Last Friday afternoon, I found myself hard at work in Gastown researching an article I am writing about the downtown Vancouver District. One of the oldest neighbourhoods still standing in the city, Gastown is home to the some of the best architecture the Canadian West Coast has ever seen. Designated a national historic site in 2009, it also offers up a great selection of one-of-a-kind clothing boutiques and an eclectic mix of restaurants that you cannot miss.
Adding an extra dash of spice to the cobble-stoned streets, the neighbourhood also happens to lie only blocks away from the poorest and most drug-infested intersections in all of the True, North, Strong and Free: Main and Hastings. Better known as “the downtown Eastside” or “East Hastings,” the original skid row is one picture you did not see while watching the 2010 Winter Olympics. As a result, any given trip down to the trendy tourist area always promises the sighting of at least: 30 fanny-packs, 2 intravenous drug injections, and 1 steam-clock surrounded by Japanese people with state-of-the-art photography equipment.
Moving right along – well, in the last five years the area has seen an influx of high-end condos open their doors to the public, attracting some of this town’s finest young gay men. Insert me into the picture, and you have one low-income redhead trying to write an article on why gays are so attracted to the “Meat-packing District of the North.”
Well, hopping off the skytrain at Waterfront, it was not long before I became the test-subject for my own research. Distracted by all the amazing shopping within walking distance, I found myself turning into every boutique that dressed a male mannequin in the store-front window. Descending the stairs into one of the men’s apparel stores, I fell immediately in love with every piece of clothing that hung within it. Featuring the best of Ben Sherman (as well as several other British designers I had never heard of) I mentally set aside the purchase of two pairs of shorts and one t-shirt that I had in mind.
Although my personal budget was screaming no, my available credit card balance was kissing my neck yes.
Removing the items from the rack, I looked to see if I could try them on and noticed I was outnumbered 2:1 by the sales clerks behind the counter. Being the only customer in the store at the time, it appeared the two staff working were much too busy to acknowledge my existence. Suddenly feeling like I was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I placed the shorts back on the rack and returned the $110 shirt to its proper place on the shelf.
Looking down at the outfit I was wearing, an American Apparel v-neck paired with club Monaco shorts and Aldo shoes, I thought to myself, there is no way someone this well put together can look that cheap, but then again my shoulder was strapped with a $3 second-hand bag.
Showing myself out, I was just about to leave when I was suddenly struck by an Erin Brockovich feeling of rage that only Julia could have acted out herself. Turning back around, I convinced myself that I was going to buy the three items out of spite - just to prove to the pretentious sales people that I could. Then, taking the shirt back off the shelf, I caressed its gentle fabric in my hand and returned to reality long enough to think: who the f am I kidding?I can’t afford this shirt, and even if I could at this point I would be an absolute fool to buy it.
Placing it back (this time) unfolded, I walked out the door with my dignity intact but did not feel as if I had left empty-handed: for I had managed to take home a lesson I would never forget.
At the restaurant where I serve, there have been several occasions where I have acted the same as those two sales clerks did to me. From the second a table sits down in my section, I pre-judge how much money they earn, how much they are going to spend, and how much money I am going to make as a tip. If I don’t sense they are high rollers, I will not sell them on the $15 glass of wine because in my mindset, what is the point? Well the point is that – who am I to decide how much they will or will not spend?
Talk about Karma Bitch!
If either one of those two sales clerks had spent five seconds giving me four words ending in the question mark, “Do you need help?” there is no question I would’ve charged my VISA hundreds of dollars I did not have. And even if I didn’t at that moment, I would’ve returned at a later date once I had the available credit to buy the grey cashmere cardigan that would have completed the entire ensemble. But now, sitting on my patio in the aftermath of the entire tragic experience, I am not so sure I will.
Since then at work, I have started to sell each of my customers on a glass of our outrageously priced wine regardless of whether I think they will buy it or not. And to my surprise, I have been selling a lot of over-priced wine.
However, my story is not over, because the best of the Julia Roberts theme is yet to come. As it just so happened, an hour after I left the boutique my b-ball boys came to help me shop for a drag outfit for the upcoming competition. Driving to Value Village, which was much more my Winnipeg style, I found the most perfect size-6 dress to wear, which believe it or not, just happened to be the exact same shade of lavender Julia wore in the final scene of My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Driving back to my boy Patsy’s place to try it on with a pair of stiletto heels, I spent the rest of the night drinking red wine and dancing to old-school Britney Spears and remixed-tracks by Kylie Minogue. At the end of the night I had no doubt there was no question that I was still one hell of a Pretty, albeit skanky, Woman.