Fifteen minutes later, Sam had done three complete laps around the entire store with no sign of his girlfriend. He decided to change his strategy. Sam would stand at the center of the store and make concentric circles outwards until reaching the outer most perimeter of the store. Sam's attention was often caught by other young girls in the store, some of who were dragging their boyfriends or husbands around by the arm. Other men were expertly operating the shopping cart, navigating safely behind their female counterparts, often with children the front seat. At a glance, the young women all looked the same to Sam; trendy skirts and small tops whose hair was layered and dyed a variety of colors. They roamed in packs, slapping their flip-flops against the hard linoleum floor, thinking out loud like one collective consciousness.
Sam struggled to keep the picture of his girlfriend alive in his mind. How could he, after all these years, not be absolutely certain of what she looked like, or what she was wearing that day? Did he not pay enough attention to her? Maybe if Sam concentrated hard enough, he could pick up some secret vibration or beacon that only he could perceive. Sam squinted and perspired, channeling the ESP-believer within him, but to no avail. He started second guessing the connection between them, placing their relationship somewhere between true lovers and friends with benefits. Sam panicked, thinking that he would never find her and forever remain in this store searching for his girlfriend, incommunicado, as though floating down a river into consumer Purgatory. Sam looked for help and found two security guards standing near the store entrance. They were young uniformed men, speaking to one another without turning their heads, their eyes focused on the constant ebb and flow of shoppers. Sam walked up behind the two men, who didn't notice Sam standing there. He listened in for a second on the conversation they were having about some video game or another, and then tapped one of them on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, but can I use your radio of something," Sam said looking like a parent who had lost his or her child.
"Why, did you lose someone?" one security guard asked.
"Yeah, I can't find my girlfriend and I don't have my cell phone on me. Can I page her over the PA system?"
"Why did you forget your cell phone?" the other guard interrogated.
Sam sat puzzled for a second, "I don't know, I just forgot."
The older more senior officer gave his decree, "It's against store policy to let shoppers page people over the PA. However, if you were missing your child then I would be forced by law to assemble a search party."
"But I don't have a child," Sam continued, "she's just my girlfriend, and I'm tired of walking around your big-ass store."
The guard adjusted his utility belt and said, "Well, unless she's your child , we can't do anything to help." Both guards gave Sam a wink and a nod, and by the inflection of their voice, Sam finally got the message.