Thriftstore Jeans

This morning I was getting dressed and noticed a design flaw in a pair of corduroys Denise found for me at the thrift store that makes them uncomfortable in certain situations. Over the years, I’ve noticed that clothes I buy at the thrift store or some overstock/bargain outlets like Ross or Marshall’s have some quirky characteristic such as too few belt loops, shallow pockets, buttons too high on the collar or inaccurate sizing (just to name a few). I always wonder if that’s why an otherwise attractive garment failed to sell or was returned or discarded to a thrift store. In my case, if the flaw in the item is not too obvious or uncomfortable or inconvenient, I’ll gladly wear it for a fraction of the cost of a quality garment.

And, in discussing this, I was reminded of a humorous anecdote. I’ve got hundreds of these comical vignettes after working for the Postal Service and particularly my years spent in small rural Post Offices. This one took place in Camptonville, which is a little town that was founded during the California Gold Rush — it’s still a respectable size. When I arrived in 1988, the place was considerably rougher than today and it was sorta like going back in time to the Wild West — I’ll talk about that in other posts.

There was a miner living in town, who was originally from Texas. He was a real sourdough with a rough, gravelly voice, who always seemed to be living just outside the law. Well, a couple years before he passed away (rest his soul), he fell on hard times — his years of living out in the open, as well as his hard-drinking and carousing, finally began to slow down his clock. Now, I knew a number of men and women like old Leonard (not his real name) — most of them didn’t give me trouble like they did others because I was Federal. And, in most cases I genuinely liked a lot of the outlaw types — they seemed to think I was okay.

Well, when things were really getting low for Leonard, he came in one day and needed to take care of some financial business with a money order. His beard and hair were a bit wild, he was barefoot, had no shirt on and his belly was hovering over his belt. When I came up with the total, Leonard went searching in the pockets of his jeans for the last bit of change. It took him literally minutes before he painfully coaxed the coins out, cursing all the way and lamenting how the pockets on these new-fangled designer jeans were getting smaller and smaller. This was common banter with customers — being a rural Postmaster is a lot like tending bar — you find yourself filling a number of roles and one of them is to be a sounding board for people’s troubles and complaints that have nothing to do with the Postal Service.

With the transaction finished and the cussing over, I slapped a stamp on the envelope, and Leonard turned around to leave a satisfied, but not necessarily happy, customer. I was putting the change in my drawer and saying my goodbyes as he headed out of the lobby. I immediately noticed what I thought were embroidered flowers on the back pocket of his jeans and squinted my eyes to see the Chic logo. It took me a couple of seconds to realize Leonard had picked up a pair of women’s jeans at the thrift store and, like myself and many other men, had no idea that women’s jeans have smaller pockets in the front! I confirmed that later with Denise. I was amused at the sight of a crusty old placer miner heading past my window and on up the street of this rough and tumble mining town in 80’s women’s jeans — and, nothing else. Looking back, I decided I should be open to the notion that, perhaps, Leonard may have actually been a trendsetter!

Someday, I’ll talk about the differences I noticed between men and women working for the Postal Service, where the use of ink pens is crucial to the mission.

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