Monday, August 31, 2009
I was assistant in a clothing store when I was sixteen. Look Smart was the name of the establishment; it was a suitable title. My boss promised all customers that they looked wonderful in her skirts and blouses whether or not they actually did. I would quietly whisper the truth if I thought the colour or the shape was not suitable. They would, usually, thank me for my honesty and dash away to leave my boss shaking her head in frustration.
"I don't know. They never buy, they just try on," she would mutter. "God forgive me."
One afternoon while we idled without customers the door flew open. A red-faced woman burst through.
"I need help today," she said. Then she noticed the vast racks and rails of clothing, and blinked in confusion.
"You do make keys here?"
My boss, a brittle woman with a grim deficit of people-skills and a limit to her English, grumbled her answer.
"You want a dress?"
"No. Just keys."
"We don't carry shoes."
"KEYS!" cried the woman. I thought she might back out and run away.
"Blouse? You see what we have! You go and look!" She waved an irritated hand.
The exchange was terrifying to the bewildered woman; my boss, ever curious about strange people, was climbing all over the conversation. I could not get a word in.
"Is this a lock smith or not?" she pleaded.
"Nobody is called Smith here," my boss said, but she stared at me anyway, on the off chance that my name was secretly Smith after work hours.
"I thought this was a lock smith's."
"We're called Look Smart," I said, explaining the root of the error. "We sell clothes."
"Oh. I see."
She took one more glance around the store, as if a corner for making keys might be tucked away among the sweaters, that we were just not telling her about it.
"Fine," she muttered. Outside she craned her neck to see the name of the store, enough to see the foot-high mistake, and she sidled away up the street.
My boss shook her head.
"They never buy anything. God forgive me but they never buy anything."
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 3:41 PM