Monday, May 27, 2013

Re-tail: Tales in A Retail Pet Store: Jane.

The past few months have been consumed with so many different projects, but something huge I'm working on is my third book. It's all about retail in a pet store setting, har har, and this is one of the pieces I've written about Jane. I hope you enjoy it. Feedback is always welcomed. :D Once again, thanks for your patience. Have a great night! The Bachelorette is on!

Jane is by far my favorite character. I think "character" is an accurate depiction of Jane, because not only did she provide me with an unlimited source of material, but as a coping mechanism, I've started viewing my job as a sitcom. Much like, The Office. I feel like when something outrageous happens, I'm always looking towards the proverbial camera to make a face into.

Jane is a mousy, wonderfully odd doll. She's kind, with a neurotic demeanor, and grey hair cut into a bob. She's a heavyset woman, with a gentle heart and panicked eyes. She's matronly, and lovely, and has a very detailed, precise way of speaking. She is also either 30, or 80. I literally have no idea.

My first meeting with Jane started off quite normal. She came in, and asked me to help her find a cat toy. After asking her a few questions about what I assumed was her cat, she told me, "It's not for myself; it's for my neighbour. She's a recluse. Every time I go over, she tries to climb my slacks; the cat, not Irene. So, do you have any toys that resemble slacks?”

This is when I fell in love. I thought this was the most incredible, hilarious thing that I had ever heard. I still do.

I suggested going to The Bay, and actually getting slacks, which she didn't think was funny or practical. So to make small talk, since Christmas had just passed, I asked Jane how her holiday was. Jane didn't have much family, and the family that she did have lived in the States. So Jane threw her massive purse on table, and produced a Ziploc bag full of smashed pre-made Pillsbury cookies. The ones with Christmas trees and Santa on them. She told me she was sending them to her mother in Florida. She wasn't able to "touch the sugars, because of the diabetes", but insisted I had a couple, and I knew that our friendship had been solidified for life.

"So what'd you do on Christmas?"

"I watched The Home Shopping Network for most of the day. They finally featured the fleece capelet I had my eye on. I got it in cappuccino, but it didn't have enough arm room so I'm exchanging it for the eggplant.”


“I got a magnificent picture of a tiger. I love tigers. He had snow on his head, and his tongue was sticking out. It was a winter scene. And a beautiful butterfly ring, with my birthstone. But I can't wear it because my fingers swell. Do you want to know what else I got?”


“A bladder infection.”

It takes a lot to shock me. I couldn't believe my luck with running into my very own Soulmate. I told Jane she should drink cranberry juice, and she told me she had a fridge full of it, but couldn't touch the stuff; "too tart."
One would think to ask why someone would fill a fridge full of something that they had no intention of consuming, but I was just delighted at everything that came out of her mouth.

The next day, as I was slumped over the cash desk, trying to figure out how to fashion a noose out of receipt rolls, I looked up and found myself with a lineup of customers. As I started ringing them through, Jane sauntered into the store, produced a mini tape recorder from her gigantic purse, pressed play, and reached over a frantic Asian family to put the tape recorder onto the counter.

*screaming over music*

“Do you like Donnie and Marie?” *music is blaring*

“I can't stand Donnie. But I adore Marie. This is a song she did on the Grammys years ago. I recorded it sitting next to the television. The quality isn't very good, but she can really carry a tune.”

*music plays for about 7- 10 seconds*

“Yep, yea, I know that song.”

“It's about a Bugle. Or something. Dancing. Who do you like better? Donnie or Marie?”

“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. It's a cover version. Jane...”

“Boogie something. Is Donnie dead?”

There were daily visits, and then weekly visits. I got to hear about new Home Shopping Network coat (faux fur, on sale from $250 to $135),  and new leopard print cane (lighter than the wooden one). I got to learn about Marbles one day, as she was thoughtfully gazing at the kittens in the window.

“That tiny cat is so cute. So peaceful, sleeping so soundly. Not a care in the world.  Reminds me of when I found Marbles, stiff as a board, behind my bed.”

I listened to all of her shitty stories about Reba MacIntyre; the concerts, all of the pictures she decoupaged of her. I ate it all up. I got to hear all of the Reba ringtones. When I told her I was a writer, she bought me a beautiful Swarovsky pen with blue crystals in it.

