Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stars That Brighten

"I'm sorry," the mailman said, shaking his head as I handed him a gold star. "My wife won't let me take things from another woman."

I looked at him quizzically. "Really?" His fellow mailman had been ribbing him about something he'd done, whether he'd told his wife, as they sorted the mail at the storage box on my corner. I had noticed them then, real people, working hard at their jobs and trying to keep themselves entertained, talking about real things.

"Uh huh," he said, still not taking the star from my finger. But the ruse was up, he cracked into a deep smile then took the star, just as his colleague had. "Just kiddin'..."

"Phew. I was going to say...that'd be rough. Thanks guys for your hard work!" I said and waved as I walked away, into my building.

It was going to be a great gold-star giveaway day. I had popped open a new package just for the express purpose of giving out some big ones, the ones there were only a few of. I had tons of sheets of little stars lying around. They seemed sad after a while, they felt not nearly so fresh as those in a new pack. Strange how that is. On days I needed to re-ignite the fire of the project, renew my energy, I had to tear open a totally new pack.

I found myself a while later in the dressing room at Anthropologie in Rockefeller Center. Along with a new pack of stars, this is a place I turn to for inspiration. Trying on various things from the sale room, I solicited the advice of the male dressing room attendant. He was sheepish, very cagey. I didn't care so much since I knew I didn't really like the pants that much. I gave him a gold star for trying. Then, I tried on a dress I really wasn't sure of, that I suspected might look really weird but could have been super cool.

"So?" I said, "what do you think of this?"

He got nervous. "I don't want to say...I don't want you to get mad," he said.

I laughed. Typical guy, except one thing: "You're working in the dressing room!" I said. "You have to have an opinion!"

He looked sad. "Are you going to take away my gold star?" he asked.

I laughed. "No, you can keep it...but what do you think?" I looked in the mirror, gestured to the strangely cut top of the dress. "Is this weird?"

He nodded. "That's what I meant when I said, 'ugh,' when you first walked out."

I hadn't heard him. So funny. Sometimes people tell us things but if we're not ready to listen, we don't hear it.

"Thanks for your honesty. If you saw me in what I came in wearing and said, 'ugh,' then I'd be mad, but if you are helping to stop me from buying something that doesn't work, I appreciate it!"

He nodded. I hoped I helped him think about how to communicate with other patrons as well. It's important not to let people buy things that are bad on them, that don't work, especially at these prices.

I hit another pricey shop I figured I'd just walk through to get ideas on what to look for at the discount stores this spring, and I found a fabulous shift dress for a mere $29.99. Amazing. A young guy helped me, offering up his opinion that it was good on me, that I should buy it. I'm always skeptical of the sure, convincing sell, but he seemed genuine. And, more importantly, I loved the dress, especially at the low price. I even wanted to wear it out.

"Will you tell me what I should wear tonight, the top I came in in or this?" I asked the guy.

"Sure," he said, more than happy to oblige. He preferred the new dress, so did I. I gave him a big gold star. "Thanks!" he said. His accent was of indeterminate origin, maybe he had never even received a gold star from a teacher. But it made him smile from ear to ear anyway. "Have a great night!" he said.

"Thanks, you too!" I did have a great night. Giving out gold stars had, once again, helped me appreciate the world around me, most especially, the people in it, the people really trying hard at the jobs they do.

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