Service & Style

Friday, October 16, 2009


I'm sure you'll be relieved to know (just play along dear readers) that I am in a secure location where I have Internet access once again. Actually, I hear that I have Internet access again at home, a fact I learned when I was about midway to Indianapolis. But I decided to come to Indy anyway to have a fun-filled Sister Weekend with Alissa. That's right, I've taken A Book a Day to the big city. It's different here, skirts are shorter, no one says hello, and customs are decidedly different. Okay, just kidding, two people said hello to me within minutes of arriving . . . well one of them was my sister, but that still counts.

My battered soul (sorry, too dramatic, and I see that now) - Let's try that again, my mind is relieved to be away from the construction that was going on all around me at home, both in the house and on the streets surrounding it. And I am now enjoying a quiet, peaceful evening of reading without having to ignore the constant hammering, and I'm reveling in Internet service without the fear that if I don't write my entry really quickly the construction crew might accidentally hit the phone lines again. In other words, it's paradise.

Today's book, "The history of downtown department stores is as fascinating as their names and as diverse as their merchandise. Their stories encompasses many themes: the rise of decorative design, new career paths for women, the growth of consumerism, and the technological ingenuity of escalators and pneumatic tubes. Just as the big stores made up their own small universes, their stories are microcosmic narratives of American culture and society."

Materialistic thoughts:

  • I picked today's book because it made me think of old movies and the way they make working in a department store look so fun (Bachelor Mother is one that comes to mind.) Old movies make lots of things look fun that really aren't: going to school, bathing babies, snow fights, dancing (or maybe that's just me), having people over for dinner, going to war (I'm talking about you White Christmas), being a maid. Usually picking a book for such a shallow reason ends very badly for me and results in extra whining here on the blog - but then I don't need to tell you that dear readers since you have traveled down that dark and scary road with me. But, I am happy to report that the opposite happened today - the book was fun and delightful and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys history.

  • Not only was the book fun, I also learned a few things. For one, in the early 1900s, some department stores had public libraries located in them. I also learned that most department stores had book departments. How delightful! I, of course, am of the opinion that there is no such thing as too many books (or book sources), so tomorrow I start my campaign to get department stores to "BRING BACK THE BOOKS. BRING BACK THE BOOKS."

  • Overall, what I've gathered from reading this book, is that department stores from the first half of the 20th century were like the shopping version of Disney World, lots of sucking up from the employees, the kind of service that will delude a person into thinking the entire world should cater to them from that point on, and so many things to see and do that you can't possibly see it all in one day. I spent most of the book wishing I had a time machine so I could go back and see what it's like to shop at a department store where I don't have to choose between dealing with the salesclerk who doesn't want to help at all and the one who becomes so emotionally invested that telling him/her that I'm not buying the dress that I tried on feels like a break-up.

And here's your fun fact for the day dear readers: clothes from the Juniors department used to be known as "the flapper size," and then later "the subdeb size." - If I was the kind of thirty year-old who desperately tries to cling to their youth by buying clothes from the juniors department, I would begin referring to it as "the flappers department" right away. Since I am not, I will instead work on ways to awkwardly insert that phrase into my next shopping experience, Let's go to the shoe department. If I'm not mistaken, it's located right next to the flapper department.