There was a span of about two months where I didn't see Jane; I always looked for her though. Then one day, like kismet, she came ambling into the store one day to say hello, and to explain her mysterious absence. 

She had been in the hospital due to fall, and ended up finding the love of her life. Although they had never actually met, she was hoping that eventually "he'll shoot his arrow straight through her heart". I thought this was the most absurdly romantic thing I've ever heard, and definitely terrifying. I was immediately obsessed with finding this beautiful stranger, nursing him back to health, and bringing them together in a large scale, talk show setting.

When she said that she had to go, I instinctively hugged her, although I had never before. When we parted, the look on her face was so strange, I immediately flushed.

"What. Is. That. Sexy. Scent."

"Oh. Thank you..."

"What is it." (I'm putting periods instead of question marks because that is the tone in which the phrase was uttered.)

"I'm not a lesbian, but can you please write the name of that sexy perfume down, and tell me where you got it?"

"Japanese Cherry Blossom. And in my stocking from Santa."

We then established it was Bath and Body Works, and there was a store upstairs. Jane gave me a lingering, tight unreasonable hug, and came back fifteen minutes later with a pretty, wrapped package.

It was a sterling silver butterfly necklace. She said it was a gift because of my scent assistance, and that she had the same necklace and hopes that I enjoy it as much as she does. She also told me that she has a thank you card for me that was at home. I didn't call her out on being a blatant liar since her gesture was so lovely and generous.

"Another hug? Again, I'm not a lesbian."

We embraced, and I tried to ignore the obvious lesbian spark.

Jane thanked me for the chat, spritzed on some sexy perfume, and left the store. I haven't seen her since then, but I did a sketch comedy show called, Fifty Shades of Gay, and my contribution was a sketch about her. 

I normally like to over analyze everything until it ruins the entire experience for me. So, if I never see Jane again, I'll hold on to the only cliche lesson I can deduce Retail Jesus wanted me to learn: to appreciate everything, and make sure you know the people that you do appreciate, are aware of it. In the immortal words of my dear Jane: 

"Hurry up and open your present- someone's holding my coat on a bench in the mall, and they're impatient."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Pretty Penny.

   I have a hairless albino rat; her name is Penny. She hates apricots, taunts my cats, and watching her eat a shelled peanut with her two tiny hands is one of the most sincerely innocent things I have ever seen. 

Tomorrow I have to put Penny down. I'll miss her tiny face, but it's her time to visit The Rainbow Bridge, and after tomorrow she'll be free from sickness. I've made peace with it.

Penny's been through a lot in her short life. A few months ago, her sister Joan passed away. I didn't think Penny was going to last, but she did. She taught me one of the most important lessons I've ever learned.

Last Winter, I almost lost Penny. Literally and figuratively. I live in a bachelor apartment, and because I have two cats, the rats stayed in the bathroom. Everyday, when I came home from work, I'd open their cage, and they'd climb up to the top and just sit. Never straying, just wanting a little bit of a different view. 

One day after about ten minutes of activity time, I heard my cat Ned screaming and carrying on at the door. So I opened it, and my heart stopped. I saw water splashed all over the toilet seat, and inside the toilet, a tail escaping down the drain. I called my Mom, and I couldn't even speak; I was sobbing. All I thought was, I killed my pet. The idea of my girl suffering in any way killed me. As soon as my Mom heard me crying, her and my brother Paul were basically in the car, on the way over. I was beside myself. I just sat on my couch, staring, for about an hour. Waiting to not be alone, and to have someone tell me what to do next. I knew in my heart that she wasn't alive, and I just needed to get her out so I could respectfully bury her in my Mom's garden, with the rest of our little friends. 

My brother called me when they were downstairs, and asked me if I'd come down and let him "take care of everything", so I wouldn't be more upset. I fought for a minute, but then I agreed. My brother is the most selfless, wonderful person I've ever met. He'd genuinely do anything to "make it better". My Mom and I sat in the car for about half an hour, and then I went upstairs to see if Paul was okay. He was on his hands and knees, and had completely taken my toilet apart. He wasn't wearing a shirt, and looked so confused that it stopped me in my tracks. Paul has OCD. He struggled with it so badly when he was younger, and I'm so proud of him for how far he's come. Still, for him to be topless, covered in filth, was a very daunting, almost impossible thing to handle.

