Dearest Blog Readers,
I woke up this morning, February 1st, to 20 new emails, 2 of which were spam-ish, and 18 of which were lovely notes of encouragement from family and friends. My deepest gratitude to you all. This new month began with the brightest of outlooks, thanks to those emails, and I’m not dramatizing my reaction at all. So thank you, thank you.
And how did I spend my February 1st? Checking off a major item on my to-do list: finding a spring coat to match the well-dressed women of Hangzhou (who I will absolutely write about soon, once I can surreptitiously take some good pictures of my favorite outfits). Now that temperatures will be in the 50s for a while, my brown parka- while perfect for tailgating in 5 degrees or chasing Vilas through a snowy dog park- is a bit heavy and I’m sweating all over town. I’ve been coveting this coat in particular:
Can you even stand it? It’s adorable. So postponing my lunch- yes, this was important enough to put off food- I walked right up to this mannequin, pointed to the coat, and within seconds, the salesgirl, having determined that it was the only red coat of this style in the store, was literally dis-arming the mannequin (ha, get it?) to get this coat off of her and onto me.
Sidebar: I realize I’ve only gone clothes shopping in Hangzhou once, but based on my experience, 100% of retail workers in China offer impeccable customer service. Pretty Woman style. I hate to rely on the cliche, but I seriously felt like Julia Roberts during this whole excursion, when Hector Elizondo hooks her up with the nice retail staff and she goes to town on a new wardrobe. (We are both redheads…coincidence? Hmm.) Anyway, I hardly had to lift a finger the whole time. My parka was taken off, the new coat was buttoned up, my scarf was rearranged, my hair was fluffed out and smoothed down. And…
The red coat didn’t work. Tragedy! I loved it so much in the store front, but it overwhelmed my 5′ 1″ frame, not only because it was a little big, but because the red was so very…red. Combined with the brassy buttons and slightly poofed shoulders, I looked a bit like a mini Maoist who hasn’t yet grown into her uniform. If I was a 5′ 8″ brunette, with the measurements of say, one Trisha Coffee, I think I would’ve killed it. But alas, we were back to square one, the salesgirl and I.
This is really where it gets all Pretty Woman. The salesgirl then pulled coat after coat after coat from the racks for me to try on, some in the style of the red coat, some that I think she thought might look good on me. Since she didn’t speak English, much pantomiming ensued to communicate the hits and misses. Then, she handed me a catalogue of the store’s inventory and let me page through it, pointing out which ones I liked. And more coats were brought from the back room. The whole time, I truly did not button a single button; I just got to stand there like a little doll. Great fun (and I mean that, without any irony).
Finally, there was one coat that I absolutely loved. Perfect for spring and fall. Big black buttons. Attached hood. And plaid. Plaid’s very in right now, per my observations of Hangzhou women. The only problem was that it didn’t fit uniformly all the day down (i.e. I was knockin’ it out with my American thighs), so I asked my salesgirl for a medium instead of a small. They only had a large, which actually fit well, since according to sizing charts in China, I’m Gingerzilla (thanks to Andy Ryan for coining that nickname). But once I’d asked for a medium, I couldn’t effectively communicate that I’d take the large. None of the other women working spoke English, so they called a woman at another store who could speak a little bit. I had- no joke- 3 different conversations with her while she looked for a medium at her store. They were all going to such trouble that I thought, If you come up with a medium, I’ll take that over the large, but I promise you, salesgirls, that I am not leaving this store empty-handed.
And here’s what happened: they couldn’t locate a medium, so they discounted 1/3 of the price for me! To take the coat I originally wanted. They brought out a calculator, typed in the price (976RMB), subtracted 360RMB, and gave me the coat for 616RMB. Seriously, impeccable customer service. I walked to lunch, changed into my new coat, and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around, looking like this:
And to answer your question: Very. (I can only assume that you’re asking, “How cute is she?!” Tee hee.)
I really had such a nice afternoon with those women. If any of you come to visit me, I’m taking you shopping at their store. Even if you’re a dude.
Happy February, all!