Humble Pie

Among life's more humbling experiences, taking your clothes to a consignment store ranks right up there.Trying to save myself the humiliation, I even went on a fact-finding tour first. I went to the store, cased the joint, then asked a clerk to tell me EVERYTHING I needed to know if I wanted to put clothes on consignment there. She handed me an information sheet. I went home and studied it. Except for a higher rate of payment for a few choice name brands, it was the usual drill. I returned the next day with two baskets of clothes. To forestall rejection, I had steamed the wrinkles out of everything before leaving. I thought I had all the bases covered.There were no customers in the store, no piles of incoming clothes on the counter, and two clerks standing in the back. "Do you have an appointment?"No, I said."Well, you have to have an appointment to bring in clothes for consignment."I explained that I had been in the previous day and asked a clerk to tell me EVERYTHING I needed to know to bring in clothes for consignment. There was nothing in the information sheet that said you had to make an appointment. There was no sign on the door. In fact, the sign on the door said, "Now accepting clothes on consignment." Notice it does not add, "By appointment only.""Oh...well, you're very lucky that we're not real busy now," the clerk said.Not very busy? You're not busy at all. But the worst, of course, is yet to come. The consignment person has you watch while they peer at every item, tossing back anything that has a flaw you may have missed. Or maybe just your taste in clothes is flawed.Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm.Fortunately, only a couple of my items failed to pass muster. This, after all, was the cream of my closet, relics of an era when I had been more prosperous, a size smaller, and full of dreams of living a high-powered life of power suits and cocktail frocks. My dream wardrobe was worthy of any consignment store! And I had seven weeks to find out if anyone else felt the same about my cast-offs. Only, as is sometimes the case with new consignment stores, you return in two months and find they have disappeared, and all you have is a blank ticket with a number on it.Driving home, still disconcerted by a store with no business trying to brush me off for not having an appointment they never said they required, I thought about life's other humbling experiences. Parent-teacher conferences, for instance. Especially on the grade school level. The teacher sits at her desk. You, the lowly parent, sit in a little chair, below her, while she tells you what an unsatisfactory product you have sent her to teach. Teaching, I guess, is supposed to be easy, and we have challenged her. Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm. Any visit to the doctor. You are pretty much naked except for a skimpy little paper drape, bare legs dangling off a table. The doctor comes in wearing TWO layers of clothes, his person clothes, with a doctor coat over it. As if the drape isn't insult enough, over at the gynecologist's office, they tell me due to cost-cutting measures, all they have to offer is little paper vests. You can make your way the best you can from the dressing room to the exam table and cover the rest of you with the sheet of wax paper waiting for you there.Probably the most memorable paper drape episode was during an interlude in an exam when the doctor requested I come to his office to talk before dressing. His office was furnished like an office or a living room. He was wearing his two layers of clothes. I had to sit in front of his desk in a chair that stuck to my butt while wearing nothing but the tissue paper wrapper. He took phone calls from other patients, other doctors, even booked a tee-off time, while I sat there and waited. I never went back to him again. That was too humbling an experience. Job interviews are always humbling experiences. Obviously, you are qualified for the job. They have looked at your resume or application and already determined you have the skills they're looking for, otherwise, they wouldn't be calling you in. But now comes the beauty contest. Although theoretically, they are not supposed to discriminate, the face to face confrontation is nothing but a discrimination. Now they can find out whether you are old or young, Hispanic or American Samoan, pretty enough to sit at a front desk or not. Primarily what they're looking for is if you look like them.Then they pull the irrelevant questions out of the air. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" "What do you regret the most about a past work experience?" "Tell about a difficult situation you experienced at another job?" "Here's some rope. Proceed to hang yourself." The unemployment office sends my paperwork back to me as "improperly filled out" because in one place, two days into the new year, I put last year's date in error. All my reports for the same week are correctly dated. Did they really think I am trying to sneak in an interview I actually had the same week the previous year, or is some clerk taking a perverse pleasure in holding up my check? What can you do? You are being humbled. You make the little pen stroke that changes the 6 to a 7, buy another stamp, mail it back and wait another week.Maybe to cheer myself up, I should get a professional haircut. "Hmmm, it's been awhile. What is this? Been cutting your hair yourself again? Are you using haircolor OUT OF A BOX? Are you washing your hair with DRUG STORE shampoo? Hmm, hmm, hmmm!"

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