Friday, February 5, 2016

a nice beginning and a nice end

I am helping a customer when the Vince phone rings.  I hear Jeff, a colleague say, "Oh that's so nice.  Yes, you should tell my manager. Let me get him."

Jeff calls Billy and says to me, "Some woman is calling with a compliment."

I intentionally loiter and a few minutes go by before Billy arrives. The caller patiently holds.

I see Billy smile and say, "Oh that's so nice of you to call. Yes, thank you. Not many customers will take the time.  I'll be sure to tell her." Then he looks at me and grins.

A woman from Boston that I helped a few weeks ago just returned from a  business trip, and made it a point to call Saks, ask for the Vince department, then request a manager. All to tell him how much she appreciated my help.

But then there's this.

Another customer asks me to follow her around the floor, hold the many items she piles in my arms, and not very graciously demand other sizes. Then she asks (not very nicely) that I go to another floor for her to return an item (she bought over two months ago)  so she can re-buy it at the now reduced price. I say I can't. She then tells me that she is in a rush and now doesn't have time to try on all the clothes I've found for her in multiple sizes.  She leaves the dressing room with clothes everywhere, inside out, and not re-hung. 

At 8:45, I run into a problem closing out the register, and end up having to do it twice. It takes 30 minutes. 

Then, I leave carrying an item I bought earlier in the day.  But when security goes to check my bag (as is done for all employees) I have no receipt. It apparently fell off the item. Then I remember that I have an emailed receipt and produce that. But I'm told that's not good enough. I want to cry I want to leave so badly. The head of asset protection happens to be leaving when all this is occurring. All my info is taken. Tomorrow they will review tapes to confirm that I legitimately bought the item I claim to have bought.  I feel like a criminal though of course I'm not. This takes another 20 minutes.

So now it's after 9:30 and I am too tired to even take the subway. I see a cab and grab it.

Halfway home I realize I only have $10, which is about the cost of the ride before tip. I tell the cab driver, and my day ends as brightly as it began. "Don't worry," he tells me. Around three blocks away from my home I remind the driver again so he won't feel short-changed. He laughs and says, "That's fine. I take you all the way home." And he does. The meter is $9.80 and all I can give him is the $10 I have.  

The woman from Boston and the driver from some place far from the US more than compensate for the bumps in the middle.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

living clean

Just about everyone I know — regardless of house or apartment square footage — has someone to help occasionally with the cleaning.

I have only had two regular housekeepers in the past 20 years, Maria and Christina; I liked them both.

But for the past few years I've relied on no one but myself.  I am very very neat, and my house, at a glance, looks clean. But it's not.  

When I was living alone, my home did stay cleaner longer. But now I'm sharing my apartment with a 23-year old male who doesn't have the same aesthetics as I do. He is blind to dust balls accumulating in corners. Fails to see a sink that needs cleaning. Doesn't understand my frustration when feathers from the sofa drift to the rug. Thinks it's fine to leave dishes in the sink. And sees no need to make a bed that will be unmade a few hours later.

When my mom visited me a few weeks ago, she suggested I get someone in to clean. My mom — who is reticent to say anything about my housekeeping —was right. I was looking for an excuse to go back to having someone come in regularly to make my apartment not just presentable, but sparkling clean.

Reyna is the woman who cleans for my next door neighbor. She comes to him every week. I ask her if she can come to me every three weeks, except for the first visit. On the first visit, I figure five hours will be more than enough time to clean my small apartment. 

Reyna comes today. She knows how to clean in ways I never learned. In fact, I'm I don't  have the skills to clean like she does. 

Reyna moves the furniture around. She gets into the corners. She washes in places I wouldn't have thought of. By the time she leaves (six and a quarter hours later, not five) my apartment looks like a veil has been lifted from it. 

If I could, I'd say to Alexander, "Hey, let's not use the bathroom or kitchen anymore." At least then the apartment could stay looking good a little bit longer.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

a day in the life of a sales associate

January is a slow month in retail.

I leave my house today at 9:30 and arrive home at 6:45, over nine hours later.

I walk out the door with energy and style (the store discount contributes to the latter).

I go in at a scheduled time, and leave at a scheduled time.

I do what I do whenever I'm in: try to sell as much as I can, engage the shoppers (whom I really like), and make an honest living.

I clock in and clock out, including a required — unpaid — hour break for lunch. 

I do tasks that aren't selling-related: open or close the register, make sure the clothes are displayed nicely (one finger's width between hangers), empty the dressing rooms, and occasionally put things back on the selling floor.

It is a physically demanding job. (Not to mention that it's a dangerous one — all that temptation all day long, and especially when it's slow with not much to do except look at merchandise throughout the store and find exceptional bargains).

I say to every single person I see, if I think no one else has approached them, Can I help you with anything? Can I start a fitting room for you? Let me know if you need sizes? Or, I just strike up a conversation. I probably have hundreds of mini-conversations a day.

I like what I do.  I love the store. The customers are mostly great. I'm in the best department on the best floor. My manager is fine. The people I work with are now all nice (except for the one who still has never talked to me, though today she smiled at something I said which makes me feel I'm making progress). And I'm really good at what I do. I like helping customers, and feel rewarded and appreciated  when I find something for them that they wouldn't have found themselves, and they end up buying it.

By the time I leave work I am utterly depleted. Too tired to even talk. My feet don't just ache, they literally hurt. My lower back feels the stress of standing on concrete (thinly veiled with wood) all day. Sometimes I'm in bed by 8:30 and asleep by 9. It is physically exhausting work.

Today, at end of my long Sunday shift (the word shift still feels foreign to me), I gross $59.17, or $7.89/ hour.  That number is likely even less since it doesn't include any returns from other stores. 

