Several years back, there used to be a Benetton store in La Jolla. I don’t even know if the chain is still in business anymore, but while there were some here in the US at that time, they were damn near ubiquitous in London. I think there was one every 200 feet going down Oxford Street between Regent’s Road and Charing Cross Road. At least it felt that way. Back then, my mom and her husband used to go to London almost every year for 2-3 weeks. She’d visit her sister now and then, but mostly it was to re-absorb the culture of their youth. I mean, let’s admit it, SoCal has a lot of things to offer. Centuries of culture ain’t one of ’em.
On one particular sojourn, they took a side trip west of the London area to a place called Marlborough. It’s a bit south of Oxford, about the same distance west. It’s a relatively small town, or so my mom tells me. Close as it seems to London on the map, the accent is very different there. To the point where my mom sometimes had a hard time understanding what the locals were saying. But I digress.
Now, a very long time ago, my mom got the photography bug. I don’t know if my dad had anything to do with it, but they actually had a full darkroom setup in the garage for many years. Plus silkscreening equipment, etc.. So my mom always used to bring her trusty Nikon. This was before digital cameras became terribly popular, so she was using film. When she returned home and had the shots developed, she was so happy to show me a photo she took in Marlborough of . . . a Benetton store. “But Mom,” I said, “they have them all over in London.”
“I know that, but this one was way out in the country–in Marlborough! I was just so amazed to see one all the way out there.”
“Oh. Um. Okay.”
A few days later we were walking down Prospect in La Jolla, just passing the Benetton store, when my mom said, “Oh! I have that photo with me. Let’s go into the store and show them!”
Call it, oh, a son’s intuition, but I just felt I should not be part of this. “I don’t feel like going in right now, mom. You go ahead. I’ll wait out here.” And so I did a little window shopping at the jewelry store next door.
It wasn’t more than a minute before she walked briskly out of Benetton. “Let’s go,” she said, with a tight expression on her face.
“What happened, mom?”
“No, really, mom, what happened?”
“Nothing. Let’s go.”
“Mom, I can tell something happened. What was it?”
“Well, I walked into Benetton, and went up to the man in there and said, ‘You won’t believe this! I was in England in a little town called Marlborough, way out in the country, and there was a Benetton store there!’
“He didn’t seem very interested. All he said was, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’
“‘But don’t you see,’ I said, ‘there’s the Benetton here, and thousands of miles away in this tiny town in England, there’s another one!’ He still didn’t seem to be interested, so I told him I took a picture of it, and then showed him the photograph.
“He looked a bit confused, but I handed it to him and told him I had this print done for him so he could have it for the store.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Maam, I’m a customer. I don’t work here.'”