Thursday, March 3, 2011

On Hold

I began working at Tiffany’s Epiphany right out of high school.  It was my mother’s idea actually; I would never have presumed that I was glamorous enough to work at a place like that.   But since I had a whole summer to burn before college began and the prospect of my parents shelling out any money for fun looked pretty grim, I filled out the application and dropped it off. I was called in for an interview a few days later.  I remember I wore this horrible black floral print crinkle dress that belonged to my mom (remember those? They were calf-length and tied around the back - you were supposed to look like a modern hippie – fashionable and peace-loving) and these ridiculous open-toed sandals with black hosiery (I’m practically retching as I type this).  I was so nervous, I was shaking, and I almost didn’t go in, but the thought of dealing with finding another job seemed even more daunting.  Somehow I made it through the interview and was hired.  I remember feeling so lucky – here I was working in this beautiful store, with these beautiful people, beautiful merchandise – I mean, Tiffany’s Epiphany!! That was high class. I certainly had never felt comfortable going in there, I only owned one TE bra that my best friend, Michelle, had given me for my last birthday. I still remember it – navy blue silk and chiffon with a tiny twist of white pearls in the center and a bow, 34 (barely) B.  And now, here I was surrounded with more bras than I could ever know what to do with!  And panties and lingerie too!  One shift and I was addicted.  My lifelong love of lingerie had begun.

It only took me two weeks to have a “non-traditional” client experience, and a girl never forgets her first.  I had been assigned to the “Bra Room” (yes, the room full of bras) which was good news for me because we had just introduced the Miracle Bra and for every one that I sold I got a dollar at the end of my shift – tax free cash!  At the time, this was the first push-up of its kind and they were selling like crazy – on a good night you could make twenty or thirty extra dollars a shift if you worked it right.  I donned my bra-fitting apron (don’t ask).  I got my tape measure at the ready, a friendly-but-not-too-aggressive smile on my face and dressing room key hanging from my wrist on one of those telephone cord looking bracelets.  Looking back, I like to think of these early months as my “touchingly naïve” phase.  

 I got right to work, selling miracles to anyone who walks through my doorway.  I remember it was a slow night, which made me desperate to sell just one bra per person (my aspiration at the beginning of my shift was to sell three to each person).  I slog through my four hour shift and am feeling pretty good about my sales despite the slow trickle of customers – yea, I rock!  About an hour before closing I start the “straightening” process which consists of folding every single panty on every single table (some of these tables are piled high with over 600 panties) and obsessive-compulsively tidying every single piece of merchandise in my area.  As usual, while I straighten my panties, I fantasize about the company having a big meeting where competitions are held for different bra and panty feats.  Of course I would win at the panty-table straightening contest – fastest and neatest.  I didn’t need a trophy, the admiration and jealousy of my peers would be reward enough for me.  I cock my head sideways and admire my work. So, so naïve.

I hear rustling and turn to see a man slinking into the Bra Room.  He’s dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, bald head, white tennis shoes… normal enough, right?  I take his appearance to be a great omen and perhaps my last chance of the night to make a few extra bucks because men are consistently suckers when shopping for lingerie – I know I can get him to buy at least three bras and probably the matching panties too.  I take a moment to ask him what he’s shopping for, and as he’s stumbling through his answer, it dawns on me that he is wearing tiny pink, plastic ballet slipper earrings.  That’s odd.  I tear my eyes away from his ears and scan his face.  Wait, is that foundation?  Yes, yes it is; he’s wearing pink ballet slipper earrings and foundation make-up, yet even stranger to me was that his attempts at feminizing himself seemed stop there; I couldn't help but wonder why one would so liberally apply foundation but completely ignore lipstick, eye shadow or mascara. Hmm.

As I’m puzzling this all out (remember, young and naïve), I realize he’s been explaining to me that he is actually shopping for himself.  Ohhhhhhh, I get it.  Up until this point in my life it hadn't occurred to me that men did that, but ok, I’m down with that, a sale is a sale, right?    My eyes shift down, past his shaved head, his pink ballet slipper earrings, past his cover-girl face, down to his plain white Hanes t-shirt which I belatedly notice is covering two small bra-outlined “breasts.”   I must have been so transfixed by the earrings that I had failed to notice them.     I suddenly understood his need for the Miracle Bra.   

I measure him – 42A?  Of course we don’t carry 42’s but he doesn't know that so I decide to sell him a size we do have - 38B.  He’s so excited to buy a Miracle Bra he’ll never know the difference.  We decide on colors, styles.  I enthusiastically pull out drawers and drawers of satin and lace bras.  I nearly destroy all my hard panty-straightening work as I feverishly pull out different panty styles for him – thong, brief, tummy control, bikini – I sell him a few of each.  At this point we've chosen six bras and eight matching panties (buy two get two free).  This will take my grand total for the night up to $17, which I planned to spend on more lingerie which I seriously did not need to buy.

It’s about this time that I suggest we head to the cashwrap, to which he replies that he just wants to put it all “on hold.”  Now if that isn’t the most dreaded phrase to a sales person’s ears, I don’t know what is.  ON HOLD?  Are you kidding me?  All that work and he wants to put it all ON HOLD?  As I stared at his retreating backside, prancing out the door, my gaze slowly wandered over to my now destroyed panty tables.  I trudge over, and try to forget being swindled by distracting myself with my panty table competition fantasy, the one where I win.

Ah, the sweet taste of victory … and the bitter taste of defeat.