Coffee heat rising

Two hectic—and expensive!—days

Good grief, these past two days have been hectic! And expensive: I’ve mortgaged my patrimony to renew my wardrobe.

The state sent me a notice saying I had to get a new photo for my driver’s license. Some time back, the State of Arizona decided testing and retesting people for driver’s licenses was just too much government intrusion, and so they instituted long, long renewal periods. Now instead of making your renew your license every few years, they make you get a new photo once every twelve years. No driver’s test: just a photo. When you reach the age of 65, you have to take a vision test and renew your license, after which you have to renew every five years.

The state has laid off workers in every department, including DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). Some of my students reported waits as long as four hours.

So I carried the 439 pages of proofs I’ve been editing with me to the closest DMV office, 11.3 miles from my house, and prepared to settle in for the long haul.

The wait and the process of jumping through hoops wasn’t as time-consuming as expected. After sitting for a few minutes—not long enough to get a running start on editing copy—I was called to a desk where I was made to fart around with a form. Fortunately, they didn’t give me any argument: we’re told that if they can’t find your photo in their system, you’ll have to prove you’re a U.S. citizen, and so I had to dig out my birth certificate and carry it with me. Then it was off to sit in line to get a new photo—here, too, I barely got started reading copy before they hauled me up to the camera. Sit and wait again while they processed the new piece of plastic.

Took a good look at it and saw the expiration date was still May 7, 2010. Back to the front desk: “How do I get this thing renewed?” They had failed to do the eye test when I showed up, and so I had to start over and jump through all those hoops again!!!

It took two hours to go through the whole damn process twice.

I had already decided that since I was going to be on the west side, I would go up to the strip mall near Arrowhead (home of the highest per-capita proportion of millionaires in the Phoenix urban area) that houses a Talbot’s, a Chico’s, and a B’Gauze, two of which normally have clothes that fit me. My clothes are all falling apart, because I haven’t bought anything other than an occasional pair of Costco jeans since last March, and at that time it was only a couple of shirts and a pair of socks. Otherwise, the last time I bought decent clothes was in 2007.

At Talbot’s and Chico’s, every stitch I put on made me look like a potato sack tied in the middle. Talbot’s was particularly discouraging, because their clothes used to fit me. I’ve put on weight, no question of it: about five pounds since 2007. And I’m getting saggy because I spend way too much time parked in front of the computer. But it doesn’t seem like a five-pound gain should cause every skirt, every blouse, and every pair of pants to look dumpy on me. After all, I haven’t gone up a size in jeans.

Chico’s clothes have never fit me, so I wasn’t surprised. I found one shirt, for which they charged me $64. Talbot’s used to carry great clothing—understated, classic, and perfectly fitting—but when the company changed its look, the wonderful fit went away. So, IMHO, did the good looks of the outfits Talbot’s used to sell. Which, I suppose, explains why I haven’t bought anything there in a while. I did pick up a knit shirt on sale: $24. When I wore it today, the dye rubbed off on my white pants.

B’Gauze carries light cotton gauze outfits that are great in the summer. But because they’re shapeless and loose, they look like what they are: fat lady clothes. That notwithstanding, I bought a decent blue skirt, very flowing and airy, plus two white shirts, one that looked great with the skirt and one in the same artist’s-smock style as a turquoise shirt I already own and love, which is wearing out. The bill: $194.

These two expeditions consumed half the day.

Then it was back to the house to read copy until 5:30, when I had to race up to the college to attend a workshop in the new BlackBoard version 9. As we’ve observed, BlackBoard is one of life’s prime time-wasters, and the new version is changed enough to require one to diddle away a great deal of time figuring out how to operate it. So that sucked up the whole evening.

By the time I got home, Cassie had hunger-barfed all over the living room floor, a fine ending to a tedious day. Well, not quite: I worked into the night to finish reading proofs—the copy was a tangled mess that apparently was never edited, the content tedious drivel that left one wondering who at the press has the author as his sister-in-law. Because I had to return the copy to the client today, I plowed through to the end of that, finishing around 1:00 a.m.

This morning it was off to the Friday classes, which mercifully end at 11:30 because the 101 section meets only on Mondays and Wednesdays. From the college, I had to drive into Tempe to meet Tina and pick up a batch of completed work. From there, it was up to mid-town Scottsdale to return her project and mine to the client.

On the way home, I had to pass Scottsdale Fashion Square. M’hijito has been wanting a sideboard, so I thought I’d drop by Crate and Barrel to see if they had anything. Or, more to the point, if anything was on sale.

No, and no on those two counts.

However, Dillard’s was having a bra-fitting event. The wait was half an hour, so I tracked down a much-needed bra and underpants on my own.

