You're Such a Blockhead, Charlie Brown
A coworker has taken up knitting again after a long hiatus. She dropped by Chez Cube to ask, "How important is it to block your work? And do you need all the fancy blocking tools they sell?" I answered, "Yes, you absolutely need to block your work, and no, I've made do with my floor and towels for years." I really tried communicate to her that taking the time to properly block and finish your knitting makes all the difference between a finely-crafted piece of handmade clothing and a lumpy blob that smacks of "loving hands at home." The only thing I insisted she invest in were rust-proof pins. After that, you can pin on towels on the floor, on a piece of insulating tile, whatever floats your boat. As for myself, I think if I was to spring for any of the fancy blocking toys available, it'd be either blocking wires or a gridded blocking board. Hey, Santa! Ya listening?
Strange Jobs I've Held #3
Well, that title isn't quite accurate. The job itself (selling clothes at a store in a mall during the Christmas shopping season) was pretty pedestrian, but the customers were sometimes anything but. This was another in a series of post-divorce, part-time (after a full day at my regular job), pay-off-the-credit-cards gigs. Strange the things you find out about yourself -- I'm a very shy person, but I'm actually quite a good salesperson. In the short time I actually worked at Store X, I developed a return customer base and did quite well. Bummer I wasn't on commission.
The nights were crazy-busy but fun. Most of the holiday shoppers were in pretty good moods, and I was able to shrug off the occasional Scrooge. Until the night the gypsies came to the mall. Perhaps you've seen gypsies depicted in the books and movies. A fairly accurate portrayal of gypsies is the 1978 movie "King of the Gypsies" starring Eric Roberts. They truly are a vagabond bunch, and live outside society's restrictions. They have no compunctions about using their children to create distractions, during which they'll steal a merchant blind.
At first sighting, the jungle drums started beating and stores up and down the mall began calling each other to spread the word that we had gypsies.
Sure enough, about an hour after the initial warning, the gypsies descended upon our store. Three young women, two old grandmothers, six kids under 10 years old, and two swarthy, slickly dressed men, one in his 20s and one in his 40s.
The kids immediately started running in and out of the rounders (the circular clothing racks), dressing rooms, the employee's break room in the back, in a word, anywhere they could get to. While kid-chaos ensued, the women, chattering like magpies in some Romney-Hungarian dialect, started grabbing huge armloads of clothes and dragging them to the dressing rooms. The men went to the back of the store near the cash registers where 2 rounders of leather coats was placed. There were locks on the hangers, and the men started demanding that we unlock the coats so they could try them on. The fact that they were women's coats didn't phase them at all.
All this happened in the space of less than 2 minutes. It was 3 store employees versus 13 gypsies. We didn't stand a chance. One of us manned the dressing rooms, one stayed with the men trying on leather coats, and one tried to keep track of six running, screaming gypsy children.
The women in the dressing rooms loudly demanded that we, "Get me this in size 6!" "I want this in black! Black!" and "Go! Go get my husband! I want him to see me in this!" The two grandmothers, both wizened-looking little women who might have been anywhere from 50 to 90 years old, crept around fingering scarves and earrings. We'd been warned from the other stores in the mall about how the gypsies operated, and it was true to form. Create as much chaos and distraction as possible, and steal as much as you can.
After about 20 minutes of madness, the gypsies clattered and banged their way out of the store. We didn't lose any leather coats, but the manager estimated we lost about 8 pair of jeans, 3 sweaters, and handfuls of t-shirts. We found out later that other stores got hit as well. Wilsons Leather (who doesn't lock their displays) lost a bunch of merchandise. Amazing, and unlike anything I've experienced before or since.
Happy Turkey Day, everyone!