"She's not here, Sarah." 

I told him she had to be. Paul got on his hands and knees, put his ear up to the porcelain base, and said, "I hear her. I know you're not going to believe it, but I hear her." 

I certainly didn't think Paul was lying, but I really did think he was trying to somehow make me feel better. I got into protective sister mode, and tried to convince Paul that she was gone, and that it would be okay. He was insistent, and told me I needed to lift up the toilet so he could peer into the bottom. By now, about an hour and a half had gone by. There was no possible way my Penny could have survived, so by now it was all about a search and recovery mission. 

After hopelessly trying to explain to Paul that I couldn't physically lift the toilet, I grabbed it, hoisted it up into the air, water pouring everywhere, a deconstructed bathroom completely destroyed. He peered into the bottom, and I've never in my entire life experienced the feeling that I did, when Paul yelled, "She's alive!"

I started crying. My Mom,who doesn't really swear, was standing in the kitchen, crying, saying, "My *expletive* heart can't take this." My brother was crying, and all of a sudden I see a small, dirty face, peek out from around the corner of the bottom of the toilet, look at me, and my legs almost gave out. My Penny. I reached in and grabbed her, gently removed her, and held her high in the air. We cheered and laughed and cried, and were just in complete awe. We hugged, and my Mom started peeling a banana to give her, while we just watched her in complete silence, wondering, How? 

We put Penny back in her cage, and her and her sister just sat there eating a banana, like it was just another day. We knew we had just witnessed something spectacular, but she was just concerned about consuming her massive treat.

Penny had been inside the toilet for an hour and a half. Rats can hold their breath for a long time, but not that long. That tiny creature that a lot of people disregard as insignificant, somehow managed to find an air pocket and hold on until my brother could save her. That was a genuine miracle.

I felt so strongly that Penny's story needed to be told, because it was the first time in my entire life, that I have ever assumed the absolute worst, and received the absolute best. There's no greater feeling. With work, relationships, and life, there's not many times that a person can go through where they feel the lowest low, and end up getting the highest high. Penny forced Paul to put aside his very real, sometimes debilitating issues, and showed him that he could do it. Penny showed me to never give up. So whatever you're going through in your life, please know that there is always, always hope. Even if it's small, it's there, and sometimes that can be enough to pull through and overcome anything else. 

I'm going to really miss my shiny Penny. But I'm so glad I got to meet her. I didn't plan on getting a rat, but she was one of the few ones left at the store I work at, because everyone thought she was ugly. I think she's beautiful; my little diamond in the rough. Her red eyes remind me of little shiny gems, and her body reminds me of a fruit wrinkle.

Please, never give up. It isn't a cliche saying. It's something everyone should try and remember, even when it seems impossible. It's obviously easier said than done, and it's something I falter sometimes trying to implement it into my life. But everyone's fighting their own battle, and on their own specific journey, and sometimes it's really awful and seems completely hopeless. But just try and find that air pocket, and hold on, because there's always hope.

Have a good night everyone. Love you, My Shiny Penny. 

Sarah B

Thursday, May 9, 2013

This isn't right. Had to write a different sort of letter. Feel free to write your own.

Dear Mike Jeffries,

My name is Sarah Bertrand, and I am a 29 year old clothes wearer who recently came across a meme being passed around on the internet that I'm sure you're aware of. Since I haven't heard your name in quite some time (maybe you're big in the States?) I decided to research said meme because I didn't want to react to something if it was unfounded. Alas, the outrageous interview 'tis true. 

