The problem with “surprises” is that they are surprising. And given Kings and I have a basic distrust for each other’s tastes (Yes. I know. We also married each other. By all means enjoy yourselves) we don’t often surprise each other in terms of gift choices. Looking at how much thought Kings puts into how he dresses most of the time (ie none), you wouldn’t have thought my husband is fussy but – and I say this with love – I’m married to Mr Giant Fusspot.
The difference is Kings doesn’t much care what he looks like – but he cares very much how it feels. As in, I no longer buy ties for him because the exquisite navy-with-discreet-electric-blue-and-red-roses Paul Smith tie I bought him years ago is still a virgin. Why? Because in the morning when he is tying a Windsor, the feel of the fabric “spoils (his) whole day.”
(Those of you who see him fairly regularly – this is why he always seems to be alternating the same two ratty Prada and Hugo Boss ties. It is possible he still doesn’t remember what they look like, but if you blindfolded him while he tied them, he would know them right down to the loose threads sticking out. I have even tried to buy ones that feel the same when I tie them, but the hub can still tell the difference. And since the only neck that feels it refuses to be brought along for the shopping (first thing I do when I want to shop is look for a cyber cafe or book store to park its owner in because its owner is a helluva shopping-experience killer, you see this is how we stay married and in love), there shall be no more tie purchases.)
Oh, and Kings is the same with shirt cuffs. They have to slide perfectly over his wristwatch (very simple limited edition slim Omega – it was once a joke in the market how Kings had someone reporting to him who wore a watch costing >10 times what his cost). Otherwise he will wear neither shirt nor the watch and use one of his two blackberries to tell the time.
So I text, “Any special requests for your Father’s Day gift, otherwise it’s going to be (Ralph Lauren) shirts or (Vilebrequin) trunks.” Both have mini-me versions I can dress Rockstar in, you see. If Rockstar’s wearing it, I have a better shot at getting his father to wear it. (Unless something like last summer happens again). Because Kings once observed how much better dressed his son was (well d-uh, while you’re dressing yourself, who dresses your son?)
“Shirts please ” Sigh. No surprise. So I trot down to Lee Garden, arguably the poshest mall in Causeway Bay, (which btw has loadsa upscale baby/ children’s clothes) toting a private sale invitation card I’d been saving.
So I do what I usually do when shopping for those two, that is, pick about half-doz items in the kiddie store and have the salesgirl call the grownup store to check for matching items. Which is when a tall, slim blonde woman abruptly blows up in the store. <Holding up pink dress> “I said 12 years. You got me 12 months. HOW can you not speak English.”
She’s already loud enough to be heard easily throughout the store, but she raises her voice still higher, “Does ANYONE here speak English??” I consider explaining that part of the problem is her own English carries a thick accent (she pronounces “years” “yehs” and “months” “moths”) that the salesgirls (well it is Lee Garden after all, not Women’s Street in Mong Kok) are not used to and that’s probably making it even harder – there are a lot more Hongkie-Canadians around I think, they can probably handle an American-ish accent a little better.
“I said DOS ANYONE HERE SPEAK ENGLISH? THIS IS RALPH LAUREN!! I VANT TO SPEAK TO ZE MANAGER!!”
Y-eah. Suddenly I don’t either. Speak English, I mean. Because the first salesgirl who served me was also a little rude at my English+Cantonese, proceeding to not serve me in favor of a Putonghua-speaking woman she then shows off her Putonghua to, a little too loudly. Not worth stepping in to offer translation services (not… that I’m very good anyway.) Today, I must not risk a fight, I’m seriously out of time (I usually buy gifts months in advance) – if she kills my mood to shop I’ll be hard-pressed to get it done before the weekend.
But… Putonghua salesgirl’s place is quickly taken by a new salesgirl who proceeds to call several RL stores to check sizes for me (including, I note with new respect at her professionalism, on sale – not just full-priced – merchandise… I had an experience at Lane Crawford once, long ago.. “These are on sale.” She says it like I’m cheap – uh, they’re still HKD 3,000+ Marc Jacobs boots marked down just 30% and I have a privilege card you twit. “They probably sold out. I’m sure we have sizes on these full-priced items I can check and have delivered from other stores.” Even without your emphasis on key words there I get the hint – you are of the race of obnoxious people in Sales that I hate in HK. Anyway. I mention to illustrate why I’m impressed this salesgirl is checking sales items so diligently.)
And I don’t like the way the Angry Customer is carrying on because the girl serving her is sincerely apologizing profusely for mishearing (and it was only one mistake), and she’s coming across more as a bully than as someone seriously frustrated (which I will admit to occasionally also feeling at my own lack of Canton here. There are bullies in every language, a disproportionate number of which drive cabs). Also, it’s not Putonghua salesgirl she is yelling at, whose self-preservation instincts have taken her across the room. Darn, too bad.
So when Angry Customer ends up at the counter I’m browsing, I speak in pointedly polite English to the nice salesgirl checking the stores for my stuff.
By the time we’re done, I come away with a rugby jersey on sale for Rockstar (after cringing slightly at the simpler tees that could pass at first glance for what I saw on my last Stanley Market T-shirt binge) and the promise of a phone call from my Ralph Lauren kiddie store of choice which they will send the other on-sale sweater I picked out to because they’re out of Rockstar’s size in this store. Angry Customer, still standing beside me, utters a polite thank you to her salesgirl as she pays for a pink dress. How nice.
So this makes a blog post because late the next day I get not one, but two separate calls to tell me Rockstar’s cerulean blue cotton-knit sweater has arrived from some ulu-fied Ralph Lauren store where it hasn’t sold out. (The second caller quickly apologizes and rings off when she hears I’ve already been called). I swing by after getting two Polo shirts for Kings.
“You’re Mrs Lai?” the salesgirl asks – twice (and I prickle involuntarily – what, do I not look like a Mrs Lai, when I’m in shredded and paint splashed (artfully, I can only hope) J Brands and a Junk Food tee with Mick Jagger’s famous lips on it?) before returning with the precious sweater. Then, glancing at the large Ralph Lauren paperbag containing Kings’ shirts adds, “Well, did you want (store credit) for those, can I see them?” Uh, no – I actually want to keep my purchases and buy a bit more stuff, thank you very much.
At her gentle insistence I end up allowing her to check a whole bunch of stuff she then discourages me from buying when she doesn’t think it’ll fit right (Rockstar is between sizes) and I come away with just an additional tee – in the end I apologize, slightly embarrassed, for not even buying the precious blue sale sweater they sent from somewhere in Kowloon (Rockstar is all head, it’s unlikely I could pull it over that head even with the larger size), to a “Oh, don’t mention it.” As I’m paying, another salesgirl places an exquisite navy sleeveless dress with just the right amount of ruffled navy and white striped hem (I love RL girls’ clothes, it’s gift of choice to girlfriends who have daughters because they have a lot of not-too-frothy dresses for the less “sugary” girlie- girls). “Oh YEESS!!! My salesgirl suddenly agrees animatedly and that’s how I learn she’s carrying a baby girl.)
There’s a saying goes if you’ve eaten your fill and don’t have a fridge, be sure to share (which I like to interpret as always be the nicest you can be, especially when it costs you nothing).
Because which would you rather have, rotten food or a friend?