Friday, May 21, 2010

Department Store Cougars

Compared with the near frantic pace of the hospital, my part-time job at McAlpin's in Turfland Mall was a walk in the park. Here, too, single women out-numbered available men by a hefty margin. Just my luck.

Mrs. King, the director of personnel, looked like a cheap version of Elizabeth Taylor--in her heavier years, with brown eyes instead of violet. She always wore mules with a 2 or 3 inch heel--what I think of today when anyone mentions F*ck-me Pumps. I thought she was pretty and very nice.

I'm guessing she was in her 40s. She had died-black, permed hair and wore make-up like you only see on those women in white coats who do make-overs in upscale department stores. She was the first person I ever knew up-close-and-personal to wear false eyelashes.

Mrs. King liked me. Rumor had it she put me in housewares because it was the closest department to her office. I do remember she stopped to talk to me a lot and that I was getting nice little raises every few weeks.

Wasn't long before she started calling me at 2 or 3 in the morning. I had to get up at 6 to be at the hospital by 7 to work my shift. She'd be so drunk it was hard to understand what she was saying.

The late night calls continued for a long time. At first she just talked about being lonely. She wanted me to come over to her apartment, for a drink--so we could talk. I always said no.

She'd cry and beg and plead in a shameless manner. I felt sorry for her. Eventually she'd get mad and hang up on me. Sleep at last.

Over time the calls came more frequently. Sometimes she called several times in the same night. She told me she loved me because I reminded her of her deceased brother.

Then she started telling me how much she needed me. She'd go on at length about what she'd like to do to me. I was in way over my head with no idea what to do.

The calls got even worse. After months of turning her down she started asking if I was gay. Turns out, her brother was gay. "You can tell me" she said. I still didn't know myself so how could I tell her?

I never brought up the calls at work and neither did Mrs. King. Raises and promotions continued to come my way. They moved me to electronics so I could increase my pay with commissions. People started talking with me about the manager training program.

Pixie took me under her wing to show me the ropes. She was a department manager and Mrs. King's much-younger best friend. She was an outrageous flirt and beautiful, with stunning green eyes, olive skin and wavy-brown hair.

One Saturday when I got off at 5 I discovered my car had a flat tire. Mrs. King and Pixie were leaving and saw me standing in the rain looking at the flat tire. They asked me to come have a drink with them until it stopped raining enough to change the tire.

We went across the street to the lounge at the Springs Hotel and ordered drinks. We sat around a small, cocktail table covered with a linen tablecloth talking and enjoying our cocktails. We had the place to ourselves.

Several rounds later I felt a hand caressing my thigh. It was Mrs. King. Uh oh.

Minutes later I feel Pixie's hand moving up my other thigh. Oh shit. This was getting awkward and uncomfortable.

I stood up abruptly and excused myself to go to the bathroom. I called Dad from a pay phone in the lobby and asked if he would pick me up. Are you in trouble? Well...

After I explained he laughed. He was still laughing when he picked me up about 15 minutes later. We changed the tire and I went home to my apartment.

The calls stopped. The next time I came in to work I had been transferred from electronics to lawn and garden--the farthest department from Mrs. King's office. I was fired on the spot a few weeks later for mouthing off to the general manager.

Over the years I ran into other guys who had similar experiences with Mrs. King. I wonder how many more there were. If I knew then what I know now...I would have sued. Pretty sure I would have either won the case or received a nice settlement.

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