I know Macy’s has great sales, not only because my friends rave about the bargains they find there, but because I used to partake of them over the years. What stopped me was a problem with my Macy’s card. The problem was not my credit, but for some reason I was unable to activate my new card over the phone. That alone tells you how long ago that glitch occurred since if it were today, I’d have activated it online. Eventually they stopped sending me their sale fliers and coupons, and we parted amicably. I never looked back because for some reason I was never crazy about shopping there. Maybe it was the waiting in line at the cash registers scattered around the various departments. Or maybe it was the necessity of having to go to the mall. I am not a fan of malls.
Well I was recently on 34th street passing THE Macy’s yes, the one from the classic movie, Miracle on Main Street; the one that hosts the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, floats, and balloons; the original Macy’s famed for being the largest department store in the world. Needless to say it can not fit in a mall since it takes up an entire square block.
Upon seeing the entrance, I had a flashback that revealed to me the root of my Macy “problem”. This store was the bane of my early childhood existence! Back in the early days when I was still an only child, which meant younger than five, my mother would regularly drag me down to 34th Street to “go shopping.” We’d have to walk nine blocks to the subway, (but that wasn’t the part I hated) then ride 129 blocks underground. That’s eight stops if you’re counting. I wasn’t, but I was asking “Are we almost there yet.” (Nope, that’s not what I hated either.)
Finally we’d emerge into the daylight of Thirty-fourth Street and make our way into the store. It seems like it was always crowded, even though it was usually a weekday morning. (Nope the crowds didn’t bother me either). It was the fashion faux pas, my mother visited on me.
As soon as we emerged from the revolving door, she’d take my coat off, but leave my leggings on. Leggings back then referred to the heavy wool pants that were part and parcel of the matched set that also included a matching hat. That’s what I hated – I wanted to keep my coat on like all the grownups, but there I was walking around with my dress stuffed into a suspendered overall type pants. But my mother had a theory. If I kept the coat on, my body would get used to it and when we went out into the cold once again, I’d feel cold. But I noticed she didn’t mind “getting used” to her coat.
This looks like a Sunday coat, and since stores didn’t open on Sundays back then, it couldn’t have been a shopping coat, and I’m probably younger here than the days I’m talking about – but look at the leggings. Get the picture?
If walking around unfashionably clad was the beginning of my, as she liked to put it, crankiness, (a word often applied to me, especially at nap time and bedtime), it was reinforced by having to wait until she’d bought everything else before going up to the fourth floor or the fifth floor. One held the children’s shoe department and the other, the toy department. I regarded them both as sources of joy, and perhaps enjoyed buying shoes even more than a toy. (Some things never change!)
But n-o-o-o-o. I had to wait until last. Another one of my mother’s theories was I’d be less of a pest if I had to wait. Pest was another word often applied to moi. The reasoning behind this was, once I had what I came for, I’d suggest “Let’s go have lunch”. Well, maybe it was more like whine, so if she saved my shopping until last, she’d be able to shop in peace.
Once her mission was accomplished, we’d either have a hot dog and orangeade at Nedicks, an indoor stool and counter. If I recall, that’s all they sold; at any rate it was a New York icon in the Fifties and Sixties.
No more Nedicks! Today, it’s a
Sometimes we’d go across the street to the 5 & 10, as we called Woolworth’s, where we’d also have a hot dog, but a coke instead of an orange drink.
No more 5 & 10. Today, it’s a
Although lunch was fun, it remains overshadowed by the shopping. But you know how they say misery loves company ? Well, about thirty years later I discovered I was not alone. The man to whom I was once married, upon hearing my tale of woe, assured me that he was there too and he was very surprised I hadn’t seen him.”I was the one tagging after my mother,” he told me crying.” the one crying.”
I wish I’d asked him if he had to take off his coat!
My goal for the moment is to live in the moment. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve set myself the task of taming my monkey, and appreciating what’s in front of me now. Sunday turned out to be a lesson. You see I’d planned to visit the Westchester Cat Show on Sunday with a friend. But she called me Saturday to tell me she was ill. I was disappointed, but decided to put the now-empty Sunday to good use. I’d continue in my quest to rid the House of Mars of the carpet of leaves surrounding it.
Well, the House of Mars still wears its collar of leaves. I awoke on Sunday deciding it could wait. I’d planned on a day for myself and that was what I’d have. A meditation group I sometimes attend was meeting in the afternoon. It centers around the lectures of Eckhart Tolle, one of the biggest proponents of living mindfully. His book, The Power of Now says it all.
I looked at the clock on the night table. It was 9 AM. The group started at 1:15 – in Manhattan. I could make it. So after showering, a cup of coffee, feeding all three Mars, feline and canine, and walking the canine, I managed to arrive at the Peekskill train station in time to catch the 11:21 train. I even had time to just stand on the platform and appreciate the sunlight sparkling on the Hudson River. How’s that for a now moment?
After listening to the talk and engaging in the meditation, I was ready to put one of Tolle’s points into action:
We spend a lot of precious energy waiting for, worrying about, and over-planning for the next moment. But by the time the next moment reaches us, it’s the now; and more often than not, whatever we were worrying about, or planning for never materializes. But no matter, now we’re busy fussing over what we think we see down the pike.
And here I was in the middle of a prime example. I wasn’t at The Cat Show, was I? With that in mind, I decided to take advantage of the mild November and meander along The West Side rather than taking the subway back to Grand Central Station. I would just walk with no particular route in mind and appreciate whatever unfolded. (And if it so happened I passed one of Manhattan’s ubiquitous vegetable stores, I’d stop for the parsley I needed for the casserole I planned to make when I got home.)
