Tales from the Panty Bar: My Last Day

Five years spent working in a popular lingerie store digs into my memory like ill-fitting underwire into a ribcage.

Five years spent working in a popular lingerie store digs into my memory like ill-fitting underwire into a ribcage.

Quitting in a storm of blazing glory is every disgruntled employee’s dream. Unfortunately, when I had my last day at Lingerie Store, I wasn’t certain if it was my last day. I was moving to D.C. without a job lined up, and I couldn’t be sure if I would need to transfer stores. So as much as I wanted to light my bridges on fire and watch them burn, I couldn’t.

If only I could send a note back to 2011, it would say, “Yell at the man with the stained brown women’s underwear.”

On my last day, I was working the cash register. I believe it was a weekday, so things were fairly slow. At Lingerie Store, our return policy was to take back everything. EVERYTHING. (I had many thoughts on this topic. None of them good.) So this man, with his two teenage daughters in tow, approaches the register and puts down a bag, saying that he’d like to exchange these underwear. No, he doesn’t have a receipt.

I pull the underwear out of the bag. Firstly, they are old. They’re a style we haven’t had in a few years. Secondly, THEY ARE COVERED IN BROWN STREAKS. EVERYWHERE. Not just the inside. I… I just don’t even know how this could have occurred. Did someone run out of toilet paper? Did someone pour coffee right into the bag and then let it sit in the car for three years? No idea what I was looking at.

There was a moment–a moment that had the potential to be beautiful–where I laid out the stained underwear and looked the man dead in the eyes. This was it. The moment where I could have finally let a customer with a gross return just have it.

But I didn’t.

I did manage to say, “Do I even want to know what happened to these?” And he just shrugged, as his teenage daughters pranced around the store looking for the frilly pink underwear they wanted in exchange.

The only burning that took place was from the scalding water I used to wash my hands afterwards.

Tales from the Panty Trenches: Five Years at a Lingerie Store

Most people who know me know that I spent five years working at a popular lingerie store. That shall go unnamed. That you can probably immediately guess the identity of.

There are so many factors that contributed to the utter weirdness of those five years. The fact that it was underwear. The fact that it was in a shopping mall. The fact that we were in a fairly high-crime area near a highway that led to other high-crime areas. The fact that we were situated directly between an area of deep poverty and an area of excessive wealth in a mall that hadn’t been renovated since the 70s. The fact that we were a “training store” for lower-tier managers to gain experience in order to move up to the big leagues.

And the fact that people–in general–are crazy.

Absolutely. Freaking. Insane.

And our store caught fire once.

I’ve learned that people have no shame in an underwear store. People wouldn’t even think about walking in and flashing the sales associates or asking us to check the back tag in their panties to see the size. While they’re wearing them. (That was the ladies.) Or asking a sales associate to try on underwear for you, since your wife looks about the same size and you want to see if it’ll fit. (That was the gents. It happened a lot.)

I have touched the bodily fluids of more people than I care to remember.

I have seen boobs. So many boobs. Of all ages and sizes.

I’ve been yelled at. Harassed. Screamed at. Degraded. Photographed. All completely unprovoked. By men, women, teenagers, mothers, brides, religious fanatics, feminists, crazy people, shoplifters, cancer patients, overweight women, management, and people who were just having a regular ol’ bad day and wanted to take it out on someone who couldn’t fight back. Sometimes these folks had real, legitimate concerns that I was helpless to assist with. (“Do you have any sizes above a 38 band?” “Do you have a bra for a woman who’s just had a mastectomy?”) Sometimes they just wanted to throw giftcard boxes at me and try to get stuff for free.

You do not truly know Sisyphus’ dilemma till you’ve spent hour after hour just walking around a panty bar, continually straightening, never finishing because as soon as you’re done with a section, someone rifles through it.

One time, there was a blizzard and no one was allowed to go home because the mall refused to close, so the Gap staged a coup.

What I’m trying to say is… I’ve got stories. It is time to put them somewhere. (It’s certainly cheaper than therapy.) Stay tuned.