• Ultralight Jerk

I Walked Into REI Wearing A Green Vest And Now I Run The Apparel Department

It all began like any good adventure does - at the thrift store.

I had already found a beautiful vintage floral suitcase which will perfectly organize my array of fleeces I have at home. Just then, something caught my eye; on the rack was a beautiful forest green zippered vest for $3. I'm not normally a vest guy, but hey… ‘new-year, new-me’. I grabbed the vest off the rack, took it and the vintage floral luggage suitcase to the counter and was on my way.

I needed to swing into REI for one of those cute Sasquatch stickers at the checkout line. On my way in, I noticed a slight chill in the air. One specific enough that made my core cold but not my arms. I went back for my new vest before heading in.

While there, I figured I would quickly browse the clearance racks before checking out. I didn’t even get past the wall of camp kitchen utensils before I heard, “Excuse me, sir? Can you recommend a light jacket for morning walks around the neighborhood?” I turned to find an older woman in what could be described as “Orvis” attire.

“Oh, umm, well the Arc’Teryx Atom looks to be on sale. That might work for you.” I said, figuring there was no harm in helping. She grabbed the coat, was happy with the color and gave me a smile.

I turned away to move on and suddenly found a gaggle of flannel-clad boomers hovering over me. One man in a fresh pair of Vasque Sundowners half-shouted a request to check for a particular size of Wigwam socks in back.

I was rapidly grabbing the attention of more and more shoppers; it seemed to be my vest paired with slim-fit Outdoor Research Ferrosi pants, graphic tee from the local micro-roaster, and unkempt scruff. I quickly realized that I had just assumed the position of REI Apparel Department Specialist. It also probably didn’t help that the vest smelled like a pair of Vibram 5-Fingers.

I scanned the floor. No other green vests were in sight. Thinking back, it did seem kind of odd that I wasn’t approached by a half-dozen employees asking if I needed assistance or assumptively inquiring “You’re a member with us, right?”

I stood in front of the small group of helpless shoppers desperately looking for me to check in “the back.” I just couldn't say no.

I had an hour and nothing else to do so I slid into the break room and snagged a gluten free cookie. Sitting across from me was a worn out Green Vest with a thousand-mile stare that read “I hiked the Triple Crown… how did I end up here?” With a conceding grunt, I promptly returned to the floor to tend to the shoppers.

With my hands held to my sides I sighed, “I’m sorry, looks like we are all out. Make sure to check the website.”

Just then, I noticed a man looking at a Patagonia Houdini on the rack. I walked over and politely whispered in his ear, “Pre-2013, I would have no pause in recommending the Houdini; however, the CFM was significantly reduced in late 2013 and is no longer optimal for high exertion activities. Instead, I would steer you over to the Arc’teryx Squamish which, while coming with a slight weight penalty, has a superior hood and a more desirable CFM for your particular use case.”

I received a blank stare in return.

In the name of Ray Jardine that felt good! It felt like fire coursing through my tracked out UL veins. A feeling only eclipsed by the moment you receive a shipping notification for a piece of gear after a 12 week lead time.

Just then, the Store Manager cornered me while giving fit advice in the women’s hiking pants department. “Oh shit,” I thought, “this gig is up.”

He put his hand on my shoulder, slowly leaned into me and said, “Sir, that customer over there just submitted an Employee Feedback Card. They gave you some incredible feedback! Great job and keep on selling those Memberships.” He followed it with a small, but serious laugh.

I couldn't believe it. I had been charged with the authority to give out unsolicited advice about outdoor gear - this r/ultralight regular’s wet dream.

After using the free wifi to introduce customers to Pa’lante Packs and selling four new Memberships, I checked the time. I had to get home and feed the dog. I clocked out, unzipped my vest and dusted my hands off.

When I got home, I realized that I had forgotten to buy that sticker. No bother, I have another shift tomorrow. It is floor inventory day and I am planing to give the HMG rep a piece of my mind after lunch.