Gucci and me?
Yes, I know. To look at me, you'd never dream that I'd own a classy Gucci original. In fact, I'm very much aware that I do not really look the type that would even know who the designer, Gucci, is (does he have a first name?). So what does the world famous fashion French trendsetter, Gucci, in all actuality have to do with me? Read on, and learn about the ridiculous side of life and my rather innocent - and embarrassing- part in it.
It was providence that put me in the path of the elite, fashionable crowd in that posh upscale area of London, England, where I had come for a cousin's wedding, a good twenty-five years back. As the rain fell incessantly down from the overcast gray skies onto what appeared to be a dull bleak world, my wife and I - American country bumpkins - marveled at the old society charm of English Europe. Tourist sights that we'd never dreamed of visiting were suddenly within our immediate panoramic vista. The transparency of our unsophisticated traveling experience must have stood out for all to see as we gasped out loud in sheer wonder and amazement at the wrong side everybody seemed to be driving their cars, at the grandeur of the great Big Ben clock, at the imposing Buckingham Palace and at those funny artificially stiff- looking royal guards with the tall furry hats! We visited some of the most famous museums, gawked at some of the most unusually colorful punk-dressed locals and literally had the time of our lives as we reveled in the wonderful temporary role of being wined and dined without a care besides telephoning across the ocean to see how spoiled our children were getting at their grandparents' home for that one week in June.
The entire experience was beyond any vision that we had conjured for ourselves, yet it was rejuvenating. As we said our goodbyes and sincere thank you to our generous hosts, I asked if perhaps there might be anything that we could take to relatives in America for them. After a brief moment of deliberation, it seemed that there indeed was.
"Would you mind very much," my host began in his quaint, endearing English accent, "if we would ask you to bring a wallet to my sister in Deal, NJ? It's a Gucci original - not too new, but just the same, I know that she would appreciate it. And why should it be thrown out?"
Would I mind? What a question! In all honesty, I was happy to return the favor of unique hospitality in some small measure!
We packed the 'Gucci thing' within our belongings and were off to the airport. With England becoming smaller and smaller, and eventually totally disappearing as the plane gained upward and forward momentum, we mentally prepared ourselves for the long flight home and our shift in roles.
The reunion that we were a part of at Newark was a fitting end to our lovely vacation. Although we had indeed left London, England, home to world culture, art, fashion, and gales of raindrops, the shower of unmistaken love we received with our welcome home reception made us ever so much more glad to be back to our own familiar beloved turf and immediate family.
We changed into our normal gears - I, as father and daily breadwinner, and my wife as familiar 'mommy' figure - and life seemed to go on just as we had left it with only photographs to keep the memories vivid.
Then, one bright Sunday morning, my wife reminded me about the Gucci wallet.
"Max," she said worriedly, "I just remembered about the wallet. Have you seen it anywhere?"
"The Gucci wallet?!" I asked in the low tone. "Don't tell me that you don't know where it is! Didn't you pack it in the big blue suitcase?"
"I thought that you had put it away in the carry-on," my wife responded quickly. "How awful if it's lost!" she continued. "What a way to show our gratitude for all they did for us!"
Anxiously, we went through every single piece of luggage and belonging that we had taken with us on the trip. Feverishly and with determination, we sifted through the clothing and paraphernalia, spending a good while on the search. Unfortunately, it seemed that the Gucci wallet was nowhere to be found! We sadly concluded that we had either lost it on the way to the airport or it was... stolen. We felt terrible. Too bad we had not purchased travel insurance! After all our English hosts had done for us, how would we ever be able to own up to what had occurred?
I sat down gingerly on the edge of the living couch as I thought. Finally, the obvious answer came to my mind.
"And what's so terrible about bringing a new Gucci wallet to our host's sister instead of his old, used one?" I asked. The solution I had thought of was brilliant in its simplicity!
My wife looked at me in wonder. "Wh-where does one go to buy a Gucci wallet?" she asked. "I mean, aren't Gucci originals exclusive items? Maybe you have to buy them in special one-of-a-kind shops. And how much do you think they cost anyway?"
Although both my wife and myself had been brought up in plain, no nonsense type of homes where designer clothing and merchandise were things that, for all intent and purpose, did not exist, we understood that the price tags on these types of ware were on the higher end of the general merchandise payment spectrum.
"I'm sure that one of the department stores in the mall close to us sells Gucci wallets," I said. "And as far as the price is concerned," I continued in a deliberate voice, "How much could a small wallet cost already?"
That said, we piled the kids into our car for a 'trip' to the Ocean County Mall.
Once we had arrived at our destination, my wife led our troupe to the ladies' accessory department. Her hunch had indeed been right. There, in the locked case, lay a small assortment of Gucci wallets and purses. In my mind, their beauty was debatable and I wondered what the major attraction was about them, but I quickly dismissed the hearsay thoughts as the results of my being 'uneducated' in the ways of fashion.
"We'd like to see the Gucci wallets," my wife said to the woman behind the counter.
The saleswoman jingled her ring of keys as she unlocked the glass display case and reached inside for the two featured wallets. "These are the two styles that we carry," she said.
"Hmm," my wife paused. "How much are they?" she inquired.
"This one here is five- fifty," began the saleswoman. "And this one is seven," she said.
I looked at my wife. She looked at me.
"Listen," I told my wife. "The prices are not bad at all. Let's splurge. We'll buy them both. One for our hosts' sister and one for you."
My wife nodded. Generally accustomed to living on a set budget, we both were somewhat relieved at the affordability of the famed Gucci wallets.
"Ahem," my wife cleared her throat as she began in complete earnest innocence. "You said this one on the right is five dollars and fifty cents and that one over there is seven dollars?"
The woman paused for one uncomfortable long, long moment as she seemed to digest what had been asked of her. Then, in the most cold, unfriendly know-it-all saleslady voice, she corrected the blatant unforgivable blunder.
"No, madam, the cost of this one is FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS and that one is SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!"
"Oh, I see, I'm so sorry," my wife said in a very small voice as the rosy color of embarrassment crept up to her cheeks. "We - uh - I guess we'll think about it. Thank you."
Without another word, the saleswoman gathered the wallets, placed them back in the display case, jingled her ring of keys with a flourish and noisily locked the glass door.
As we made our hasty getaway, we giggled together at our simple ignorance and unsophisticated expectations. How blessed naïve we had been! $550 and $700 for wallets embellished with some strange man's name, indeed!
As ludicrous as we knew the prices were, we still had a matter to take care of.
I telephoned our hosts in England and shamefully explained the situation to them. True to form, they made away with it all, saying that the lost wallet was too old to be of any true worth and we should forget about the entire incident.
Gucci and me? Well, I can't exactly say that although quite some time has elapsed since the unfortunate loss of the Gucci wallet, I have completely forgotten about it all. One thing's for certain, I know that Gucci wallets are not on my personal buying list because there has GOT to be better things to do with my money. Still and all, the incident brings back gales of laughter when we reminisce about our 'wonderful unworldliness' and the absolute nonsensical, ludicrous ways of the 'polished, sophisticated' world!
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By M Wyzanski