Friday, August 22, 2008

Magic Words

I learned a new set of magic words today.

We all have our repertoire of magic words and phrases. There are the ones that are drilled into us from the time we’re old enough to talk, namely “please” and “thank you.” Then, as we get older and get a little life experience, we learn a few more. Like “no thanks, I’m driving.” And who can forget Homer Simpson’s sage advice to Bart, “it was like this when I got here!”

Sometimes magic words are completely dependent on the surrounding circumstances. “Previously diagnosed with heart failure” will get you farther up the list for a second opinion with a cardiac specialist than, say, “sale on Jockey underwear in aisle four.” The words “oh my god, my water broke!” will get you more helpful attention in an emergency room than they will, say, standing in line to buy Springsteen tickets.

The magic words I learned today are “I’m the mother of the bride, and I’m looking for…” In terms of getting me quickly to my destination, it was on the scale of Moses parting the Red Sea.

This discovery came about when I set sail this morning for Bayshore Mall in Milwaukee, with but one goal in mind—finding some suitable evening wraps for the bride and her three attendants before my daughter’s outdoor wedding in two weeks. Somehow in the hubbub of testing out caterers and bakeries and fabrics and dresses, we’d overlooked that detail...and September in Wisconsin can turn a wee bit chilly in the evening.

A pocket full of discount coupons for Boston Store in my pocket and a vague idea of two or three stores located in the mall that I could try, I parked the car in front of one well known women’s store, strode in purposefully, and made my pitch to the first sales associate I met.

She knew just what I needed, and immediately found the only dressy silk wrap in the store. On sale. With another twenty-five percent off. We bagged it up in case this was “as good as it gets,” and I put some more money in the parking meter and continued on down the street.

The next few stores yielded a mixed bag of results. One had the seemingly perfect thing for all four girls—washable soft woven wool wraps in a rainbow of colors—for fifty dollars each. I took notes and kept shopping. The next two had nothing just right…but two of the sales associates at one put their heads together and came up with the names of two youth-oriented stores I would have never thought of trying. And the convoluted directions of how to get there from their sales counter.

I bought a few pashmina wraps that were perfect at the first store they suggested, then just for fun and due diligence, walked into the other and made my “I’m the mother of the bride” announcement. The sales girl knew right off the bat that her store didn’t have what I was looking for…but shared that she’d been recently been shopping for something similar for a wedding of her own, and found it in the scarf aisle of Boston Store. She even thoughtfully told me which cosmetic counter would be the polestar of my navigating. And she was right.

I left the mall with a one bag of four pashmina wraps and another as a spare, as well as a few “trophy” items for myself. (I can’t possibly walk into Talbots during a summer sale with a $25 gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket and walk out empty handed!!) But the most astounding thing was finding out the wonderful effect that the “mother of the bride” announcement had on people. It was a phenomenal discovery, the key to cooperation and collaboration and pleasant conspiracy on a scale I’d never experienced shopping before.

I think my wedding acquisitioning is finally done, at least for this particular daughter. But there’s something about using those marvelous new words that makes me want to trot them out and summon the magic all again.

Maybe after the wedding…

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