I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, I owe, I owe so off to work I go. That statement aptly depicts my situation. I’m a 24 year old college graduate with big dreams, large student loans and a small bank account. So far, my degree hasn’t translated into a posh office where everyone wears Prada.
My well-worn eight inch heels have been kicked to the curb in favor of a pair of cushioned flats. Walking the valley of skyscrapers handing out resumes isn’t the time to worry about fashionable food wear.
I say my prayers every night before turning out the light in the city that never sleeps. Maybe my dream of making it in the big city as a fashion designer is too big. Or maybe my phone will ring tomorrow and I’ll get a job.
“Hello. Yes, I’m Naarah. Yes, I can come tomorrow at ten. Miss Conway, twentieth floor, suite 2015. I have it and thank you.” After my happy dance, I organized my portfolio, picked out an outfit, ate a two day old salad, and finally got some sleep.
The office space was plush. Miss Conway was prompt, but I soon realized I wasn’t interviewing for a designer’s job. “Now Naarah, I see you graduated recently and your portfolio looks good, but at this time I need a seamtress to handle alterations.
“My clients only wear designer labels and mistakes are unacceptable. And the client is always right. Do you understand? You must work quickly and get along well with the clients. I pay $20 an hour and all tips are yours. When can you begin? Now, would be wonderful.”
I wanted to remind her of my degree in fashion design, but $20 an hour resonated in my spinning head. I mean when you’re living in a boardinghouse with elderly people because the rent is cheap, you’re eating two day old salads and your bank account only has four numbers and the highest is three, $20 sounds good. Suddenly, I was shaking Miss Conway’s hand and accepting her offer.
Client Number One was a petite lady with several skirts I needed to make fit her waist. Sounds simple doesn’t it? The problem was her body was size nine and her skirts were size four. I surveyed the garments hoping to find enough fabric in the seams to let them out, but there wasn’t enough. Trying to choose appeasing words to tell her there wasn’t enough fabric to make the ends meet around her waist, I offended her. Client One grabbed her things and slammed the door on her way out. Oops.
Enter Client Two, a tall slender lady I estimated to be a size six. She wanted her evening gown let out a smidgen (her exact words) in the hips. When she removed her jacket, I was amazed how large her hips were. Oh no, here we go again. When I explained the dress couldn’t be let out enough, she insisted on modeling it to prove me wrong.
Once in the dress, Client Two attempted to zip it. The zipper balked, so I tried. It wouldn’t budge, but the client insisted she could do it. So, she exhaled as she pulled on the zipper with all her might and it grumbled its way to the top. I was astonished.
Client Two gloating because she proved me wrong did a 360 degree turn imitating a model. Her glasses fell to the floor as she bent to retrieve them the dress split. . .oops. Again I tried to console, but she burst out laughing. I’ve never been more thankful for a person with a sense of humor.
Finally my first day ended and I was surprised to still have a job. Back at the boardinghouse, I was in time for dinner with the other residents. I volunteered to say the blessing.
“Dear Lord, thank You for giving me a job and for the lessons I’ve learned. Thank you for all my friends here and for the delicious meal that has been prepared for us. Amen.”
“What lessons did you learn?” Marty asked. Marty, half blind since Viet Nam had lived at the boardinghouse for 30 years.
“How to survive when there’s month left at the end of your money. And today, I learned that people aren’t concerned about the size of their garments. They just want you to make the ends of the waistband meet.”
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