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Priceless!

As we neared the tiny shop sitting half a block from the main part of town, Michele cringed visibly. The grey wooden storefront had caught my eye as soon as we turned the corner in the charming seaside town of Sidney-by-the-Sea on Vancouver Island. It had been a blustery, rain-lashed crossing on the morning ferry from Vancouver and we were searching for a second hand store where she might find an almost new rain jacket to enjoy the long beach rambles we were planning. But I could tell from Michele’s crossed arms and defiant manner that this was definitely not the kind of upscale consignment store filled with trendy, but reasonably priced clothing she had hoped to discover.

Swaying in the wind near the front door was a sampling of the fashions we could expect to find inside. A heavy dark red mega-man size jacket suitable for fishing on the high seas flapped alongside a drooping full-length black wet suit that included neoprene booties.  Beside them snapping in the wind like a signal that Michele didn’t want to see, but that had attracted my eye was a bright yellow full body storm suit.

“No,” she said before I even stopped the car, “If you buy that, I will not walk with you. I promise.” “Oh, just come in,” I said eyeing the cornucopia of marine clutter that filled the dusty windows. Michele sighed and followed me as I swung open the door like a kid going into a candy store. It was a classic old style junk shop, shelves heaped high with unidentifiable bits that would make a do-it-yourself boater leap with joy. We poked our noses into back rooms crammed with deflated life rafts, piles of fishing nets, mountains of sun-faded life jackets, rusty chains and old fishing gear.

Michele already knew there was nothing of interest for her and soon left to sit in a sullen slump in the car. As I climbed back into the driver’s seat a few minutes later with my new purchase she scowled, “I swear, I will not walk with you if you wear that thing.” “It was only $5,” I report with glee. “I don’t care if it was free,” she snapped back. Our search for more suitable rain gear (at an affordable price) was unsuccessful and we headed down the road to our destination: a seaside getaway generously offered to us for the weekend by a dear friend.

Miles later as we wound along the highway that skirted the ocean, I spotted the perfect place for our afternoon walk. A long spit of land separating the open seas from a sheltered bay had been turned into a park. The rain had stopped but it was still blustery with gulls hanging in midair and waves crashing against the rocks. The strong fishy scent of seaweed and shore filled our lungs as we got out of the car.

Michele quickly zipped up her jacket, wrapped her scarf around her neck, pulled her hat down tight against the wind and scampered off down the path that wandered between washed up logs and beach grass to a lighthouse far down the spit. She knew and she was making good on her word. Five minutes later curiosity finally got the better of her and she turned around to see where I was. “Oh my god,” she muttered to herself. “There he is: a six foot tall neon banana. You can see him a mile away.”

The suit was in fact meant to be disposable and made of Tyvek, the same fabric buildings are wrapped in during renovations. It was a bit tight over my clothes and my legs rubbing together sounded like shopping bags going for a stroll as I headed for the entrance to the park. The vibrant yellow hood pulled over my hat created a pointy ice cream topping to my yellow gear. Even I had to admit that I was making a fashion statement that was hard to ignore. A man walking his two jack terriers turned to stare at me. “Hey for only $5 at a marine surplus store, you too can look this stupid,” I quipped as I headed towards the ever retreating Michele. “And, you know what?” I added as the curious dogs ran up to me wagging their tails and looking for a scritch behind the neck, “Dogs don’t care what you look like.” The man laughed. “Hey, look at this,” and I started skipping like a schoolboy down the path. Yards away Michele stopped in disbelief and then doubled over in laughter. “You see?” I turned back to the dog walker, “Five dollars for the full body banana suit. Her reaction: Priceless!”

We all have moments when our partner does something that feels socially awkward. They say something or behave in a way that makes us feel embarrassed to be in their company. But what if the awkwardness is not simply us picking up the socially acceptable cues that our partner is oblivious to? What if the awkward feelings are the edges of our box? You know, the box that keeps us in our comfort zone – that zone where everything is snug and safe, but also bland and predictable. What if stepping outside our comfort zone brings a freshness and playfulness to our days that would never be there if we stayed stuck in our ways? What if once we relax and accept the inevitable quirkiness of our partner (as Michele finally did) then the fun and joy can come shining into our lives for both ourselves and for everyone around us? All I can say is that for a mere five bucks Michele and I got a whole lot of play and laughter that afternoon. It truly was priceless.

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