Monday, June 28, 2010

The dumbing down of Macy's

It is widely accepted in the world of lingerie that you can't hold up D's in a strapless bra. But for those of us who hadn't figured that out yet, we head for the store that houses the largest selection of lacy little pretty "nothings", the Bra Mecca of the Free World, Macy's. As we glide up the escalator to the third floor, we are confident that somewhere in the maze of wall displays and spinning racks of Wacaols, Maidenforms, and Lilyettes, we will find some kind of structural underpinnings to enhance our menopausal figure. And because taking off your clothes in a 2 X 3 foot mirrored closet is abhorrent to most women, we have put off this fun shopping experience to the very last minute. We need that bra NOW, TODAY.

Remember when department stores actually had people to help you find what you came looking for? Macy's used to be known for their customer service years ago, but somewhere in the shrinking economy, point-of-sale computers, and people who won't work for minimum wage any more, finding help is like looking for water in the Sahara. Yea, I know..."go to Nordstrom - they will even fit you!" Nordstrom, however, is 8 miles away and we don't have time...and surely in the middle no less than 3,598 bras, we can find one over the shoulder boulder holder that will work.

After about 20 minutes of wandering aimlessly and combing through the AA's and B's, pads and foams, wires and straps, a sweet little sales lady bearing at least 50 bras dangling from her arms and around her neck asks in broken English if we need help. Upon explaining our frustration with finding sizes, we are dismayed to learn that she will have to go to her computer to see if we have one "that big"...which of course is 100 yards across the department. She totters off and we dive back in. By the time she comes back we have already located the one and only D in that model, which she sweetly verifies. Thanks.

So into the Hall of Mirrors we go, armed with our selections. And because strapless bras must fall down all the time (we don't know this, because we've never owned one), they are made with all kinds of weird feeling rubber and heavy duty elastic bands that look like they would hold up the spans on the Bay Bridge. Getting into one, much less than getting it hooked is a feat that would make even Houdini cringe. While wrestling the thing off the hanger, amid groans and deep breaths, elbows banging on the closet, another little sales lady knocks on the door..."are we okay??" We ask for a bigger size, but to our dismay, she is only the hanger-upper of all castoffs left in the dressing rooms. We put on our clothes again and forge out onto the floor again. This process goes on and on and on...four, maybe five trips back and forth to the closet.

It's a miracle! We find one that will hold up our voluptuous figure. Frazzled and tired we head for the "Customer Service" counter for our purchase. "Oh, you found one", she exclaims giddily. Yes, and thanks again for your help. "Can I put that on your card?" Just coming off the heels of a bad card experience in Sears at the other end of the Mall, we are not inclined to drag out our plastic again. "No, a check". Who said that? A check?

Not having written a check in 10 years, we assume that it just as easy as it used to be and she should be able to handle it quickly. Write the amount, sign, show ID, and you're out of there, strapless D's in hand. Not so, little grasshopper. Even though the sales associate ( that's what they call them now) can see me - I'm right in front of her - and the picture on the ID even looks like me, and the signature matches my driver's license, and I have 50 other forms of identification and a Macy's account, the computer needs an authorization code to complete the sale, and my sweet little sales lady with less than perfect communication skills must call the giant Macy's Customer Service in the sky.

We are not normally a belligerent person, but we have just spent an hour wrestling bras in a closet, gotten dressed and undressed one too many times, and we are sweaty and already late for an afternoon party (where we plan to wear our new strapless D's). And like Sears down the Mall, the person on the other end of the Customer Service line must have a communication problem, cause neither of these two know what the other was talking about or what to do next. When she finally gets the magic authorization code, she hands us our receipt and proclaims blessings on us for a wonderful "rest of the day" and to "stay cool". But we are still reeling from the entire experience and using our inside voice, we want to know (right NOW!) why the need for the authorization of our personal check. It's only $35 for crying out loud - It's not like we are purchasing the Hope Diamond. "It's for your protection - you make sure you are who you say you are.." Are you kidding? Like she can see us through the phone, honey?

