Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Three Squares

Three Squares
I couldn't pass them up. Hot pink, embroidered fabric, origin unknown. In each, a spiral of life, with delicate spring green accents along the edges. They had been cut from another fabric, maybe a garment, maybe a quilt. They were absolutely irresistible. But why, my husband asked, mystified by the way in which I was drawn to them. "Look," I said, after dragging him into the funky fabric shop in Taos, New Mexico. "What do you suppose they are?" It was a rhetorical question. All the while, my hand was searching though my purse.
He shrugged, mildly irritated. "Why do you care? Why does it matter?"
"Well, someone, somewhere, made them. Perhaps they made more than these three. They beg to be considered."
"You could say that about most anything," he stated, more irritated, and now claustrophobic. "Carburetors, for instance. Wheel bearings" Each to his own.
The tiny shop had fabric racks on every wall, while the middle of the shop was crammed full of buttons and threads, and quilt squares, and books and needles and every sort of sewing paraphanalia, displayed like a bazaar at the Kasbah. "Anyway, you don't even have a sewing machine. I can't get you to mend my socks or sew on my missing buttons!"
"That is an entirely different thing," I retorted, finally locating the outlines of my wallet. "Look, if you're uncomfortable in here, why don't you go across the way and look in the antique map place? I'll catch up with you in a sec. This place feels like Shangra La to me. I feel the need to roll around in here a few minutes more, soak it all up, touch everything, examine it all once more, to remember it forever. Go, go go! I know you hate it in here. Go!" And so he did, a knowing look on his face. He knows me so well.
I went back to the sales desk, and pulled out my wallet, and, darned, bought these three beautiful hand-embroidered squares. For what? Who knew? It was like true love. One glance, and you know. I just had to have them. They slid into my big purse so nicely, flat against the side.They were mine now. I know I glowed in a way that had nothing to do with the stuffy little shop's thermostat. There were three possibilities in my possession, and I was gleeful. My friend, the sculptor Stewart Fink always says that two is a question and three is an answer. They were, indeed an answer.
Today, I had to sew on a button, and there they were. My three little pink squares. I had almost forgotten about them. They are as ravishing today as they were then. But something has changed. Now, there is Anna, our fabulous grandbaby, only three and a half months old. Who knew she was coming back then? So now, the squares are going to be for her. They'll be pockets or decoration on some beautiful outfit. It's a matter of gilding the lily, of course, but, I knew they'd be just the thing some day! Shop on!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Shopping Good Health

I feel like today, I made a smart decision. It was the day of my yearly mammogram. This is always a nerve-wracking day for me. My appointment was for 2:15. Like a good girl, I arrived 15 minutes early, so that I could fill out paperwork, etc. But when I arrived, the office was bursting at the seams.

The waiting patients were squirming, drumming their fingers, and otherwise looking angry and impatient. I asked around. Turns out there was a good hour's wait! After being told at the window that they were way behind because they were short-staffed, I asked if I would be seen within the hour. No one could assure me that I could. In fact, when I looked at the list, I noticed five other people signed up for 2:15, too.

Then the woman at the window brightened--"Oh, you're next" she said. I looked. I was not next, I was three people away from being called--just to register, not for the mammogram. "Sorry," I told the lady at the desk. I'll have to pass. This puts me way behind schedule." And so, I left.

Forgetting for a moment about the inconvenience to my schedule, and the poor scheduling and the bad business practices, what concerned me was something far more important. I didn't want my mammogram performed by someone operating under the pressure of an out-of-control day. When my mammogram films are read, I want them read not in the crush of overscheduling, but with due consideration.

So I walked out. Sure, I'm as impatient as anyone. Too many doctors overschedule, presumably to deal with no-shows. My rule of thumb is to wait a half hour and then to walk, out of simple scheduling problems. Sure, I get angry when the medical profession implies that their time is more important than your time. But this was a quality control issue. Don't you think?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Brand New Shopping Blog !

Welcome to The Artful Shopper Blog! For starters, let me introduce myself. I am BJ Foreman, and I'm a life-long shopper. Never you worry about how long this life is, just know that I consider myself a shopping expert.

A few years back, I was "The Artful Shopper," a weekly columnist at the Cincinnati Post, writing about new products and services, and examining the way in these were delivered by merchants. After a while on this side of the fence, I found myself on the other side! Through a family tragedy, I became president of Boris Litwin Jewelers, a fourth-generation Cincinnati business. To be honest, I wasn't a rank beginner. I had helped my dad and brother as a teen, in college, and even when I was a full-time journalist, if they needed help at lunch or on weekends. For many years, I fence-sat, juggling my journalism side and my retail side.

Finally I fell off the fence and was a retailer full-time. In the nine and a half years I've been carrying on the family's traditions, I've brought new twists of my own, too. I'd like to think that the values I prized as a shopping columnist, I have brought to our already well-regarded shop.

The shocker for me was the very bad manners of shoppers towards our business. Also, after becoming what I think is a sensitive retailer, when I am the shopper now, I really want be treated well by the businesses I patronize.

And so, I decided, with urging from my internet-savvy daughter, to take my applause and gripes to the internet, to spread the news of great stories and to warn of bad service and lousy shopping manners. I hope you'll visit this blog from time to time, and let me know your opinions, too. Tell me about great new products, times when you are pleasantly surprised by service. Maybe together we can make a difference in the way things are done! Thanks for visiting!

BJ Foreman