XXII. T'was All So Pretty A Sight It Seemed

It had been hours since I’d polished off the last of my venti triple shot caramel macchiato. I was crashing. I was crashing hard.

I had worked a fifteen hour stretch the previous day, and several long days leading up to it, all in preparation for a “visit.” In the world of retail a “visit” is when those above you on the corporate food chain come by your store to see if they can eat you for their lunch. Your goal is to make them get their lunch across town at one of your sister stores. I had no intention of feeding anyone, so I worked like a dog to get my store perfect.

What perfect looked like to me went beyond the corporate visual merchandising manual. They gave me the tools and rules, I brought the jewels; I made the store shine. There are so many little details a customer doesn’t notice: blouses arranged by size, collar type and sleeve length making clean lines that are positively delectable; displays that show a perfect balance of color, print, and texture; walls that draw the eye through the store in a well thought out flow of seasonal color; crisply folded and level stacks of knit shirts arranged by size; and accessories complementing every outfit and helping create a look you’ll take home with you. A beautiful store shows a customer how to dress beautifully for the body they have, not the body they want. My store was as close to perfect as it was ever going to be. I was ready and waiting.

I spent the majority of my wait walking figure eights around the store, greeting every customer, and straightening every crooked hanger. I could spot a tin soldier out of line seconds after it had broken ranks. With each circle I made I would glance out the front windows, looking for my guests. When they finally arrived they stood outside analyzing my window dressing while I stood inside fighting the fatigue and anxiety, just waiting for it all to be over. Ten minutes later it was. One quick loop around the store, the territorial manager and regional vice president spat out a “Store looks beautiful, well done girls” and they were gone. They didn’t even nibble on me. I had survived unscathed.

Unfortunately, I was terribly understaffed at the time so I had to stay till closing, another eight hours away. I was so exhausted I feared that if I paused to lean on a four way or lingered to engage in conversation with a customer that I’d slip into a coma right then and there in the Misses’ casual department; cocooned in a nest of denim and plaid. Thankfully, the flow of traffic began to die down, as shoppers started turning in for the night. The front window displays glimmered in a red-orange haze as the sun began its descent. Slowly, it crept out of view and slipped behind the tree line across the busy turnpike. Night was fast approaching and my bed was beckoning. Twenty miles away the covers were already turned back on my four poster and I was fantasizing about slipping between those smooth sheets, I wasn’t going to need any lullabies from Her to get to sleep tonight.

Just a couple more hours to go but I was finished! I gave up straightening for the night. I stopped refolding table tees that careless customers had opened, examined, balled up and tossed back, destroying my beautiful crisp board folded little stacks, all sized and level. I waited until I thought the store was free of shoppers and I meandered to the back of the cash wrap, where my favorite sales associate stood at the register beaming her bright smile at me. She was the daughter of one of Her favorite employees so naturally when I hired her, she became my favorite! We chatted for a moment when suddenly, I interrupted her and said, “I’m sorry…I just have …to…” and plopped my body down on the carpet behind the cash desk. She roared in laughter, as I sprawled out on the floor dressed in my best black suit and kicked off my Coach loafers. “Dee, you run the sales floor. I’m gonna stay here.”

I had never been so tired in my entire life. I closed my eyes and began to relive the events and conversations of the day while images of my comfy bed and plush body pillows floated in the periphery.

Moments later, my thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice, "Baby, what are you doing on the floor?"

I knew the voice and didn’t even open my eyes. "I've worked over 80 hours this week; we had a visit.”

I started to push my tired twenty-two year old body off the floor but that compassionate regular customer of mine that shopped with me every week and must have known exactly what a visit was, she stopped me. "No honey, you stay right there! It's almost over."

I could have kissed her.

I started a new job a couple weeks ago and had a visit from the visual merchandising director. I so much enjoyed getting ready for that visit and for the positive feedback it earned me that it reinforced how much I had missed that kind of work since I left my store in Cincinnati. The characteristics of film editing mirror visual merchandising in beauty, order and detail and I suppose that is why I am drawn to both. I could possibly find happiness in either world; unfortunately the mistakes of my youth have hampered my progress. I hope to right that situation.

She and I have both been retail store managers, both passionate about the visual part of our jobs. If you saw our closets, you would know precisely why: color coded, arranged by sleeve length, everything buttoned, zipped, and snapped. Just don’t open any drawers in our house, for some reason our sense of order stops there; for now anyway.  There seems to be an air of change about us and I am hoping for everything to fall in to it's rightful place. ~Braticas

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