Friday, November 11, 2005


First, I shall speak of the incident.

Then, I shall speak of the noise.

I have not owned jeans in two years. This is not because I belong to a religious faction that believes it is sinful for women to wear rivets. It is because I resent paying over a hundred dollars for clothing I will use to wipe yogurt off my fingers, and cheap jeans make me look like a teamster; a teamster wearing a weight belt.

But last month, I learned of a jeans label made with organic cotton. Cotton-growing uses the greatest percentage of pesticides in agriculture, and while my single purchase won’t bring back all the little birdies and butterflies, this seemed like a good way to support a worthwhile enterprise. Also, the jeans made my butt look good and the waistband wasn’t so low everyone would know I had a Caesarian. So, I rejoined the jeans-wearing universe again with one simple swipe of my credit card.

One of the benefits of shopping at an overpriced boutique -- besides listening to a twenty-seven minute song whose only lyrics were “I’d get the kinkajou, but you have the car” chanted over and over in French -- is that they hem your pants for free. Since I was looking at six extra inches of fabric, I either had to accept denim flippers as a fashion statement or get them taken up. I asked for them to be hemmed, and the girl asked sweetly, “Are those the shoes you plan to wear with the jeans?”

I stared down and dithered. The jeans are day pants, so…loafers. Loafers, yes.

My loafers are horrible and worn-out and will soon be replaced by another pair which will be equally practical and middle-aged. Wearing them with hip jeans would say: Waistband to ankles, I’m with the band. Ankles to ground, I’m the band’s accountant’s receptionist.

Loafers, no.

Ballet slippers are cute. I hem the jeans for them and I can wear any kinds of flats. Ballet flats, yes.

I go through shoes like Sherman went through Georgia. An hour after I put them on for the first time, any flats I wear look like crepes which have been run over by an RTD bus.

Ballet slippers, no.

This leaves me with…cowboy boots. Cowboy boots can be trendy in the bad way and the cheat of short men everywhere, but at least I don’t destroy them in under and hour and they don’t remind most people of an elderly Aunt, so…

“No, I plan to wear them with boots.”

Now, was that so hard?

“Oh, then you’re going to want to come back with the boots.”

My schedule only brings me to this neighborhood one day a week, but heck, I’ve waited two years for jeans, I can go another few days.

Of course, the next week, I couldn’t find parking anywhere nearby. The week after that, Daughter was ill and I stayed home. Finally, in week three, I made it back, jeans in one hand and cowboy boots in the other. A sales girl grabbed a cloth strawberry full of pins and headed towards my feet. We spent the next fifteen minutes determining the ideal dénouement of the denim.

“How about here?”

“A touch shorter, please.”


“A breath shorter in the back, fine in the front.”


“Let me walk around in them.”

People have settled on a wedding dress with less analysis but, at last, they were perfect. I peeled out of them carefully so as not to disturb the pins, put my non-denim boot-cut pants over the cowboy boots and tucked the receipt in my wallet. They’d be ready in a week.

The week passed and I made a special detour to recover them. I was so excited, I slipped them out of their plastic garment bag, placed them in the passenger seat and kept peeking at them at stop lights. I was especially impressed by the workmanship of the new hems and would wonderingly touch the seams, amazed at how they didn’t appear to have been taken up at all. This is a big deal with me. I know I’m short. Anyone standing next to me knows I’m short. But nothing says short quite like a glaringly visible alteration. It fairly screams, “This person is just like a human, ONLY MUCH SMALLER.”

On the other hand, this hem job said quite the opposite. It announced to the world, “This person is so close to the physical ideal that she put these on in the store and was able to walk out in them.”

I restrained myself from finding a quiet street and changing into them right there in the car. Once home, however, the front door had barely closed before I was tugging on my environmentally responsible, perfectly tailored, two-years-and-one-month-in-the-making pants. I zipped up and looked down, puzzled. The pants were not breaking across my instep and delicately kissing the top ridge of my cowboy-boot heel. The pants were extending past my toes into blue denim lap pools.

