The security clerk pretended to check tickets on the dress rack nearest the door. Her eyes carefully scanned a woman who stood hesitatingly just inside the boutique door. The clerk took a quick mental snapshot—old shoes with run-over heels, a small run in her right stocking, out of-style leather handbag, crinkly black nylon dress at least fifteen years old and straggly hair. Not the image of this store’s usual clientele. She approached the woman, asking the mundane, “May I help you?”
The elderly woman smiled and whispered, “Yes, I need a dress.” The surprised security clerk quickly signaled a nearby salesperson who hurried over to the waiting customer. Store policy toward the less desirable was, “Wait on them quickly, get them out of sight.”
“How may I help you?” the sales clerk asked. This would only take a moment, and then she could go on her morning break.
“My only granddaughter is getting married. I need a complete outfit for the wedding. I want her to be proud of me. Just tell me what I should wear.’
“You mean you want to see a bridal consultant?” the clerk asked incredulously. The woman nodded her head and followed the clerk to small oval room filled with fancy clothes.
“Why did you bring her in here?” the consultant whispered angrily.
“She wants to be outfitted for a wedding,” the clerk said as she laughed and walked away.
The bridal consultant had been a model in her younger years and still affected the haughty look she believed implied sophistication. She asked the woman to sit down at the small desk opposite her and took out a pad and pen.
“First, I must know how much you are prepared to spend,” she said. She was eager to get this over with and might as well cut to the chase.
“I have been saving my money for this outfit ever since their engagement was announced last spring. Annie sent me an airplane ticket so I can spend it all on something nice to wear.” Her slightly palsied hand pulled the envelope from her handbag. “I think there is seventy dollars here. you may count it if you like. I can spend it all if need be.”
The consultant quickly counted the money. “Actually, there are seventy-two dollars. Perhaps you should visit our basement thrift shop. They have a few dresses for around fifty dollars.