Sometimes at work I have to wear a tie. I’d rather wear a T-shirt, but they won’t let me. Okay, fine. But here’s the problem: I’m 5’ 8” tall and have a 19” neck, a size normally reserved for very short football players and the morbidly obese. Good luck finding a shirt that fits. I know: I’m shaped like a troll.
But I don’t need some Chinese woman telling me that.
I tried using collar extenders – two of them, linked together like a chain – but they have a tendency to come loose during the day, and go zinging across the room when the customer is trying to explain his business challenges.
So I had to buy the biggest shirts I could find and have them tailored. I bought one of each color. My green one looked like a Christmas tree before the seamstress was done with it. She charged me thirty bucks a shirt – more than the shirts cost to begin with!
Even then, it’s an iffy solution. The neck is still tight, so I find myself grabbing at my collar during meetings, like I’m slowly being throttled by an invisible assailant. As a result, the buttons sometimes come loose. Once during a sales presentation, I was tugging at my collar and the button popped off, landing in the prospective customer’s coffee cup. Plink.
They ended up buying our competitor’s product.
As a result of all this, most of my collars are now missing buttons. I asked the Nordic Warrior Queen to get out her needle and thread and fix my shirts; she just mumbled something about “not in her job description,” then grabbed her purse and went shopping.
So I stuffed all my dirty, damaged, and expensive shirts into a paper bag and drove down the street to the dry cleaners. I pulled them out and showed them to the girl behind the counter. “Flo’s out today, but I’ll tell her what you need. Come back on Friday.”
On Friday afternoon, the counter girl had been replaced by a young Chinese man. “Flo,” he called over his shoulder. “It’s the guy with the shirts.” He spoke perfect English.
Seconds later a tiny Chinese woman appeared, bustling past the young man, carrying my shirts in her doll-like hands. Her name badge carried the unlikely name of FLO.
“Hay-ro. I am Fro.” She gave a little curtsy, and in a high sing-song voice, began scolding me. “You blake buttons.”
Fro? Blake? Oh, yes. FLO. Break buttons. “That’s right.”
“You be more careful, Mista Kip.” She seemed angry.
She shook her head. “These shirts, they no good.” She yanked the plastic off the one in front, flipped it around, and pointed an accusing finger at the seam. “You see?”
“Umm…no. What am I looking at, Flo?”
“This vel-ly bad work. You see-ry man, pay money for this.”
Silly man? “I’m sorry, Flo. I didn’t know. I need to go.” I stammered, realizing I was speaking in rhymes. “Did you fix my buttons?” I really wanted to leave.
She glared at me, as if I was making fun of her. “Yes! I fix buttons. You see-ry man, Mista Kip. Why you buy shirts so big?”
“You a vel-ly fat man, Mista Kip. You roos some weight now, and you no blake buttons, k?”
I wanted to explain the whole thing with my neck size, but didn’t know where to begin. “Thank you, Flo,” I mumbled, and gave her my debit card.
She handed me the receipt. “Next time, you bling new shirts to Fro, and I do good job for you, k?” I just nodded my head and smiled, backing towards the door. As I turned and fled, I heard Flo call out behind me. “You have good day, Mista Kip. You mind buttons now.”
I hate wearing ties.