Allow me to describe the meme. It has an unflattering picture of you, and this quote from an interview you gave in 2006, that stated:  "That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that. In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

It is odd that it took seven years for this to come to light, but I'm glad that it eventually did. You see Mike, in this day and age, it's more important than ever to encourage equality, and not ostracize people who are just being themselves. People are being bullied for being different, being plus sized, having no friends, being gay, not having money, and a wide variety of other unacceptable reasons. People are killing themselves because they feel inadequate. There are so many wonderful companies out there, proactively campaigning to show these same people that they are significant, that things will get better, and that they are good enough. Instead, whether or not it was your intention, you have branded Abercrombie, as a whole, as elitist snobs who could care less about you unless you have money, and lack morals. This means all of the staff, as well. In head office, and at store level. I wonder what these people think about what you've stated as your sole demographic and values, but moreso than that, I wonder if they care. Because I know if I had any position of clout whatsoever, I would make damn sure I wouldn't use that power to exclude an enormous demographic of people. Or to make anyone ever question their worth, or if they "deserve" to buy my brand. My family would be so disappointed in me if I chose to do so, and that would be nothing in comparison to the disgust I would feel towards myself.
You literally describe yourself as "exclusionary". It's shocking. I mean, I've always respected honesty in people, but against all rationale, you describe your entire company as exclusionary. Like it's some sort of elementary school club. No plus sized people allowed! Ew, people with no friends have cooties! Shop at the Gap! Guess what else I found out in my research? Abercrombie doesn't have XL or XXL women's clothing. However, it does have XL and XXL men's sizes, but only for football players and wrestlers. I know that it was your decision and obviously you're aware of this, but I was kinda hoping when you had it written infront of you, you would see how asinine it really was. Maybe read it outloud. How does it sound? Out of all the extra and extra extra large women in the world, you would rather them shop elsewhere so you could save fabric for the wrestlers and football players? You have made yourselves, and your brand, into a joke. This is not the set of the hit 90's sitcom, Saved By The Bell, Mike. People aren't just wrestlers and football players anymore. Sure, some are. But designating two sizes to people who participate in two very specific sports? Thanks for the suggestion! Maybe I'll just sit at home, constructing clothes for myself out of an old afghan, and pine away at ads for Abercrombie. I'll have to make sure I have good lighting, so I don't get the flyers mixed up. Because Abercrombie looks exactly like so many other brands (Aeropostale, Hollister, American Eagle, American Apparel, and literally anything sold at Urban Outfitters), sometimes it's hard to tell. 
Your decision to be vocal about your obnoxious, vile wish for a brand that spews putrid perfume out of their unreasonably dark cliche stores, more than anything else, is so disappointing. I can only assume that your statements were as a result of projection from your childhood, and I really hope that you deal with it in a more healthy, fair manner.  
As I said in the beginning, I'm glad that I'm now aware of what your company stands for. Before I avoided wearing the clothes because I just thought they were unattractive and overpriced, with very typical and vapid advertising. Now that I'm fully informed, I can take an adamant stance because I would never, ever stoop to promote and support ANYTHING that ever ostracized or demeaned any demographic of people. Mike, you should genuinely, and whole-heartedly be ashamed of yourself. I'm sure you've received many letters and emails saying the same thing, and I've read some of the open letters. I'm not even going to get into how I don't fit the specifically outlined expectation you've set forth for your customers, because that's irrelevant. I hope nobody feels like they fit that demographic. And if this letter falls in deaf ears, I hope there's one that really catches your attention, and you feel it in the pit of your stomach, and it makes your heart physically ache. I hope you experience every physical feeling that any child, teen, or adult who's ever been bullied, felt desolate, insufficient, and sad, and I hope that you use that to right these wrongs.
Sarah Bertrand 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Just Checkin' In... So Much Going On!

Hello friends. How's your night going? I know I haven't posted in a few weeks, but oh so much has been going on. I've been trying to juggle life in general. Trying (pretty successfully) to develop a more healthy lifestyle, putting together an Inapark MUSICAL (that's right!) for Pride! I just finished putting together a far better version of my first book, and now it's in my hand and I'm so excited about it. Inapark had a booth at a huge roller derby event last weekend. Also, PRIDE BOOTH... thank you SOO much to my friends and family and supporters for your generosity. Lastly, writing my third book, "Re-tails" (working title). I'll be posting lil excerpts from that sporadically, but for now please know that I'm working hard, and I hope everyone is well and having a great Monday night. Sweet dreams all. xo.

A lovely momento from roller derby; thanks "Kittilicious"!

In Durham, at the Ajax Arena for the roller derby season opener; Kittilicious and Guttsy Buttsy love Inapark!

My roller derby name was, Bee Sting. Terrifying.