Column: November 23, 2011

I AM sure you are aware of the Marvel Comics character Mole Man, the first villain to face The Fantastic Four.

A genius, shunned by the world because of his mole-like features – a situation with which I am more than familiar – he journeyed underground and discovered a subterranean race of ugly mole people who adopted him as their leader. This should be a happy ending, but he frequently blots his copybook by trying to conquer the surface world, proving that some people are never satisfied.

I believed this story to be entirely credible until I visited my first branch of Hollister, encountering the Beautiful Mole People. The Beautiful Mole People are like Oompa Loompas, except they work exclusively in Hollister, rather than chocolate factories.

They look nothing at all like the mole people from Marvel Comics. They are tall and lithe, with glossy hair, and symmetrical features, like models or film stars.

If it were not for their terrible affliction, they would grace the covers of magazines and the silver screen. For their tragedy is that, while they are very beautiful, nobody can ever see the full extent of their beauty because they cannot be exposed to any sort of light, owing to their highly sensitive retinas.

Thank goodness, then, for the Hollister company, a presumably not-for-profit organisation set up specifically to give work to these gorgeous unfortunates.

While Hollister outlets are ostensibly clothing stores, they are unfit for purpose as such, as the lighting is at such a low level that nobody could possibly distinguish colours or styles, or even the type of garment one is examining.

Visitors to the store, wearing night vision goggles, would witness customers as they stumble about the place, arms extended out in front, hoping, praying, to see the tiny chink of light which will guide them out of the shop. They trip over low tables and step on fallen shoppers’ fingers.

And while this calamity goes on, the Beautiful Mole People waft around, tossing their lustrous hair, avoiding the melée, folding up discarded items of clothing, and making lumpy men with glasses in their late thirties feel very out of place, like Max Bygraves backstage at an N-Dubz gig, thanks to their uncanny mole senses which enable them to move unaided through the inky blackness.

Nobody knows how these mole senses work. Theories include the possibility that the Beautiful Mole People possess infra-red vision. Or perhaps they use a form of sonar. Researchers have attempted to determine how they navigate without any discernible light, but have found two insurmountable difficulties.

One, it is impossible to read scientific instruments within Hollister. And the Beautiful Mole People can never leave Hollister during daylight hours to visit a laboratory.

Two, the Beautiful Mole People give off a terrible smell of malted milk biscuits from their artificial tans, making it unpleasant for researchers to spend an extended time in their presence. Thankfully for shoppers, the owners of Hollister have taken this into account and flood the store with very strong smelling perfume to mask the biscuity stench. This does, of course, prevent the use of rescue dogs to sniff out shoppers lost in the T-shirts area.

I accept there are some terrible cynics who might think that the Beautiful Mole People are not real and a figment of my bitter middle-aged imagination. “The lights are low in Hollister,” they would say, “in order to give the stores a mystique to pull in discerning and, crucially, young customers.”

But this is nonsense. If turning the lights down to the lowest setting on the twisty switch attracted customers, there would be a range of stores called Tesco Noir.

So I urge you to pop along to your nearest Hollister at the earliest opportunity to see, but mostly smell, the Beautiful Mole People.

And if you see me in there, I will be amazed. Because it is very dark.

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