Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I once worked in a fancy department store in a mall near the I-95. Every morning before the doors opened, we'd have a meeting, sort of a pre-game huddle, officiated by the Head of The Place (I can't remember what his title was, but I know it wasn't manager even though that's what he would have been called in JC Penny or Targ), Mr. Pauls. He'd get on the intercom: "Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen: In five minutes we will be convening in the ladies shoe department to go over a few announcements. Please be prompT. That's five minutes. Women's shoes. Please. Thank you." If he had used the same voice his mother used when she called him inside for dinner 35 years earlier he would have said "Hey Ya'll git your fat fuckin asses to ladies shoos Nay-aw!" But he was careful and precise and proud and pleased with his actorly delivery. Mr. Pauls: he spoke his words carefully and clearly but sometimes his effort to disguise his southern roots caused a mispronunciation. He'd say Plez instead of Please, Febyuary instead of February. Still, if we did a close up right now of his lips up against the telephone intercom you could see how well he e-nun-ci-at-ed, you could see his mouth really working to get around those words, you could see a tiny sliver of the peppermint candy in his cheek.

We all convened. Some of us took the escalator up, some down. This was a daily thing, this meeting: part "Good job!", part "You've been slacking and you really need to hustle out there" but this was his time, Mr Pauls. He loved his morning meeting. He loved raising his hands until everyone quieted, he loved giving a summary glance around the room, he loved announcing figures and totals and telling us the CEOs in Dallas were plezzed. He loved wearing his Hugo Boss fitted suit, loved his cuff-links, his silk hanky, his Gucci frames, his splash of Creed fragrance. Good GOD, he loved it.

Did someone just fart? (I stage whispered to Kristy).

Excuse me, Miss Lewis? (Mr. Pauls raised his eyebrows at me, clasped his hands below his belt)
Nothing. Sorry.

You know, I was going to say that the photo above is a pretty fair likeness of Mr. Pauls; I mean the jowls, the squint, the way the neck meets the shoulders; but really it is a better likeness of me, the confused expression, the green frothy smear on his chinny chin chin that comes after being abruptly interrupted from snorgling in the grass. Huh?

 That's me in a fancy department store.

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