Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Panties Half Off
(The following story is absolutely almost true, the names of my love interests and friends have been changed because let’s face it they’ve suffered enough.)
'PANTIES HALF OFF', that's what the sign near the employees' only entrance said. Nearby another said, 'CAMISOLES SPECIAL CLEARANCE PRICE'. I was in one of the Mall's many women's clothing stores- The Julia Shop; I never did find out what the Hell that name meant. I was waiting for my job interview to begin, the women working there had told me to just find a seat and wait but the only seats were near the fitting rooms deep in the heart of lingerie territory.
Underwear surrounded me; cotton white, tiger stripes and pink satin all competed for my attention. I tried to keep my eyes focused on my freshly shined shoes. For some reason I felt like I was a kid again slyly stealing glances at the ladies underwear section of the Sears catalog when I was supposed to be making my Christmas list.
Oh, even at eight years old I knew the present I really wanted but I had learned fast that when you asked Santa for Raquel Welch all you got was a dirty look and a broken heart on Christmas morning.
I thought to myself that Adrian, one of my longtime friends, would have loved this. He was crazy for pictures of women in corsets and stockings; he got more of a thrill out of them than he did with pictures of naked women. He was always about accessories and upgrades.
This and more went through my mind as I waited anything at all to keep myself from the realization that at 19 this was the closest I had ever been to a woman's underwear.
“Are you Al?” a pleasant almost matronly voice asked.
I looked up expecting to see an older woman but the woman talking to me was in her thirties and petite, even in heels. Right off that bat I could see there was something sweet and easy going about her. That was always a plus because I knew that while I would never be able to use the Bruno charm to get her on my staff, I certainly could use it to get on her staff.
Wow that sounded dirtier than I thought.
“I'm Beverly the store manager,” she led me past the mirrors into the back of the Julia Shop. The stock room was actually more spacious than the store itself, there were clothes everywhere and where there weren't clothes there were boxes and boxes of shoes. Imelda Marcos had nothing on this place. There was a trim sour-faced woman working a few feet away from us, unpacking cardboard boxes and hanging dresses on rolling metal racks.
“What do you think?”
“Not what I expected,” we sat down at the break room table.
She looked over my resume, “Are you going to college?”
“Maybe someday,” I said. “I just want to figure out what I want first.”
“At 19 all I wanted was a beer.”
“Well it’s a good thing you're a lot older than that now,” I cringed the minute the words left my mouth. Oh, yeah the Bruno charm was kicking into high gear.
“Well,” she put my resume aside, “Tell me about yourself.”
I cleared my throat. I never knew what to say at moments like this, I only knew that if I actually did tell her about myself she would end up calling security.
There was a rattle as the woman working behind us shoved a rack full of clothes out onto the sales floor and grabbed another empty one to fill up.
“Where to begin...” I tried to sound thoughtful, “...well I'm a self starter. I have to be, my car isn't working right now.”
That got a snicker, but to someone like me a polite chuckle was like the taste of blood in the water to a shark. I pressed on, “As you can see I've worked in a supermarket and a in a fast food restaurant. I decided for my next job I was going to find a place that didn't smell like food.”
She looked me in the eye, “Is that what made you think to apply here?”
“No. Actually it was the 'Help Wanted' sign.” Another laugh, my confidence grew, “I mean that and the money.”
I charmed my way through the interview and found myself employed again. The mall was close enough where I could take the bus or just walk there if I felt like it. My car was still sitting in my parents' back yard waiting to be repaired. I missed being able to go where I wanted and when, I missed not having to worry about the rain, snow and the occasional rock throwing dingbat that recognized me from high school.