True story. I had just graduated from college, yet could not find a job. This was a shocker to me as I was a liberal arts major and had a solid “B” average. Why were the big companies not knocking down my door and offering me six figures? The only figures in my life were the following six: rent, electric bill, phone bill, water bill, car payment, and my American Express bill. I needed to find a job, and fast.
There was a very nice independent jewelry store about three blocks from where I lived (this would be a good place for me to work if my car was repossessed from lack of payment). One day I noticed a “Career Opportunities Within” sign posted on the front window. I walked in and applied for a job.
No one was more surprised than I when they offered me the job. I knew absolutely nothing about diamonds, except that they cost a lot.
No matter. Mike trained me, and in a matter of weeks I was spewing out information like “I wouldn’t go any lower than a ‘J’ on color if I were you,” or “Our diamonds cost more because they are not riddled with inclusions,” and “The cut means the CUT, not the shape.” I knew so much about diamonds, people thought I was a certified gemologist or at least the owner’s daughter.
As I have been known to do in the past, I quickly started pointing out everything the shop was doing wrong, from window displays to record-keeping (this was pre-computer era). Rather than have to fight with me, Mike told me I could do the window displays, which I merrily took on. My creative tendencies bubbled to the surface, as I arranged model airplanes (borrowed from my mother’s basement) with ruby bracelets draped off the wings, or Rolex watches peeking out from piles of Halloween candy corn, or pearl necklaces dangling out of oversized seashells and propped next to real starfish with matching pearl earrings. I had a natural talent for window displays.
Our store policy was to change the windows about once a month. Princess Virgo (I was only 22, not yet Queen Virgo at this point) decided that once a week would be better. I was constantly sketching out ideas for my windows, to the point of ignoring the real live customers that my fabulous windows were bringing into the store.
“I’ll be right with you,” I’d call out to a potential customer standing near the front door, while putting my hand over the phone receiver, “I'm just trying to figure out where I can get a small model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”
One great perk of the job was an employee discount of 75%. When Mike informed me of this benefit during my initial training, I quickly fantasied about all the wonderful jewelry I would buy: emerald rings, gold earrings, antique charm bracelets … but 75% off of $10,000 is still $2,500, and $2,500 was still a lot of money.
I was despondent. I would never be able to afford anything in the store. The best I could hope for was the jar of jewelry cleaner that retailed for 15 bucks.
So a new little obsession developed during my tenure at the high-end jewelry store: trying on all the jewelry, sometimes all at once. My boss walked in after his lunch break one day to find me wearing approximately $200,000 in merchandise.
“No, MOV, no,” he said, unsupportively, while reaching for the vintage diamond and platinum tiara on my head, “It's one thing to model an engagement ring for a man shopping for his girlfriend, but you do not need to wear 12 bracelets at once. Take them off.”
I started to pretend the jewelry was all mine, the entire store was my jewelry box. Who cares that the tanzanite choker was $18,500? I already owned it! The Patek Philippe watch? All mine. The diamond and sapphire lariat necklace that had supposedly belonged to Jackie O? Oh, please.
One evening I left work, walked home, reached into my purse for my apartment keys, and was mortified to see a 5.5 carat marquis cut diamond engagement ring still on my middle finger. I had somehow forgotten to put it back after one of my many modeling sprees. The ring was priced at $99,000.
How had I been so stupid? This ring was hard to miss. It was blindingly huge and gorgeous, and produced little prisms of movement and glittery rainbows from every angle. Even in the dark. Especially in the dark. It was exactly like a fortune teller's crystal ball, only a million billion times better. I could see my past in the facets of this ring, my hyperventilating and nauseous present, and my (surely unemployed) future.
I felt like I would throw up any second. I had plans to go out with some friends, which I immediately cancelled. My evening would be spent alternately guarding this ring that cost more than I made in five years, dreaming up safe hiding places for it, and wishing that it really was mine. I tried to call my boss to see if he wanted to drive back over and get the ring, but his answering machine kept clicking on: “This is Mike and Donna. We’re not home, so please leave a message at the beep.”
It would be bad enough to tell Mike in person or on the phone that I accidentally wore the ring home, but to have his wife Donna know, too? I hung up. Twenty-six times.
Please-don't-fire-me-please-don't-fire-me-please-don't-fire-me, I prayed to the pretty ring. And please don't have me arrested for grand theft diamond.
I hardly slept the entire night. I had horrible dreams that someone broke into my place and stole the ring. I need not have worried, though. I had hidden the ring in the back of the refrigerator in a Tupperware container behind some strawberries. If a thief was going to find the ring, he would have to be hungry enough to stop for a snack first.
The next morning, I got to work early. I stood pacing by the back entrance of the store, suspiciously eyeing the linen delivery guy for the restaurant next-door. Mike finally showed up, and I immediately told him what had happened. Instead of firing me or yelling at me or even shaking his head in disappointment, he laughed.
“No big deal, MOV,” he smiled, “I would never worry about you.” He pushed up his sleeve to show me something: he was wearing two Rolexes.
P.S. And thank you to Nola for the great blog idea!