In my old age, I’ve come to find underwire brassieres singularly uncomfortable. The decrepit wireless numbers I have are worn out and leave me sagging and bouncing. Cheap bras are even more uncomfortable than good bras—the ones I bought in a package of three from Costco ride up, gouge, itch, and hurt. I tried on three bras in the $25 range and ended up buying a $60 Wacoal, another of the few clothing brands that now fit me. By the time the bargain panties were added in, the bill came to $93.

I wasn’t happy at having to pay sixty bucks for one bra, when I really need two or three bras. Oh well.

I found a pretty belt in Dillard’s notions department, another item that I’ve been needing: $17.

Then I decided to visit J. Jill, which sometimes carries linen clothes that sort of fit me. After Thursday’s miserable experiences at Talbot’s and Chico’s, I was pretty discouraged with trying on clothes. Nevertheless, I wrestled myself into a few things—the arm is still quite sore, and pulling things on and off can elicit quite the jab of pain. I found…

An ankle-length knit dress with pleated front and near-empire waist that does a nice job of hiding the flab, lumps, and bumps. Matter of fact, it looks very nice.

A plain black knee-length knit dress that also reveals no cellulite and hides the fat very nicely. Comfortable and socially acceptable. Perfect for church and general out and about.

A black linen maxi-skirt that despite being a size 10 fits well around the flabby waist as well as around the capacious rear end. Astonishing!

A white knee-length linen dress that feels like it has its own air-conditioning built in. Good for summer; also disguises the fat effectively.

A pair of linen cropped pants that fit adequately and are not jeans, a style of which I am becoming royally sick.

A white knot-button linen shirt with the same air-conditioning qualities, very nice with the black skirt and with the linen pants.

A tie-died knit cotton maxi dress that also does a pretty good job of disguising the fat and the sags.

A linen jean jacket which looks cute with the tie-died dress, works OK with the capris, and will look great with the endless collection of Costco jeans. And in the sort of shabby-chic style currently in vogue, it sort of works with the pleated maxi dress and the black skirt.

I needed these things very much, except for the jean jacket. I’ve been wearing the same two pairs of old washable wool slacks to church, week after week after week, and the Costco jeans have become so ubiquitous I wear them to teach in and sometimes sneak them into church. I had one rather gaudy casual skirt—a survivor of some long-ago trip to B’Gauze—and two ancient Eileen Fisher outfits, one of which has been resewn and has to be pinned together to accommodate the crumbling elastic in the waistband.

The bill for all this stuff? $730.

The J. Jill ladies gave me a coupon discount plus $73 off for opening a J. Jill charge account.

I really didn’t want to open an account there. However, these maneuvers cut the bill to $613; taxes raised the bottom line to a breathtaking $662.

Holy mackerel. I’ve never spent that much on clothes in my life. On the other hand, it is objectively true that just about everything in my closet is shot except for the dozen pairs of Costco jeans, one of which was now smeared with red dye from the Talbot’s pullover.

Well, I figured, I can afford it. There’s $3,300 in the savings account set aside for just such purchases as these, plus FaM cranked $450 on the late, great traffic spike: AdSense owes me more than enough to cover the bill.

Yesh. That’s what I thought.

Then I pulled in the driveway and got the mail.

The air-conditioning company sent a bill for the work they did at the downtown house: five hundred and eighty-seven bucks!!!!


Well, M’hijito says he will pay for it. The rent he gets from his roommate will cover it. But we were both furious: normally the office will call when a bill of that size is proposed. I did not like being blindsided with a $600 bill for what I expected would be, at most, a $200 job.

So I think I’ll return the Chico’s shirt, which on reflection is kind of garish. And $65 is way, way, way too much for a knit pullover. The belt that looked like it fit at Dillard’s is actually too large, so I’ll take that back on Monday when I’m relatively close to the Paradise Valley store. And I’m annoyed enough about the Talbot’s shirt rubbing red dye all over my white jeans that I may demand my money back for that, even though I wore it all day Friday. One thing is for sure on that count: I never will buy anything from Talbot’s again.

Returning the overpriced shirt and the belt alone will knock about $100 off the total two-day damage. I don’t know whether I’ve got enough chutzpah to take the dye-leaking shirt back to Talbot’s. On the other hand, since I’m never going to shop there again, why not? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

My plan, at least before the AC bill showed up and shocked me back to reality, was to use this mound of clothes to build the basis of a new wardrobe. Throw out all the worn-out, tattered old junk, and the cotton jeans that have shrunk so much I have to lie down to zip them up, and get rid of everything that I’m not wearing.

Then, once the diddle-it-away savings recover, I’ll plan to spend about $60 to $100 about once every three months to build on this new foundation. Over the course of a year or two, I should end up with enough decent clothes in the closet that, even as things wear out, I won’t be stumbling around looking like a bag lady or a latter-day hippie. That’s affordable. And maybe I can even buy another bra sometime in the next year or so.