Maybe and 8 mile drive to Nordstrom would have been just as quick. In a bit of irony, we proudly modeled our new purchase under our cute little cami-top, the hubby looks and says..."I don't see a real difference, honey - I thought you looked just fine without it." That is all we need - off with the rubber contraption and let the D's be free!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Red and Bernie

My friend Peg lost her dad this week. Bernie was 94 years young and even though he lived a rich life and it was his time to "dance" in heaven, as daughters we are pained to the core to lose our Daddies. I can tell Peg that I know what it's like, since Red died almost 15 years ago, but it's really of little comfort. Intellectually, we can accept their death as the natural progression of an aging parent, or that they are far better off than enduring a prolonged sickness. We can even rationalize that they are "in a better place", but it never makes it any easier to bear.

Losing a father is sad, period. It doesn't matter whether he was strict or a pushover, we are molded by the extraordinary impact our fathers had on our formative years. And how we remember them is significant. Not every Dad was a hero, nor is every memory necessarily pleasant. After all, we live in an imperfect world, and sadly, some fathers just didn't have it in them to nurture, love or respect their children.

My Mom would say that I have a very childlike, idyllic hero worship of my Dad, and she's probably right. But who cares? My memories of Red are as sweet and nostalgic as the oak-laden countryside where I grew up. We jokingly called him Dudley as we aged because of his ability to do anything, make anything, fix anything. Hence, most of my memories of him have building and creating themes - "Dudley can do it!" I remember sitting in the driveway next to a greasy canvas covered with valve stems, rocker arms, nuts and bolts, watching him carefully clean the parts in a can of gasoline. I couldn't put an engine together to save my life, but I know what a head gasket is. I used to brag that I could skin a deer, but Mom's right - that would be a slight exaggeration, even though I do know how to wield a hunting knife fairly well.

My Dad built roads all over California. It took him away most of the weekdays of the dry summers, leaving Mom to be the disciplinarian. So when the weekend fianlly came, I was the first one to wake to the smell of Dad's frying bacon. Our memories are powerfully linked to our sense of smell, and to this day I love to cook bacon on a Saturday morning. I can't drive buy a field of fresh mown hay without opening the window to take in the earthy warmness and remember hours of driving a tractor in circles with a baler in tow...or walking through a mountain meadow and rustling the skunk weed without thinking about camping trips without a tent under the stars.

Today, I putter in my wannabe garden of three tomato plants and two zucchinis, a pathetic tribute to the memory of a half-acre maze of corn, tomatoes and every kind of vegetable that I, along with my siblings, were made to weed. Dad would brag at dinner that everything we were eating was grown in our garden or raised in the barn. I credit him with my love of eating good food, despite the fact that he made my mother cook his vegetables to a frazzle. But even my foodie friend Peg would acknowledge that green beans cooked on the stove for three hours with bacon still invoke a warm, comfortable feeling of "home" - Martha probably cooked them for Bernie that way too.

I can conjure up flashbacks to wood cutting days in the Fall with buzz saws and brush fires and enjoy them as much as Summer evening rides in the back of a Chevy pickup over to Dad's old ranch a few miles away. I can picture my Dad laying on the lawn on a hot summer evening with a piece of grass dangling from his mouth, laughing a his uncles' bad jokes and tall stories. Red could tell a joke better than anyone, and that's probably why I love to laugh.

Granted, my memories sound idyllic and childlike, and probably not altogether acurate, but I cherish them never the less. Some country singer wrote a song about "Daddy's Hands", and amazingly, that's one of the things I remember more vividly than anything else about my father. I guess that's because he used them in so many ways, his whole life was carved into their freckled, gnarled fingers. Thankfully,I don't have my Dad's hands. And truthfully, my hair only had a hint of his red. In fact, I am my Mom all over again - her eyes, her mouth, her skin. But I love that I am Red's daughter, through and through. It isn't June 20th yet, Happy Father's Day anyway, Dad.
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