Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bought Lessons

In my short time on this Earth ,depending on how old you are or how you look at it...I have learned many lessons...I share them with you every month in my "What I've Learned " posts..

I was thinkin g about my mother this morning when I woke up....Thinking of her and other members of my family no longer with me was not a pause to feel sad, but a pause to smile...So many of them taught me so many things sometimes just by the example of their lives that helped shape me somewhat into who I became.

The lesson my mother and my aunt Jean taught me that resonates the most is that...There is no lesson quite like a bought lesson.

A bought Lesson is a lesson that cost you something...It might not always be money, but something...your dignity, your well being...That is the lesson, my mother said that you are most likely to remember...That is the mistake you won't repeat....because it cost you something...

I learned one of those bought lessons the way I always learned it when I was a young man...The hard way...

Let me take you back to the summer of 1975....If you wern't alive then....Read up on it...I was 17, had a little summer job up on Woodland Avenue at the Social Security Office...I wore a white shirt and a tie to work in the morning...and my mother had just stopped short of putting vaseline on my face in the morning the way my grandmother did when I was a baby...Which is why I look like I'm shining in all of those early photos of me..(The Shining Negro)

I was making close to $200.00 every two weeks..Which in 1975 was pretty good money for a teenager..(Hell it was a nice piece of change for some adults then) I was about six feet, one and a quarter inches...and thought I was cute...

There was a guy named Danny White who worked me (Not to be mistaken for one of my uncle's brothers with the same name...)

Anyway Danny White was the delight of all of the ladies who worked in that office...He had the flyest clothes and seemed to be the epitome of cool...He was about a good six years older than me...And had a car...

This was the guy who I thought I might one day be....He gave me a ride home from work one day and he met my mother....She could see right through him...and she said to me...\
"Don't pattern yourself after that jitterbug..."

Jitterbug was her name for hipsters, hoodlums and generally undesirables....It was a term that made me laugh most of the time...

Anyway...Danny White told me that he bought all of his clothes from a store that was on the corner of 60th and Market called Chinn's or more accurately..Chinn's fabulous Clothier..

There was nothing fabulous about these clothes now that I look back except that they were cheap...cheap in price and cheap in quality...I had bought a pair of slacks from there before and my Aunt Jean and my Aunt Vivian ,who lived near 60th Street at the time had seen me and had chided me ...

"Don't waste your money in there...Those are cheap clothes and the seams will be out of them before you know it..." they said..

But in my mind...They didn't know what they were talking about...They sewed for a living, they knew quality...but that just went right over my head...

Danny White said that he bought his clothes from there, so that was gospel...Nothing for me to do but drop $150.00 in Chinns...I got five pair of slacks, five loud shirts and I think a pair of socks...  I spent another ten dollars buying an Isley Brothers album and the new Ojays album on 52nd street and then spent the rest getting tokens so I could get to work...

My parents, unlike other parents didn't take a part of my money that I made...Whatever I earned at this job..I kept and basically could spend it anyway I wanted to within reason...To be honest...I wasn't a complete asshole...I did bank a great deal of my money...I had a little PSFS account..(Remember them?)

This time ,my mother said-'Go ahead Mr. Big Shot...Look at you....Did you get those clothes from that man on 60th Street ?"(That's not actually what she said...but I won't print it in the spirit of political correctness!)

I said -"Yeah..What a bargain!" and she just laughed..."Didn't your Aunt Jean tell you about him?  You hard headed...A hard head makes what?" she said.

I didn't answer...I had heard this practically everyday of my life...

I wore one pair of the pants and the loudest shirt at least two times...Then I put them in the cleaners...This combo was clearly my favorite...I was saving it for a special occassion...

You can imagine my horror after I got them out of the cleaners and put them on and was preparing to go out and the pants legs were up over my ankles and the shirt was
very tight...or "young" as my mother would say....

I tried the other pants on...they had shrunk too and the stitching was coming out..and all of the shirts had faded or had shrunk...

I WAS MORTIFIED...AND LIVID!!!

I demanded that my mother go up to that store and rip that man, a new one!!!

She laughed...

"I'm not going up there, I told you not to buy from him in the first place..."she said.

"He ripped me off...I'm out of $150.00..."I protested..

"Yes you are...Now what did you learn from this...?" she asked...

"I should always listen to my mother and my aunts."I said trying to be funny...

"No..You should always buy quality,rather than quantity...You get what you pay for..You bought cheap clothes and you got cheap clothes.."she said.

"But I'm still out of $150..00 dollars..."I said.

"That's a $150.00 lesson...a costly lesson....but a lesson just the same." she said.

For the next two weeks I felt the effects of that lesson...I had no lunch money...I had to make Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches or Ham and Cheese sandwiches for lunch...Couldn't go to the food carts like my friends...and had no spare change......

I kept looking at Danny White... He couldn't have been buying his clothes at that clip joint..He had been pulling my leg.....Damnnn how uncool...He had to be secretly laughing at me behind my back...Either that or he never washed or dry cleaned his clothes...

I found out the truth sometimes later..It was worse..He was ordering his clothes off of the back of the TV Guide...(How many of you remember that?) and even they were of a better grade than those cheap clothes sold at Chinns..

I shake my head and laugh now when I think of that bought lesson I learned..

Danny White died some years ago...and I recall being at the funeral and hearing some woman say...

"I sho hope somebody bought him a decent suit and didn't bury him in one of those cheap suits that he used to promenade around here in...."

I was at the repass and nearly spit my drink out...I laughed and looked up at the sky...

Where-ever she is..My mother was somewhere saying..

"See...I told you so."

1 comment:

Arlene said...

Keith, I'm at my desk at work and almost in tears!! Tears from remembering our girls, Faye and Jeannie, happy tears, and tears from laughing at your youthful shenanigans. I remember that Chinns' store. My mother said the stuff they sold was "dry rotted." It looked good only on the outside, and you could not wash or dry clean any of it.

Maybe one day Val, Vev, Karen and I will tell you the story of our $2.79 matching dresses from E J Korvettes that came apart at the seams as we were wearing them!! Karen was a real cheapskate then!!

Have a great day!!




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