My dad and step-mom were visiting this past weekend for my Book Signing Party. My dad loves books, as does Nichole, but she and I are primarily bonded together by our innate love of shopping and bargain hunting.
Nichole told me about this new clothing store located in Denver, called Helicopter City, that sells super-trendy outfits for about the price of a hamburger. She has no idea how the clothes are so cheap (the store is based in France, not exactly the headquarters for consumer–friendly prices), and yet, Helicopter City is a mecca of cheap and lust-worthy garments, like a hybrid of Gap and Neiman Marcus.
A quick trip to the Google library revealed there is a Helicopter City that just opened right here in Crazy Town.
Nichole had seen the ads for Helicopter City, as well as the catalog, but she had never actually shopped in the store. We decided to drive right over first thing Saturday morning to check it out. They opened at 10 AM and we were at the door, Starbucks in hand, five minutes early. I was giddy as Christopher Columbus when he told Queen Isabella he was setting off for the New World.
The doll-sized salesgirl finally unlocked the door for us. “You can’t bring those in here,” she said, gesturing to our coffees. I noticed she had a Starbucks of her own sitting on the counter.
No matter. As soon as we saw the prices we were like rabid starved dogs at a live rat giveaway, grabbing armloads of clothes to take into the dressing room.
“Oh, that flared skirt is darling!” exclaimed Nichole when I held up an orange and navy striped concoction with an asymmetrical ruffle at the hem. “Uh, is it your size though?”
I glanced at the tag for the first time: Small. She was right, it was not my size. I’m typically a Large, or a size 10 or 12. I hadn’t taken my clothes off yet to try things on, so I casually walked out from the dressing room area back to the Hypocritical Coffee Nazi to ask for her help.
“Excuse me?” I interrupted her as she was flipping through a magazine, chatting on her cell phone, and licking cappuccino foam off her upper lip. I continued, “I picked up the wrong size by mistake? And, if you’re not too busy? I was wondering if you could help me? Uh, to find the correct size?”
Why was I intimidated by Hypocritical Coffee Nazi when she was as harmless and skinny as a broken twig?
She took the skirt out of my hands and looked at the size. “Oh, you grabbed a Small! What size do you actually need?”
I told myself to own my size. Just like I own my age, which is 21.
“Uh, uh, ummmm … I usually am a size Small, that is the funny thing, but I just had a baby,” (five years ago), “and so, uh, I am temporarily a Large. Or Extra-Large.”
Hypocritical Coffee Nazi smiled her best plastic smile back at me and said, “We carry size Small, Smaller, and Smallest.”
“Yes, I need a Large.”
“We don’t carry …” here she whispered, like she was saying stolen goods or clothes made of human hair, “larger sizes.” She scrunched up her ski-slope nose as if she was smelling raw sewage.
“Well, I am not a larger size, I am just a size Large.” Shrug. Bonus shrug for emphasis.
“Helicopter City considers that to be a larger size. The designers,” her she said the word with a reverence normally allocated to Nobel Peace Prize Winners and dead astronauts, “feel the sizes that do the most justice to their vision are Small, Smaller, and Smallest.”
Now, I am a tough cookie. I have had disgruntled customers try to punch me, drunk passengers on the plane try to get me fired, unruly guests at the hotel I used to work for demand to see the owner so they could complain about me, and of course my own kids try to have me deported back to California. I could handle a little verbal assault.
But something in me on this particular day just snapped. Maybe it was the fact that I was already wearing my skinny (skinny!) jeans, or the fact that I did not have ice-cream after dinner the night before, or the fact that I had gone running three miles that very day at 6 AM. Something in me snapped, and I demanded to speak to the manager.
The manager appeared, and clearly she was one of these people that was not a size Small, Smaller, or Smallest. She was a size Teeny Tiny. I could almost see right through her bones.
“May I help you, Madam?” she asked politely.
“I am a new customer for Helicopter City, and I really love the clothes,” I began. She used this opportunity to silently judge the outfit I was currently wearing (the wrinkled skinny jeans with a small hole on the right hip, a red turtleneck from Target, and a stretched-out black sweatshirt that was unintentionally faded to a muted shade of dirt). “Surely you must have something that would fit someone of my, uh … dimensions?”
“Of course, Madam, Helicopter City aims to please all its customers. Now I understand your situation, and I will find something that is perfect for you.” She smiled wide and I marveled at her endearingly crooked teeth, like an ad for something real and non-tooth related, like floor cleaner. “I will be right back.”
I gave Hypocritical Coffee Nazi a look, a look that said, Ha! You didn’t really know who you were messing with, did you?
The crooked-toothed manager returned, her arms full of assorted items. “Which would you like to try on first, the scarf or the hair bow?”
I took the hair bow. My neck was feeling a little bit chubby.
(“Marseilles Or Versailles”)