joan's Journey Beware of Fake MerchandiseThe unforgettable Oz tale haunts me, because recently I had a potentially disastrous adventure. I was lured off the safe road, not by fragrant poppies, but by intoxicating alleged bargain-price designer merchandise.

In recent posts, I’ve discussed seniors having fun. Living in a senior residence is carefree and offers time to enjoy a variety of in-house activities and explore one’s community. In my modus operandi of having fun, I opted for a shopping trip on a budget. To protect the privacy of those involved in my shopping “shame on me,” I’ve invented fictitious names of people, stores and streets. I call my friend, Dorothy.

How an innocent shopping trip went wrong

On a magnificent, sun-filled day, Dorothy and I arrived at LA’s Emerald Square Fashion District, which is famous for beautiful merchandise at below discount prices. Our first stop on Yellow Brick Road was Red Slipper Shoe Store, which sells very inexpensive, but trendy shoes like those sold in upscale department stores. Dorothy bought a pair of blingy, fun, silver tennis shoes.

As we exited the store, a pleasant, nicely dressed man approached. I wrongly assumed he was another shopper or a salesman from one of the numerous stores. He asked what merchandise we wanted to purchase - perhaps he could save us time and money with recommendations.

Immediately, Dorothy and I totally forgot that our mothers taught us not to talk to strangers. I gushed, “I want a bargain price Wizard of Oz lightweight tote bag and a small Good Witch black evening purse.

Our guide, whom I’ll call Handler, beckoned us to follow him right off Yellow Brick Road. We walked several blocks across unknown streets to a narrow doorway. Handler led us into Emerald City, an indoor shopping palace of gigantic proportion filled with booth after booth of breathtaking merchandise— gorgeous clothing, handsome handbags and luggage, fragrant perfumes, brand-name toys and more. Dorothy and I truly though we entered Oz.

Not allowing us to become distracted by the enticing merchandise, Handler rapidly led us to an elevator. As I recall the incident, I can’t believe warning signals didn’t go off in my head, “Joan! Don’t follow strangers into the unknown.” But no such warning sounded to merchandise-intoxicated Dorothy or me.

The elevator stopped. Surprisingly, we exited into a parking garage. In the far corner, a truck was parked with its roof open. Nearby on the floor were suitcases overflowing with beautiful, alleged designer handbags and luggage. Dorothy and I stared. Surrounding us was a multi-lingual, multi-cultural crowd selecting and bartering for goods.

Handler was our go-between with Mr. Suitcase, the garage-truck handbag salesman. I chose two stunning designer-labeled bags that were exactly what I wanted at prices within my budget. For bringing customers, Handler received payment from Mr. Suitcase. Handler did not ask us for payment and we did not tip him.

Beware of off-road allure

Handler escorted us down the elevator to the First Floor exit, and Dorothy and I headed for Yellow Brick Road. As we walked, the fresh air and sunshine cleared my head. I said, “Do you realize what we just did? We followed a stranger into an unknown location, up an elevator, and into a parking garage. We could have been kidnapped, robbed, raped or killed.”

The potential consequences hit us of straying from our well-planned bargain-hunt route. In fact, we were fine. But the enormity of risk does not equal the savings of two alleged designer handbags. My version of Cindi Lauper’s song, “Seniors Want To Have Fun,” is revised to “Seniors Safely Want To Have Fun.”

Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day. In the two upcoming April posts, Joan’s Journey will explore the holiday as it’s celebrated around the world, and green is the new gray for management and residents  at Holiday Villa. Until the next post, enjoy the journey day by day.

Joan London is a freelance medical and social service writer who specializes in topics on aging. London moved from Maryland to California to enjoy life in a senior living community and enhance her quality of life by living closer to her children and grandchildren.