My dear friend and fellow blog writer, Katie Martin recently challenged me; and everyone else reading her blog to write something about themselves that is totally out of the box; be it something funny, or deadly serious. I accepted the challenge (cue music from Mission Impossible) and started thinking (and yes, no need to remind me, the concept of me thinking will either bring on fits of unending laughter or will have you running to the closest coffee pot to brew a batch of Death Wish Coffee®) of an out of the box story of my own life (then I realized I plenty of ’em!). It was then that I remembered a story from my college days that is undoubtedly the most hilarious thing that could have happened to me; so, grab a cup o’ joe, or your favourite adult beverage, and get ready for a giggle or two.
Follow me if you will and step on the Tardis to go back in time to the late 80’s in Toronto. Die Hard, Beetlejuice and A Fish Called Wanda were big at the box office, and everyone was listening to Enya and Robert Palmer and fists flew beating the air every time U2 sung “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, and at the time I was working for a menswear store called Tip Top Tailors while finishing up my final year of college. It all happened on one of those rare days that I had no classes and was picking up a few extra daytime hours that the store manager told me I had laboured long enough selling sweaters and shirts and ties that I was now officially permitted to sell suits. Someone just throw a gold medal around my neck, start playing the theme to “Chariots of Fire” and slow the picture down frame by frame as I enjoyed every second of my victory lap to the back of the store where only the experienced sales slaves are allowed to go to sell the finest clothes and double-breasted suits that the store had to offer. (Yes, I said “double-breasted suits”, this was the height of the 80’s after all!) What happened next had me totally convinced that the retail gods also felt my time had come and decided to smile down on me. The retail gods also showed me what an incredible sense of humor they had…
Two ladies, a mother and daughter of Italian decent walked into the store and right back to the suit section. The mother had a thick Italian accent and could have easily passed for the Godfather’s wife, and because of her mother’s accent, the daughter, Grace was more or less her mother’s translator. I gave them the traditional two minutes to walk around and then armed with all the sales scripts memorized in my head, decided it was suit sale time!
They both smiled and giggled as I asked the myriad of open-ended questions that all retail folks are told to ask. The mother smiled and pushed Grace towards me to work out the sale. Our conversation almost read like a comedy script (and please pardon the occasional bit of broken-Italian…it makes the story SO much funnier)
Me: “Is the gentleman who will be wearing the suit with you today?”
Grace: “No. The suit is for my dad, but he won’t be here.”
Me: “Okay, what size of suit will he need?”
Grace: “We looked at one of his other suits, and he wore a size 48.”
Brief intermission here: now, I don’t know anything about women’s clothing, but can tell you pretty confidently being a menswear salesman, that any guy who wears a size 48 suit is not just big…he’s HUGE!!! So, in my mind, I started to draw up a picture of this guy. I’ll betcha his name was Vito, and any guy who is this big is probably a big-wig in the construction industry. Intermission over, back to the conversation…
Me: “What color suit can I show you? We have a large selection…black, blue, pinstripe, gray three-piece…?”
“Gray three-piece!!!” Grace and her mom exclaimed in unison together.
Me: “Um…okay…er, how about a shirt and tie?”
Grace (after getting the nod of approval from her mom): “Yes. A shirt and tie would be nice.”
Me: What size of a shirt will he need?”
Grace: “Ummm…a size 18.”
Brief intermission again…a size 18??!! This guy must be HUGE and in addition to his name possibly being Vito, and possibly being a big wig in the construction industry must have had a LOT of money and live in Woodbridge (a section of town just outside Toronto where some very wealthy Italians live since Grace and her mom were very well dressed) Back to the conversation…and here is where the wheels fall off the wagon and the laughter begins…
Me: “Okay, we got the suit, we got the shirt, we got the tie…now, will the suit need alterations? The pants aren’t hemmed.”
Me (sensing danger): “No?”
The mother, who had been silent up until this point laughed out loud and came forward, put her arm around me and after leading me to the register, placed a hand on my shoulder, and in her best broken Italian English with the most incredible amount of love and compassion said, “Mike, you’ve a-done a marvelous job and made something that me and Grace dreaded doing today so much easier. You see, my husband’s a-only gonna wear da suit once. You see, he’s a-dead.” Instantly I went silent, unable to say a word, or even express my sorrow. Fortunately, as I wrapped the suit up and handed it to the mother, she gave me a kiss on the cheek and a wink that she understood.
About a week later during my typical Saturday morning shift, as I walked the back of the store hunting for my next double-breasted suit sale (yes, I did say “double-breasted suit” again, after all, this is the height of the 80’s!!), the store manager came running up to me and said, “you have a customer at the front of the store who wants to see you like, now!” After a huge eye roll, I started to the front of store muttering “what now?” under my breath. A smile filled my face seeing that it was Grace and her mother! Not wasting a second, the mother (who then told me her name was Carmen) walked up to me and gave me the biggest hug and said “Mike, I tell-a you, Vito went to God lookin’ like a million-a bucks!” I then asked if they could answer a few questions. They agreed wholeheartedly. Here’s the final funny script…
Me: “So, Vito was his name?”
Hmmm…funny, the Godfather’s name was Vito.
Me (to the mother): “Your name is Carmen?”
Hmmm…funny, the Godfather’s wife’s name was Carmen.
Me: “What did Vito do for a living before he passed?”
Grace: “He owned a custom home construction company and was called the ‘Godfather of Custom Homes.'”
Hmmm…I thought he owned a construction company and was the big-wig of it!
Me: “You don’t happen to live in Woodbridge do you?”
Grace: “We do! And daddy built us the biggest home at the end of the cul-de-sac!”
Hmm…I thought they would have lived in Woodbridge.
Me: “One final question, Vito was a big man stature wise, right?”
Carmen: “Oh yes dear, he was. I mean-a you saw da size of his-a suit, he was-a HUGE!!!”
Of course, I didn’t have to question if Vito was a rich man because as Carmen and Grace gave me another appreciative hug and kiss on the cheek and made their way out of the store, Carmen pressed a $100 bill in my hand and said with a wink as she walked away, “You unique. After all, you-a dressed a dead man!”
Yep, my all-time out-of-the-box story is that I dressed a dead man.
And it’s the funniest damn thing that’s ever happened to me!
(If you want to read and follow Katie Martin’s awesomely funny and sensible blog, here it is: https://midwaymindsetblog.com)….and be sure to follow my blog as well! 🙂