Ficklish Blog

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Shiny New Suit

So, for the last couple of months at work I’ve been busily planning a major event. It’s something fairly ambitious that the organisation has never done before, and rather alarmingly, has been mostly left up to me to arrange. It’s been an interesting process – difficult and frustrating most of the time, but I have learned a great deal and now the day is here. The champagne is ordered, the production company is briefed, a few hundred people have said they’ll attend. Everything is ready. I’m nervous, but it’s now mostly out of my control.

When I was in NYC last month I did a lot of shopping. One of my purchases was a swanky new suit. I've never owned anything quite like it, and I am very pleased with it. I haven't worn it yet - for one thing, my workplace is fairly business casual and so if I'd worn it on any old day people would have assumed I had a job interview. For another, it is so pretty I felt like it needed a suitably grand occasion. When I got it home I hung it in my wardrobe, thinking, “I know. I’ll save it for the reception. That can be its debut.” On the weekend I took a peek at it to make sure it didn’t need pressing. All was in order.

Or so I thought.

Last evening, I took it out of its bag and hung it on the outside of the wardrobe door, ready to try it on with different tops, to see which worked best. As I reached for the jacket, a fold of fabric fell open and my heart sank.

The security tag was still attached.

Oh, fuck. A giant chunk of plastic, affixed under the armpit of the jacket, hanging there like I’d shoplifted the damn thing. I sent some very uncharitable thoughts in the direction of that hapless shop assistant in New York, and then at myself for not checking earlier. Why didn’t I check? AARRRRGGGHHH!

What the hell was I going to do? Try and get another shop to take the tag off? They'll assume I stole it. Where is my receipt? I can go to a shop where they don't sell this designer. No, they'll just assume I stole it from somewhere else. Bugger! My first meeting was at 8:30am today, there wasn’t going to be time – which also meant I wasn’t going to be able to duck into anywhere to pick up something new.

[It’s probably important to note at this point that I threw out my old suit last month after a different event – tired of stapling the hems together and pretending that the jacket wasn’t almost worn through. Oh, how I longed for that old shabby suit at that moment. I would have given anything to see its friendly grey face. ]

When I caught myself wondering if I could get away with pretending I hadn't noticed it was there ("maybe if I just keep my arm jammed against my side like this..."), it was clear there was nothing else for it. I had to get the tag off. Here are the steps I took to address the situation:

1. Panic and swear. (done!)

2. Run for the toolkit. (I am a woman of the modern world, I own my own tool kit). I pulled out a screwdriver and tried to break the stupid thing by brute force. No luck.

3. I turned to Google. A quick search revealed a million stories just like my own. Responses to the plaintive cries for help included “don’t lie, you filthy shoplifter”; ‘be careful! Some of these tags have dye in them!”, “smash it with a hammer” and “try a magnet”.

The last option seemed the sanest. I then went to step 4.

4. Ask my flatmate for help.

Knock knock. “Frankie?” (Frankie had retired for the evening some time ago).


“Um. Do you have a magnet?”

He came to his door. “What?”

I explained the situation.

Bless him, his first response was to ask if I had searched on the Internet (we are children of our age). When I explained the magnet suggestion, he informed me sadly that he did not have a magnet. Then his face brightened and he got excited.

“We could always try running a current through an insulated wire and…”

“Um, Frankie? That doesn’t really sound like a good idea.”

“No, I guess not. Well, let’s have a go at this then.”

Frankie assessed the situation thoughtfully. He carefully slid his library card under the tag, to protect the fabric, then took the screwdriver and started to prise around the edges of the tag. For a while, nothing happened. The tension grew. I started to panic all over again.

Then, there was some movement. As I held the jacket and braced my hand against the long part of the tag, he gently levered the pieces apart.

“What’s that cracking sound?”

“Maybe that’s the plastic giving way?”

“Actually, I think that’s my library card.”

He was right. I hope the Borough of Hackney doesn’t fine him for a new one.

He did it, you know. Frankie totally saved the day. The pin holding the two pieces together gradually became visible and he was able to reach for the pliers and pull the tag off. You couldn’t see so much as a pinhole in the fabric where the tag had been. He was brilliant. I'm going to start a criminal syndicate so that he can be the CEO.

Everyone needs a flatmate like Frankie. Now if that’s the only thing that goes wrong with this event, I’m going to be a VERY happy person this time tomorrow.