Friday, November 30, 2007

....aaaand SCENE!


Welcome to the end of NaBloPoMo.

I was driving home today, and was fixated on getting to Trader Joes and buying a eucalyptus wreath. I thought it would be a modern update to the season, and I love the way it smells.

I didn't end up buying it, because it was dried, like you'd find in a flower store, and the berries were glued on it, with sloppy glue-gun work and all.

There were regular wreaths there, too, but I despise regular wreaths.
And the reason is this:

My freshman year in college, I went home for the winter break (from California to Ohio). I was expected to get a winter job, and did. I worked at a wreath-making operation, I don't remember where. We stood outside in these huge plastic warehouse tents, and although it warmed up, it was never really warm. Ohio is bitterly cold in the winter. We could not wear gloves, because it impeded our dexterity. The base of the wreaths is a double layer of green wire, stretched into a circle. You take the evergreen branches, which were pre-cut, mostly, but still needed to be de-twigged into the proper "lie" on the metal frame. You would place an evergreen strand on the metal wire, and take thin green wire from these giant spools to secure it. You would do probably 30 times per wreath, and we made about 30 wreaths a day. It was agony. By the end of the day your hands were cracked, tacky with pine and bleeding. The smell of pine is very antiseptic after a while, and the whole thing is pretty miserable. I worked there for a week, and then quit in search of more comfortable pastures. One thing that was illuminating for me was that I actually worked with a girl that I had gone to junior high with. She'd married badly, right out of high school and they had a daughter. Every day her husband would shuffle up their cute kid and pick Angie up. What was illuminating to me was that I was home for about a month on my Christmas break, and this was Angie's life. Not making wreaths, of course, but small-time seasonal jobs to make ends meet. And this was a story for me, something to blog when it crossed my mind, 11 years later.

I moved from the wreath place to Ken's Nursery & Crafts. (help me out here, CLP, am I right on the name?) It was still (of course) Christmas time, but this time I was sent to help the plant arrangement people. Now, in Ken's Flower Shop, there was a clear ranking of placement in the store. You had different departments. There was sales, and they had their manager, floral arranging, with their own, dominatrix bitch of a manager, and the plant section, the lowest on the totem pole. The manager of the plant section was a guy named Gary, who was in his early 50's and lived alone, except for his African Grey Parrot. He adored the parrot, and had suffered from colon cancer, and had had many surgeries. We connected instantly, oddly enough, this young girl in college with a pierced nose and Gary, who'd been at Ken's for 10 years. I had a blast in this department. We were a motley crew of losers, and we'd laugh and talk and turn out planter arrangements up a storm. The poinsettias came in and I was given the task of making poinsettia arrangements in the store. While I loved making the displays, and got creative and stacked and tiered and made glorious huge displays, I began to despise poinsettias. They are fragile, fragile plants, and a careless twitch of your hand can decimate an entire stalk. They also need to be watered - nearly daily. They were a complete pain in my ass, which is probably why the new girl got out of the work area and into the shop.

To this day I think of Gary when I see a poinsettia. We wrote letters for almost a year after I went back to school. He was my friend. He was a good guy and I think we both brought some warmth and cheer that season, to each other.

But I still hate poinsettias. I would never have them in any house of mine.
(plus they are poisonous to cats!)

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

See, now, I have this theory.

I think it's mostly women who have that bit in their brain that remembers flower names, and lyrics to songs.

I think men also have the song bit, but it only works after a few drinks.

Heheh - imagine if a guy started spouting flower identifications on the way home from the pub?!