I confided here a week or so ago that, however hard I may try to live by the Talmudic teaching that the rich person is the person content with what he has, I occasionally yearn for greater material wealth, never more than when traveling by air. Economy class air travel can border on the excruciating, and I suspect that those who are able to hire limousines have a great deal more fun getting to and home from airports than you and I do.
Twenty-eight years ago, I went through an especially difficult period of wishing for more money than I had. My first marriage had collapsed, and I spent a lot of time at Macy’s in San Francisco’s Union Square in the women’s shoe section, pretending I was waiting for my own gal to choose a pair, but in fact perving on the sight of attractive women trying on high heels.
When I was maybe four, I remember playing under a table around which my mother and other women in high heels and stockings were seated. I think I found this fantastically sexy, even at four, though the whole thing might be a faintly remembered dream. But it’s the best I’m able to do to try to explain my having always found high heels very arousing.
The reason I longed for money back in the Macy’s days was that I eventually summoned the courage to approach especially attractive women in the act of trying on shoes and to say, “I’d like to buy those for you. I can’t bear the thought of anyone but you wearing them.” It got me slapped a couple of times, told to take a hike a couple of other times, escorted out of Macy’s by Security a couple of times, and finally told one time, emphatically, to take my custom elsewhere. But by then I’d met my koala keeper, and ceased to need a gal anyway.
But back to the here and now. Attentive readers are well aware that I’ve been job-hunting with a vengeance lately, since realizing that there’s a very good chance that I will deplete my not-enormous inheritance and savings pre-humously, and since realizing further that even the most boring 9-to-5 job is apt to shield me to some extent from the horrid aching boredom to which I’ve always been prone, and which does its best to push my face underwater at around two o’clock every afternoon. I spend most of my day lately responding to on-line advertisements for graphic design and writing jobs, applying for countless dozens, hearing back from maybe one of 100 prospective employers, gnashing my teeth and snarling. (There are few things I hate more at the moment than an apparently straightforward on-line application that in the end turns out not to be straightforward at all. When I’ve already uploaded my fucking resume, why, four steps later, am I being asked to list my past positions?) Don’t imagine I don’t feel hugely sorry for myself. In a world in which awful graphic design is rampant, why should I, who do such lovely graphic design, hear from one prospective employer of every 100 to whom I write? Gnash, gnash. Philistines! Nincompoops!
Today, though, the sun came out. Nordstrom’s, over at the nearby Grove, responded to the email in which I proposed to use my Macy’s-derived skills for their benefits, called me in for an interview, and hired me on the spot as a shill in their women’s shoe section, where it will be my responsibility, posing as a non-employee, to go over to women who look undecided about shoes they’ve tried on and say something like, “It’s really none of my business, and I do apologize for my forwardness, my dear, but it would be nothing short of tragic if you were to decide not to buy those. It’s as though they were designed with you specifically in mind.” Then I’m to look at my watch, pretend to be late for an appointment, and hurry away, avoiding any semblance of hard sell.
I was worried before my interview that they might want someone younger for the job, someone who, unlike me, hasn’t yet lost his looks in a tragic aging accident. But I turned out to be exactly what they had in mind. Armand, the conscientiously moisturized, generously, uh, fragranced guy who hired me, explained that they didn’t want anyone who might be seen as threatening. “The frightful deep creases in your face,” he pronounced happily, making little quotation marks in the air, “preclude the possibility of any of the ladies imagining your ‘coming on’ to them. You will be seen as avuncular or even paternal, too old to be approving of the referenced footwear in any but a detached, aesthetic way.” He insinuated that it might be even better if I could strive for an even more effete — that is, gay-seeming — affect than my real one, but I pretended not to understand what he was getting at.
In any event, I start on Saturday morning, in a Givenchy gentleman’s cloak [there’s an ad for it in the February GQ] to conceal the ugly black sling in which my arm has spent the last 176 hours. Wish me luck, my dears, and lots of it!