You probably can’t tell from my writing, nor even my pictures, but I’m a bit of a dandy. I like to dress and I take advantage of the opportunities I am given to do so. I am thwarted in this desire while at work. You see I am a bicycle mechanic by trade and that means that I am regularly in touch with dirty black grease that stains both my hands and clothing but leaves my heart untouched! At work I dress as though I were a Ninja. Black. Black shoes, black shirt, black belt and black socks. A former co-worker used to call me Father Keith and others have referred to me as Johnny Cash, The Man In Black.
Even though I wear black clothing that is modestly priced I still like to have some flair, some panache, some sartorial splendor. My aging trousseau had lost its luster and was in need of replacement. While low cost is important to me when clothing myself for work, after all I am going to ruin them, I eschew Good Will or the Salvation Army. It’s not that I’m too proud, just that I can afford to shop elsewhere and I can find clothes that work for me in much less time if there is a size run of what interests me. Besides, I’m a point in my life where I donate to Good Will far more regularly than I shop there.
So my choice for discount clothing is the mega chain Kohl’s. Kohl’s marketing runs counter to everything in which I believe. They are the kings of mark up to mark down, a sales strategy that I find disturbing. So why do I shop there? Because they are close by and cheap and I can usually find something appropriate in their 70 to 80% off rack.
Alas, yesterday’s adventure in cheap clothing proved the exception. The ultra clearance rack was void of appropriate clothing in my black, black or black color preference so I was forced to move on to other areas of the store where the pants didn’t say, “Original Price $69.99 Clearance Price $7.99” as I had hoped.
My strategy when shopping at a mark up to mark down store is simple, I look for items that I want and determine if the cost that I will pay is in line with what I think the item is worth. The seventy dollar clearance pants were probably worth $25 to me so I would gladly pay $8, but no one in his right mind would think the pants ever fetched the price from which they had supposedly tumbled. I found a pair of black jeans, Kohl’s house brand (on sale for $19.99!) and a pair of plain front black khakis in a slim cut identically priced and marketed. I was willing to pay twenty dollars for work pants that make me look
pretty acceptable and I had an ace up my sleeve, the coveted, secret, Kohl’s 20 percent off coupon!
My wife and I bought a throw rug, two pairs of pants and a pair of fuzzy balls that were marketed as touch screen cleaners. When we were rung through four things happened that always happen to me when I shop at Kohl’s with my wife.
The first thing that happened was the cashier said, “And you saved six billion, five hundred eighteen million, four hundred seventy two thousand, five hundred eighty six dollars and twenty seven cents today!”
To which I responded, “No I didn’t! No one would have spent six and a half billion dollars on the hundred dollars worth of stuff we got here! Sheesh!”
My long suffering wife then said, “Stop it! She’s just doing her job!” (Her job is to lie to me? Really?)
And then the cashier said, “And here’s your Khol’s cash worth ten dollars off your next Kohl’s purchase! It’s valid after Thursday!”
I went home, threw my new pants in the hamper to be washed (Never wear dark clothes against your skin unless they have been washed first, the dye can be very irritating.) and went about my daily business.
Yet today as I was cycling to work I had a revelation. I had waded through dozens of pairs of pastel colored skinny jeans because I was narrowly searching for black work pants! I love pastel colored skinny jeans and had I not had my focus so tightly centered I would probably have found an irresistible pair or two.
Which leads me back to bike wrenching. One of the things that I find disturbing is allowing you, dear rider, to tell me what’s wrong with your bike. Not the symptom, but the problem. It is akin to me going into my doctor’s office and telling him what ailment I have and demanding treatment. This is seldom a wise course of action because even though your aunt Bessie came down with a bad case of tuberculosis a few years back and your friend Steve’s bike was making the exact same noise and his problem was the crack a lack convertor in his BB 30 muffler bearings that doesn’t mean that your cough is also T.B. or that the sound you hear emanating from your bike is caused by the same root problem as Steve’s.
Bicycles are made up of many parts and should be looked at as whole machines and diagnosed on their totality, not some tiny subset if information that your cycling buddy told you or that you read on the internet or saw on You Tube! When we become narrowly focused we miss the big picture and our answers may not even address the questions that should have been asked.
What does any of this have to do with flower power you may ask? Flowers are a metaphor. The pastel skinny jeans that were right in front of my eyes on the Kohl’s rack were my flowers.
My flowers! Flowers that I love and value and would have plucked and taken home to love and care for! (Okay, at least taken home to wear places other than work!) But instead my narrow focus (“The Black”) limited my vision and overwhelmed my flower power.
So as I rode to work this morning I chastised myself for not seeing the forest for the trees, or the pastels for the blacks, as the case may be. Had I not been so narrowly focused I would have seen far more clearly what was right in front of my eyes, just as when I look at a bicycle in need of repair I need to listen to the symptoms that its owner reports to me and then make a diagnosis based on what I find, not on what he thinks I should find.
‘Cause I’ve been doing this for a while and while I need to listen to and respect you, you’re really paying me to look at the whole bike and think for myself. That’s what expertise is. If that model doesn’t work for you then maybe a little self surgery is right up your alley too.
About the pastel skinnys? I’m going back Thursday with that ten dollar Kohl’s coupon and find a couple pairs on the clearance rack and my 53 year old behind ‘ll look good in ’em too!