But enough of my narrative, I share my hour’s walk with you.
Ah, Christmas preparations, I love the hustle and bustle of Christmas, but this calm before storm is nice too.
Along Broadway in the West 60’s
Oh my, look where I am – Columbus Circle and 59th Street; and I just wrote about my first summer job at Woolworth’s in the last blog. Let’s see what’s in its place.
Just what NY needs – yet another Duane Reade drug store.
I’ll avoid Central Park South. I hate seeing those poor carriage horses. I always feel so sorry for them. I’ll head east on 58th Street instead. Ah, look, an alternative to animal abuse.
- One of the pedicabs gaining popularity among tourists
And another, and one built for two.
Too bad they’re all idle.
I’ll bet those %^&!! Horse carriage drivers aren’t.
Oh, look more Christmas preparations.
Along East 58th Street
And look, how quiet – wait until next week.
The famed FAO Schwartz toy store
Well, I’ve walked thirty blocks south and seven block south and not one vegetable store. But not to worry, I’ll get it here in Grand Central Station
On the Main Concourse
Is this parsley?
No, here it is.
PS. See, I did use the parsley.
Chicken and Noodle Casserole with sour cream, onions, & parsley
When was the last time you saw a cash register in the supermarket? I mean a real one ——-
with buttons to push, and a cash drawer that flew open at the touch of the total button? Probably, not for a while.
……and its reader have taken over.
But it wasn’t exactly a flash revolution. Its patent was granted on October 7, 1952. Yes, that makes the barcode system 60 years old. The railroads were the first to use it, to identify boxcars. It didn’t show up in a store until 1974, and that was at Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, Ohio where the first item to be scanned was a pack of Wrigley’s Gum.
But once the barcode got its foot in the drawer (get it? cash register drawer? Oh never mind) it insinuated itself into our culture, and not always for the better. If you ask me it’s made us fat and flabby, mentally —–and lazy.
Last Saturday, I was in my favorite dollar store where one line was very long and the other was just long. The barcode reader on the longer line was not working. The young man at the register started entering the numeric codes of items on the touch screen, but his frustration bubble over and he walked off his post in search of the manager, uttering “I’m not going to punch in numbers all day.”
Initially I wrote it off as another example of the softness of today’s youth but then I realized that the UPC codes are long strings of numbers, requiring more concentration than punching in 25 cents. But still I was tempted to tell him my story. Then I realized it would come across as walking ten miles each way to get to school – uphill – in a snowstorm, so I decided to tell it here instead.
The year was 1965 and it was my first summer job – at the 5&10, the old version of the dollar store. To be precise, it was at a Woolworth’s,
and the store was located
on 59th Street, right off Columbus Circle.
Being in the heart of Manhattan’s office district had its good points and its bad points. The mornings were kind and gentle since all the secretaries and file clerks were ensconced in the tall office buildings. We spent our time tidying up and replenishing our counters from the inventory stored behind them, interrupted only now and then by a solitary customer. But come lunchtime and whoa – who let the dogs out?
The store would fill up, and it seemed like they’d all come running to me. I had the fortune (won’t say mis….) to man the cosmetics counter. Back in those days, there were no central checkouts at the exit. You paid for each type of good at the counter where you found it. Each cashier stood in the middle of her island, just her and her cash register, surrounded by whatever goods they were responsible for.
So there I was with outstretched hands offering me bottles of nail polish, tubes of lipstick, face powder compacts, nail files, eyelash curlers, mascara, and on and on. The good thing was most customers only had one or two items. The bad thing was the cash register.
You see, the cash resisters were big and clunky, made of iron, and nothing like the ones supermarket cashiers used. You needed strong fingers to depress the stiff mechanical keys.
See those keys. Some were dollar keys, some were tens keys and some were ones keys. The price had to be broken down – just like in math class. So if the price tag on a bottle of foundation said $1.79 you had to push on the $1 key, the 70 cent key and the 9 cents key, and when you totaled up the purchase, you still weren’t finished.
There was the matter of sales tax. You had to consult a tax chart and figure out how much tax had to be added. And hold on, when the customer paid, you had to make sure the tax amount, which was usually just pennies, was deposited separately in a slotted box attached to the cash register. Bags were paper back then, so you’d place the items in, tear off the stubby receipt, slip it in the bag, say thank you, and take the next items from the outstretched hands waving in your face. On and on it went, for the two to three hours of staggered lunch hours, usually from 11:30 to 2.
But I managed to hold up, maybe too well. My supervisor was impressed, too impressed. she switched me to the candy section. No, not boxed candies, bulk candies. At my new station, I was surrounded by glass cases filled with loose M&M’s Hershey kisses, jawbreakers, bubble gum, red hots,
and oh yes, did I mention the nuts? Cashews, peanuts, filberts, walnuts, alone or in a mix, all of which, like the candies had to be fished out with a silver scoop, weighed and placed in small white paper bags for discrete afternoon munching.
I learned to estimate weight well, for everyone wanted a different amount; a quarter pound of this,an eighth of a pound of that. There was no time for dumping it back and starting over. After weighing and bagging, it still had to be rung up and taxed, while all of a sudden, everyone had to get back to the office – now!
But I survived candy as well. My only break from the cash register came the morning I filled in at the lunch counter to make (yes, make) ice cream sandwiches. After all you couldn’t cut rapidly melting bars of chocolate-strawberry-vanilla ice cream, slap the striped slices between crispy waffle cookies and ring up a sale at the same time, could you?
Well —— maybe you could – if it had a barcode on it.