New York's minimum wage is currently $9.00/hour.

Oh, sure, one can say, but on good days you make more. Yes, that's true. November and December were better.

But still. I think a long hard day's work should, at the very least, result in a minimum wage salary.

I know I can quit, but I like it. 

Still, it saddens me.

Two degrees from top schools. Years of hard work and long hours.  And this has become my only option? 

I wish I had a better solution. 

Well, at least while I'm trying to think of one, I knowI can be well-dressed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

whatever it takes

Two days after the record storm and the city is back to normal.

26.8 inches fall. Only .10 less than the biggest snowstorm ever recorded in NYC. But the plows have been out, the sidewalks shoveled, the cars unburied, and mass transit is back on schedule.

I am psychologically ready to deal with my computer issues again.  Here's the short version: my big, beautiful 21.5-inch retina-display desktop (bought in late December) has insurmountable problems. Corrupt files from the data migration are likely the issue.  But after hours on the phone with Apple last week, I decide to order another computer (same model) and start over.

The new computer arrives.  I get anxious even looking at it. The unopened box sits in my living room causing me stress. I even ask (rather beg) Apple to have one of their geniuses come to my house. Of course they say no. The idea of dealing with two big computers overwhelms me. I just can't do it.

I call Apple and decide to go back to the 15-inch retina-display laptop — so much more manageable when there's a problem.  Apple sends me a return label for FedEx. I call FedEx around two.  I am promised a pick up within a few hours. Apple will have the computer back in a day. Then I'll purchase the new one. Manually transfer the data. Then return the iMac I bought in December. I am dreading this whole process. Especially how I'm going to get my big computer back to Apple with no box.

By 8 p.m. FedEx has not arrived.  I call.  I'm told, "We have you scheduled. We'll be there sometime tonight."

I wake up today and the computer is still in my lobby. I call FedEx around ten. They search around and discover why the box is still in my possession.

"Oh, I'm sorry, that pick-up was cancelled."

FedEx doesn't  call to tell me. They don't reschedule. They do nothing. Just tell me I need to call back around noon. "We can't schedule any pick-ups right now."

When I ask the reason for the cancellation, some very nice girl in some very warm climate  with a lovely southern accent tells me it's due to weather.  

Hmmm. I think they need a new ad agency!

Saturday, January 23, 2016


I bundle up.

Long shearling coat. Scarf. Gloves. Hat (after photo).

The streets are empty. Visibility poor.

I leave my house at 8:30, to be at work by 9:30.

I wait 30 minutes for a bus that never comes. I'm too cold to wait longer.

I come home feeling bad. I live in Manhattan. I should be able to get in.

So I warm up and try again.

I navigate my way to Lexington, three and a half long blocks away.  

The sidewalks are a mess. Walking is difficult.

I wait an hour this time. I'm determined to get in.

And just when I'm about to give up, a lonely bus comes crawling down Lexington.

I arrive at Saks at 10:30.

A few people have actually come out to shop.  Mostly people visiting New York.

There are only three of us in Vince, down from the usual 11.  It's actually sort of nice.

I make a few sales. Then the announcement comes.

The store is closing at one.

I venture outside. 

The storm has gotten worse.

Busses have stopped running by order of the mayor.

The subway nearest my house is shut down.

I see a cab. One cab in a  sea of blowing winds and total whiteout.

A man gets in. I knock on the window and ask if we can split the cab. He agrees.

I am home by 1:45.

Still, I love the snow. Beautiful until tomorrow.

just another day in retail

I wake up to falling snow.

Seven inches have already accumulated in Central Park and the storm has just begun.

Governor Cuomo declares a  state of emergency for New York City.

Wind gusts of 26 miles an hour are recorded.

Biting cold.

Heavy, blinding snow.

Unshoveled sidewalks.

Meteorologists predict one to two feet or more.

Getting worse by the hour.

Libraries, schools and many other closings are announced.

Thousands of flights grounded.

The heart of the storm is yet to come.

Snow is expected all day and into the night.

Everyone is urged to stay off the roads. 

The newscasters acknowledge that, "For people who have to be at work — doctors and nurses..."

I don't hear any mention of people selling clothes among that group of people whose services are critical.

Still, I'm only mildly surprised when I get this email.

I guess people need to shop.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

phyllis visits new york

I love when my mom comes to town.

She arrives on Sunday. Takes a five-hour bus from Falmouth. Drops her bags at my apartment. Then takes two local buses to Saks where I'm working. After that my mom goes to meet her new great granddaughter. And then has dinner out with Alexander and me. Hard to believe she is really 86.

On Monday my mom stops by Bloomingdales, then visits the baby again, comes back here to watch a movie,  and then we all have dinner at T-Bar with Valerie, Abbey and Jason. 

My mom awakes on Tuesday and asks, "What should we do today?" I half-heartedly suggest museums, and am grateful when she rejects the idea. We both feel like hanging around inside, and decide instead to play some cards. Something I never tire of doing with my mom, especially since beating her at gin is a monumental and unusual event — which I do in a stress-inducing, neck-in-neck game.

We had planned to have dinner at Tony Di Napoli's, one of my mom's favorite restaurants in New York. My mom loves southern Italian food. But the mid-20's weather makes ordering in the better choice.

This morning my mom is up by six. She goes to the local bagel place to bring some of New York's best back to Cape Cod. She returns and has a quick cup of coffee, and says her good-byes by 7:30. Her bus leaves from Port Authority at 9:30, but my mom is taking no chances. Who knows, traffic could be heavy. A surprise snow storm could hit. You just never know.