I spend a lot of time at Target. It has socks and celery and Starbucks in one place.

But more than simple shopping, I sometimes roam the store for inspiration, for head-clearing color. Because I spend so much time alone as a writer, moving mindlessly down their carefully arranged aisles of details has a therapeutic effect.

Maybe that sounds crazy, but it works for me.

You go any place often enough and you notice the regulars. My nearest Target has Charlotte.

She’s always there in the morning, sitting in the plastic chair by the west door. She silently watches all of us entering and exiting. Her face is emotionless. It’s hard to guess how old she is. She could be 45 or 65 under her short white hair.

Lost souls are beyond age.

Yesterday was unusual because she was walking the aisles with a Target employee. Charlotte wore purple plaid flannel pajamas under her red jacket. She thought she needed something cooler for spring, but she definitely wanted pajama bottoms with pockets or as she asked, “What will I do with all my stuff?”

He nodded understandingly and agreed no pockets could be troublesome. “Charlotte, let’s look over here for something that might work. We have some on sale today.” He led her to racks of pajamas. I went on about my way.

Then I found her in the dairy section, talking through the opened refrigerator door to the employee who was stocking milk. “These won’t be cold enough,” Charlotte explained to him. “They should have been put out during the night, so they’d be ready by morning.” His answer sounded polite and apologetic. Charlotte said she’d come back tomorrow.

I’m guessing she always finds a reason to return the next day.

When I got home, I looked up Target’s mission statement and noticed the part about “exceptional guest experiences” along with remarks about “behaving ethically and with integrity.” Their design comments mention dedication to more than looks. They focus on how design “satisfies a need” and how it “makes you feel.” 

I know Target has been under fire for the holiday credit card debacle. I don’t know enough to weigh in on that, but honestly I’m surprised that stolen identities and banking fraud aren’t hourly occurrences, given the cards we swipe into machines all over the place that send the information heaven only knows where. 

I just know that Charlotte, whoever she is, is treated respectfully by Target. She might not realize the importance of her experience, but I do. I’m glad for her.

We both benefit from Target therapy.

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