And Other Perils of Retail
There are advantages and disadvantages to working retail at Newbury Street's five story marble-floored Banana Republic. Certainly it changes a person. Now when I shop I find myself resizing racks when I put clothes back. If I allow my mind to wander I may finger-space unconsciously. If, God forbid, I even so much as hear one bar from a song on the Banana Summer 05 Corporate Soundtrack - Track 11 in particular - I literally have post-traumatic flashbacks. The corners of my mouth turn up in a rictus grin. "Hi, how are you doing today?" I say to thin air. "Can we help you find anything, or are you just browsing?"
That isn't to say that the job doesn't have its occasional moments of excitement, like when five boxes of ice cream turned up in the freezer, or when the air conditioner broke down again and temperatures in the store soared to 95 degrees, or when The Incredibles was playing in the break room for three days straight. But none of that beats yesterday, when our elevator broke down with a hapless sales associate trapped inside (somewhere between the mezzanine - women's shoes & accessories - and the third floor, or Ladies' 1) and three red firetrucks had to come screaming to a halt in front of the store and disgorge a battalion of firefighters armed with poles and hooks and axes to break her out, which they did. I would give more detail, but I didn't get a very good look at the action, mainly because a woman whose heavy mascara was running in the store heat wanted to know if men's shorts came in waist sizes above 38.
I was working stock at the time, so I was feeling more badass than usual. Stock has its own laws apart from the sales floor. Stock people are virtually autonomous, answering to no one but the stock supervisor. They aren't required to wear headsets with their walkies for practical reasons. They have the run of the store, from top to bottom - where sales has to stay on one floor for an entire shift, stock gets to travel, busy with arcane tasks, taking inventory, auditing, restocking. Stock is not questioned by management. If inclined, stock could spend a good portion of the day knocking back Coronas down in women's sale, in the nook next to the boot cut jeans, playing poker and listening to the radio. Stock has clipboards. Stock has laser guns. Stock can spend thirty minutes on Ladies' 2 under the pretext of helping with go-backs. Stock is not required to open up Banana Republic Cards or listen to customers. Stock lives outside the rules. Stock are the Rebels Without A Cause of the garment industry. Stock is James Dean with a little cart and a pencil behind his ear. The stock room is a country unto itself. Stock has diplomatic immunity.
Even though I was working stock, though, I was trained as a sales associate, and I still have the reflexes. So I told the woman that we only carried up to 38 in the store, but that online we carried Big & Tall sizes. I told her that our linen drawstring pants were cut more generously, and that her husband would probably fit into a 38 in those. She expressed her doubts about wrinkling. I assured her that they were actually a linen-cotton blend, 55/45%, and a little more durable than pure linen in that respect. I added that I owned a pair and enjoyed them very much.
Inside, a stock person was screaming YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND ARE SERIOUSLY OBESE. YOU ARE WHY ENGLISH TOURISTS ARE SURPRISED WHEN MEDIUMS ARE TOO BIG FOR THEM. YOU ARE WHAT MAKE AMERICAN WATER PARKS HELL ON EARTH FOR ANYBODY WHO DOESN'T SHAKE THE GROUND WHEN THEY WALK. THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD ISSUE YOU MUMUS AND BAN YOU FROM RETAIL CLOTHING STORES FOREVER.
She said she'd have to think about it. I smiled and told her to have a nice day.