Whenever I was looking to buy some casual or "smart casual" clothing without resorting to something that would make me look nerdier than usual, one of the first places I would go to shop would be the Turning Point store in Mondawmin Mall.
Mondawmin Mall is itself a quintessential Baltimoron institution. One of the oldest urban malls in the country, Mondawmin was built in 1956, and has had its share of ups and downs over the last half-century plus. In recent years, with the gentrification of some of the surrounding neighborhoods, the old mall has undergone some renovations, including the building of a Target and a Shopper's Food Warehouse, giving the residents of the immediate area convenient access to quality establishments that sold something other than sneakers, hip hop clothing, fast food and music for the first time in who knows when. However, although the Mall's new look has been hailed for creating a diverse range of customers, the truth is that while the Target (and to a lesser extent, the Shopper's Food Warehouse) - both on the periphery of the mall - does indeed enjoy a diverse range of customers, the central part of the mall itself is still a place into which few White people dare to venture. I guess in that way Mondawmin Mall is like many big cities. But I digress...
One the big drawing points of the Turning Point establishment, in addition to its selection of clothes and its prices, was the makeup of its sales force, namely women. And I'm not talking about just any old women, but some seriously FINE, booty- and boobalicious young ladies with clingy outfits, beautifully done hair, nails, and make up, and big, brilliant smiles - well, except for the one young lady who had this one lone tooth that was kind of brownish and stuck out in front of the rest of her teeth. That tooth could be distracting, no doubt, but she may have had the best body of all the girls in the store (and that's saying something), plus she seemed to have the most personality of the bunch, and she was actually still a very pretty young lady - I mean, you know, with her mouth closed. Needless to say, I looked forward to shopping at the Turning Point for more reasons than just its selection of clothing...
So one evening recently I was out doing a little shopping and I decided to duck into Turning Point to see if they had anything I wanted. As I walked into the entrance, something seemed very odd. Where are all the ladies? There wasn't a single female salesperson in sight. Instead there was a Sikh gentleman who nodded and said hello. I almost felt like backing out of the store and looking up at the sign to see if I was in the right place. But I decided to venture in and see what was what.
Not long after I wandered in, I noticed a heavyset 30-something brother wearing a hoodie, long white T-shirt, and baggy, saggy jeans approaching me. I didn't pay it too much mind, but then...I was attacked! I got hit by a Bruce Lee kick square in the nose by his funky ass breath! "Uh hey, how you doin', good evening. Are you looking for anything in particular that I can help you with?"
WHAT? THIS is a salesman? Where the hell are the ladies? How did I end up with this dragon breath over aged yo boy who in no way looks or smells like someone who ought to be doing (legal) business with anybody, trying to sell me some damned clothes? I need to go talk to that Sikh guy to find out what the hell is up...
"Nah, I'm just looking around for right now."
"OK, cool, well let me know if you need any help with anything."
"Yeah, OK", I said, still looking around to see if any of the ladies was there somewhere - or at least a brother who was actually dressed like someone trying to sell some clothes. Oh well...
So I started off looking at some button down shirts, and came across a purple one that I liked, only I couldn't find one that was exactly my size. Some were my neck size but not the right sleeve length, some were the right sleeve length but the wrong neck size, everything else was wrong for me in both measurements. I was just about to move on to look at something else when I spotted Mr. Stank Breath out of the corner of my eye closing in on me - fast. I braced for his arrival, and turned my head to try to avoid the stank- but I was just a split second too late, awwwww damn!
"I see you like that purple shirt."
"Yeah, but I didn't see any in there were exactly my size."
"Oh really, what size you wear?"
"16 neck, 32/33 sleeve."
"Let me look through there again and see what we got."
"Okay, whatever." I moved on to another part of the store, temporarily freed from Mr. Stank Breath, while he occupied himself looking for a shirt that wasn't there. Alas, the freedom was fleeting; Mr. SB was back in my face again, with the shirt I had been checking out, along with a sweater to go with it - a sweater which I already owned one of - and a bowtie.
"What do think of this combination, my man?"
"Well I already have that sweater, and the color of that bowtie is a little off. You found the right size shirt?"
He handed the shirt to me. "Uh, this is a 16, 34/35; the sleeves are going to be too long. This is what I had in my hand when you came over." Dude looked stunned, almost like he thought I wouldn't know the difference, or wouldn't care. Off he went, and I got back to my shopping. A few minutes later, he was back again - with a purple suit (remember, this is a Baltimoron store). I cut him off before he could say a word:
"Man, I like purple, but I'm not wearing a whole suit of it." Off he went again, only to return with a shirt, some grey slacks (which actually were pretty nice) and some shoes -purple, of course, striped with patent leather and suede striping...
"I am NOT going to even try those on", I laughed. "I like the pants, but purple shoes? I don't think so."
"Man, these are HOT!" Yeah, a hot MESS...
"Too hot for me. You found a shirt?" He shows me the shirt. "Um, this is 16-1/2, 32/33, sleeves are right, but the neck will be a little loose."
"This is close, though. You should be good."
"Nah, I don't do close on clothes I'm paying good money for." I replied, as I headed for the exit, leaving him standing there with a wrong-fitting shirt and clown shoes.
On the way out, the Sikh gentleman, who apparently had been observing from a distance, approached me. "He is new." No shit, Sherlock, what happened to the eyecandy? He is a little overeager." Ya think? I nodded and forced a smile.
"So you didn't find anything?"
"I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, although there was a shirt I liked that you didn't have in my size." I would've stayed longer and looked at more stuff if Mr. Stank Breath had stayed out of my face...
"Well, we have new shipment coming in next week. You should come back." Will the ladies be working again?
"Yeah, I may just do that." It would certainly help if you replaced Mr. Breath with one of the ladies - even the one with the jacked up toofus...
Well, in the 3 months since then, I've made several trips to Mondawmin Mall, and I always walk past Turning Point and take a peek in the window - no women. A couple times I saw Mr. Stank Breath and got the hell out of dodge with a quickness. I guess eventually I'll go back in and get a little shopping done, although, Mr. Sikh owner, that shopping might happen a little sooner if you make things right with the world and bring back those lovely sales ladies.
Even the one with the jacked up tooth...