Crying in Nordstrom’s

There has been an event on our calendar for some time—a 100th anniversary celebration of an organization my husband has belonged to for many years. I assumed it would be a coat-and-tie and nice dresses type of affair. Until last Friday, two weeks before the event, when I discovered it was formal. And by formal I mean black tie and long glittery gowns.

Oh. My. God.

My retired teacher lifestyle does not require formal wear. My wardrobe consists mostly of jeans and casual pants and tops. I am not a tiny person who can fit into just any dress pulled off the rack. I live in a body that requires, well, let’s just say, careful construction and styling of garments in order for me to look reasonably acceptable in this type of social situation.

For my husband, this was easy—he could just wear his short jacket choir concert tuxedo. When he mentioned that if need be, I could also wear my black choir concert dress, I was not amused.

I hit the ground running the next day. Contacted a friend who is a talented seamstress, has a great sense of style and knows where to find decent clothing. We both started looking online, realizing that between shipping time and alterations, that was a long shot, assuming I could even find something that fit. She suggested some boutique type stores or heading out to a mall where I could still find upscale department stores that stocked formal dresses.

So off I went to the Towson Town Center (which, like malls around here, has a lot of empty storefronts and a very different vibe post-Covid.) I needed to find something between mother-of-the-bride and overweight slut.

I must have tried on every dress in my size in Nordstrom’s. Nothing, Nada. Hideous. Lacy, matronly overlays. Bulges. Plunging backs and fronts. And insanely expensive. I literally was near tears but took a deep breath and plodded on to  Macy’s at the far end of the mall.

Things started out the same way, but at least Macy’s had more inventory. I found something that was sort of ok, it  was black with a little bit of bling—I could deal with it. And then as I was going to check out, I saw a dress hanging on what I suspect was a returns rack. And miracle of miracles, it was in my size. I took it into the dressing room, it fit well, I felt good in it, and my blood pressure finally started to drop. I texted a picture to my friend, and she approved. When I took it up to the register (along with the other dress, just in case), the cashier kept marking it down and re-scanning the tag and finally, she looked up and said, “You know, this is a final sale and can’t be returned.” I ended up paying $20 for it.

My seamstress friend, bless her, skillfully pinned the hem to accommodate all of my imperfections after our Monday night Chorale rehearsal. She will have it hemmed and ready in time. I bought sparkly sandals and scheduled a manicure and pedicure the day before. I will be ready for this bash, and I won’t have to wear my concert clothing. Not bad for a mission impossible dress search and near-meltdown in Nordstrom’s.  

Grocery Store Madness

Just came back from a trip to one of our local grocery stores and wanted to share a few tips about using the self-check-out lanes. I’m not talking about the ones for when you just have a gallon of milk and a bag of dog food. They’re convenient, and I’ve seldom had a problem with them.

But, my friends, beware of the I’m-now-a-store-employee ones with the moving belts and the multiple bagging stations. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

First of all, I totally understand that grocery store chains are trying to cut overhead costs and like so many other businesses, they can’t get enough help. But really? Only two full-service lanes open on a Friday morning?? They still have to employ people to help customers negotiate with the self-check scanners so why not just put them to work as cashiers?? Might want to see what your competition with stores in nearby towns is doing. I can honestly say I have never waited for more than one person ahead of me in their check-out lanes, even on a day before a holiday. And their cashiers graciously and efficiently bag your groceries all the while carrying on pleasant conversations about how to cook the items you’re purchasing.

But I digress. Today, I had what I would call a moderate number of items in my cart. Too many for the quick lanes but a glance at the two staffed registers showed long lines of people who would potentially write checks to pay for their groceries or argue about expired coupons. So I took a deep breath and headed for the varsity self-check lanes.

Do not attempt this method if you are by yourself. One person cannot unload the cart and get the items scanned and bagged to meet the standards of the dis-embodied voice inside the computer. It can’t be done. I felt like I was in that famous scene from the old Lucy show where she and Ethel were working in the candy factory, and they couldn’t keep up with the conveyor belt. Fortunately, I’m someone who always weighs and labels my produce, because I can’t imagine what trials await those who must “look up” an item.

The first prompt is “Please place your item in the bagging area.” Yes, I’m doing that, give me a minute for God’s sake. When I tried to put the filled bags back in the cart (which still wasn’t empty), the computer yelled at me. “Please do not remove items from the bagging area.” What? Where am I supposed to put all this stuff? And what about my twenty-five pound box of cat litter that doesn’t fit in the bag-holder space? What do I do with that? Then it’s “Are you ready to complete your order?” No, damn it, I’m trying to figure out where to put these bags I’m not allowed to remove from the bagging area. The teenager monitoring all of this came over numerous times to wave his badge in front of the computer which acts as a sort of sedative for the machine. It sighs, re-sets itself and allows you to continue scanning. On one of his trips, he leaned over and said, “I’ll tell you a secret. If you wait until you see the red light on the scanner, you can move your bags into the cart.”

WHAT??? Why don’t they freaking tell us that?? Nothing on the screen says that a red light means you’re in a neutral zone and you can move groceries wherever you want. I missed that during orientation. Oh, I forgot. There was no orientation. I’m just a customer trying to make it easier for the corporate bigwigs to buy another yacht. Sorry—didn’t mean to be snarky but there is some truth to that.

I finally completed the transaction with my groceries shoved haphazardly into bags—not my usual neat and efficient process which has prompted cashiers to ask, “Were you ever a bagger?” It probably took as long as if I had stood in line behind the check-writers. Here’s a thought. Maybe take that creepy robot who wanders around the store dodging carts and making a general nuisance of himself and teach him to run the registers.