The reason the stitching appeared so pristine was that it was pristine. The hems hadn’t been touched. Perhaps someone in a back room figured removing the pins and putting the jeans in a garment bag made the kindly alteration fairies remove six inches off the bottom, but these pants had been touched by no sewing machine. I stared at myself in the mirror. And then I cried out:


Let me explain how to pronounce that. It’s somewhere between “gAhNh” and “gHrEh” and it doesn’t work unless you put an exclamation point on the end. I have come to notice I use that sound to stand in for the entire phrase, “How can someone be that stupid and not just fall down all the time?”

Let this not be taken as judgment of others. I generate “GEHNH!” moments with maddening regularity. For example, I have had my car for nine years. In all that time, I have used a full-service gas station no more than twice. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Consort has filled the gas tank twenty times. So, it is safe to say I do most of the gas station time.

The minute I see that gas gauge tickle the red E I start to feel dread:

“…OK. The last time I went to that station I was facing the freeway, which means it’s on…my side. Unless…that was the time I had to move because I got the wrong side… Okay, I think it’s on my side, so it’s probably on the other side. Unless…I have finally started to remember the correct side…Or I’m remembering the
rental truck. Did I put gas in the rental truck? Was that the one which was under the license plate? Or was the license plate gas tank my mother’s car when I was eight?...”

As if that isn’t bad enough, once I finally do commit to a pump and determine the inevitable, which is that the gas tank is on the other side, I then turn around, go to another pump…

And discover I have arranged my car so the tank is still on the wrong side.

Many a “GEHNH!” has been heard under the punishing glare of a gas station’s fluorescent lights.

Also, grocery shopping has “GEHNH!” potential all over it. Let’s say I need canned pumpkin for a holiday pie. Since I’m going to the store anyway, I also note that I need anti-perspirant, food for a weeks worth of Daughter’s school lunches, sponges, butter and an extension cord. Once at the grocery store, I grab a few other things which look useful or pleasing. I also make quick side trips to the dry-cleaners and the video store. With gas at almost three dollars a gallon, side trips take on new significance, especially when justifying the cost of environmentally friendly jeans.

Back home, I unpack the various items, and commence to making the interrupted recipe, only to determine that I didn’t buy canned pumpkin. I reluctantly concede neither the sponges nor the extension cord will make an appealing pie filling so…I’m heading back to the store.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn, you are the Erma Bombeck of the post Gen X Generation
keep it up, I enjoy your writing, it is sooooo fine

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just this evening, madness overcame me, and I glanced at some web sites, curious about the fancy label jeans I had seen in my (tall, lithe, apparently profligate when it comes to money) friend's closet. I gagged. $250 was the cheapest. The hell--? Anyway, I am pleased to report that Calvin Klein--remember when that was the ne plus ultra of designer jeans? Remember when we called them designer jeans?--makes jeans that do not make us look like we are old enough to remember what a scandal Brooke Shields was in her Calvins (which is to say, neither matronly nor a teamster and even my butt looks good), and if you get them at an outlet mall, they cost what jeans ought to cost, which is to say, less than $50. Still, tell us, please, of these organic cotton jeans that do not expose our unseemly bits, I beg you. (Perhaps there are less stupid stores that carry them.) My jeans drought, too, has been a long one...


10:39 PM  
Blogger houseband00 said...

Nice one, Quinn!

I feel the same way when I'm trying to figure out how to play those collectible card games my son is into. Oh the frustration!

3:04 AM  
Blogger Melodee said...

GEHNH! I didn't know there was a word for not remembering where the gas tank is (that is so me) and forgetting to buy the main item I went to the grocery store for. (And for ending a sentence with a preposition.)

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't own a car anymore (hooray for Toronto's excellent public transportation system) but when I did, here's what I finally had to do (because I lived in a tiny, tiny town, and when you pull in and you're facing the wrong way, then you pull back in and you're still facing the wrong way, the gas attendant is actually laughing AT YOU, PERSONALLY) - anyway, I finally took a bright orange sticky note and put a big black arrow pointing towards the gas tank side, and stuck it to the dashboard.

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn- Just wanted to let you know you are still somewhat in the public eye- when you are featured on have to consider yourself somewhat contemporary-thats how I found your blog.

I always wondered why you gave up acting-I always thought you were great-loved you in The Goodbye Girl and in Family.

I just wanted to say hi and give you my compliment-

10:28 AM  

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