I was 22 once. And when I was, this happened.
As the days grew closer to Christmas, Harrods was unable to insure their delivery trucks (for local deliveries) or Her Majesty’s Royal Mail Service (for deliveries to “The Continent” or perhaps even America) would get the gifts to their destinations on time. What use would they be if after that?
“Remember that big holiday we just had? Well these are for then.”
“I got my Christmas gifts after Christmas!”
Certain fodder for therapy.
Harrods “Trauma-Preventing Policy” was to cut off deliveries and mailings five days before Christmas, requiring all last-minute shopping to be carried away by their purchasers.
After December the 20th, packages, professionally wrapped by unsavory scalawags like myself, would be delivered by their wrappers to the Ground Floor “Purchase Collection Kiosk”, where customers, showing the appropriate “ticket”, would collect them, for personal transport to their intended destinations.
So there I am, carting packages to the “Collection Kiosk”, in plain sight of the Harrods customers, which was unusual, as “My kind” were kept strategically “in the back.”
Now I am out in the open, wearing less-than-recently-laundered brown corduroy pants, a faded Canadian flannel shirt and a pair of high-topped suede “desert boots.” The actual salespeople dressed differently. Something similar to “Wedding Attire.”
Before I reach my destination, I can already hear the cacophonous clamoring of an irate customer, standing at the “Collection Kiosk”, screaming her head off.
Note: I do not remember this experience verbatim, but I specifically recall my initial words, which were these:
“Lady, you are giving me a headache.”
The irate customer looked demonstrably taken aback. Not merely by my response, but by the fact, it seemed, that I was speaking to her at all.
She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, not that much older than me. Fashionable, floor-length winter coat, bordered in pristine white fur trim. Her radiant dark hair, exquisitely coiffed, was pulled back, revealing a face that was marble, not in the sense of “cold and impenetrable” but in the sense of “milky white and microscopically flawless.” (Or am I talking about porcelain. Anyway…)
She was the most beautiful Gentile woman I had ever seen in my life.
Sensing her relax her guard, I asked her to tell me – calmly – what exactly was going on. Still visibly upset, she explained that her gifts had been unacceptably packaged for overseas travel, and that there was a car waiting outside to take her to the airport so the “terrible snafu” must be corrected immediately.
“Come with me,” I instructed. Firmly. But with a conspiratorial twinkle.
I then escorted her to the toy-wrapping room, talking to her like she was a regular person, because that’s the only way I know how to talk.
Our arrival elicited spontaneous excitement – Queen Elizabeth, visiting a coalmine. I immediately told them to behave, and my assumed “authoritative tone” caused them to listen. Since there were no chairs to sit on, I offered my guest a spot on a large roll of corrugated cardboard. Which, lacking an available alternative, she accepted.
Jabbering endlessly as I worked – to distract her from the urgently “ticking clock” and from the fact I had delivered her to a hellhole – I rewrapped her purchases for overseas travel.
The ameliorating procedure involved increased protective insulation, corrugated cardboard which I procured elsewhere so she would not have to get up. The parcels were then rewrapped in signature “Harrods Green” paper, followed by the final step – the heavy twine, tied crescendoingly in a bow. For that crowning maneuver, I solicited – and received – the customer’s personal assistance. Arising elegantly from her cardboard settee, at my expert direction, she magnanimously pressed her finger onto the knot.
Problem solved, I returned Milady back to the Ground Floor, where she thanked me sincerely for my assistance, and presented me a five pound (nearly fourteen dollar) tip, which I adamantly rejected because “We’re just two people” but she insisted I take, understanding we weren’t.
“Give it to your favorite charity,” she proposed, trying to soften the blow. I said, “Sure”, appreciating the effort, if not the suggestion.
And then she was gone.
As I trudged back to my dingy workstation, I was accosted by a posse of agitated… I don’t know who they were, people in “Management”, I suppose… who bombarded me with questions.
What was the problem? Where had I taken her? Was she terribly upset? Had she mentioned the word, “lawsuit”? What had I done to her?
“She’s fine,” I assured them. “She had a problem with her parcels and I fixed it.”
Before returning to the waiting refuge of obscurity, I took a moment to inquire,
“Who was she?”
To which I was huffily informed,
“That was the Princess of Luxembourg.”
And that’s the story.
I still think about her sometimes, especially around Christmas. She probably doesn’t think about me. Which, of course, makes impeccable sense.
Only one of us was the Princess of Luxembourg.