Friday, May 08, 2015

Painted Ponies

And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came - Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game, 1968

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain - America, Horse with no Name, 1971

Carousel, Brooklyn
"As the associate said to the guest" ....

If  I could think of a good punch line I would have written it. But I can't.

"Associate"?  "Guest"? Context? I am always amazed the way words are recycled to describe old things - things that could be construed by the paranoid, as being politically incorrect.

So now, people that sell you stuff in stores are not sales assistants, or even "in retail" (as they say in Australia), but are "associates". And people who come into a store to buy stuff, are not "shoppers", but "guests".

Which makes one wonder, what name do we give to people who we invite into our homes. No longer "guests" but ....

Surely we can't give away names willy-nilly.

When I had not been long in America, and had not understood about THE revolution, and how the English were baddies... fresh from the colonies I walked into an Eileen Fisher shop on Madison. Shoppers and the people behind the counters were all on cell phones.

I had about six pieces of clothing draped over my arm. I approached the counter with the cash register on it. And in all naivety, I asked the shop assistants (Australian for affiliates), was there anyone there who could serve me.

"Oh SERVE you, oh so sorry m'lady, would you like a cocktail?" sarcasted the only affiliate who wasn't on her cell phone.
I was speechless. "Would you like a martini? On the rocks? Or perhaps madame would like the cocktail of the house?" she went on. and on. And on.

"I only wanted to buy clothes," I whispered, before I hurried out.

What's in a name? Excuse me, but a lot apparently. Now I am very careful what words to use in America. They haven't forgotten the British. The Redcoats. The lords and ladies of the manor born.

Of course, buying clothes anywhere isn't easy. Last year I was in Melbourne Australia. I wanted to buy something Australian. I went to the usual places, places of my youth. Myer, David Jones, and a few Lygon street boutiques.

And found something that I have barely seen in Manhattan clothing stores. Old people serving ... oops I mean elderly associates ... oops I mean senior associates.

They annoyed hell out of me. I would be wandering around the store looking through racks of clothes and they would actually approach me.

"Can I help you?" "Exactly what is it that you are looking for?" And so on. I would leave in a hurry. My New York private space invaded. " What's with those people?" I asked my friend C after about two weeks of such assaults. "Oh", she replied, "Were they OLD people?" I thought and answered yes.

"Well don't EVER go into a shop where the shop assistants (C is not PC) are old", she told me. "Go to places where they are young and they will be busy on their mobile phones. Then they don't bother you. You can look at clothes for hours and they don't come NEAR you."

Of course she was right. C is always right. I have even put her advice to the test in Manhattan. Especially in Bloomingdales.

Works like a charm.