Like most tragedies in life, today’s caught me completely unaware and unprepared.
For many years I have eschewed a heavy winter coat in favor of a layered winter ensemble consisting of perhaps a suit jacket, then a light warm-up jacket, then my trusty mod-squad brown leather jacket, topped with a scarf. It’s enough layers to keep me feeling insulated without the claustrophobic implications of a dowdy jacket.
This morning was cold enough to warrant the full layered ensemble, which I carefully arranged even as the clock crept towards making me late for work. The layers kept me from overheating as I nearly jogged from my house to the Orange Line, haplessly flinginging myself onto the second car as my lateness extended from seconds to minutes.
Fast forward past my triumphant entry to work sans five inches of curly hair and a highly efficient morning meeting. I sit down at my desk with a sigh and notice a smear of something on my right pant leg.
How in the world did I get this reddish paste – it looked like orange marmalade – on my dress pants? I carefully sloughed it away with a napkin, using a damp edge to pick up the remaining crumbs.
Must’ve bumped into someone’s bagel on the elevator, I thought.
I continued thinking that until I noticed more of the strange orange substance on the tail of my suit jacket, and all over the seat of my pants, and also strewn across the lower back panel of my treasured mod-squad jacket.
I wasn’t so worried about the jacket, which has suffered many indignities over the years, so much as I was concerned about the suit – my favorite one. Luckily, I had another suit waiting for me at the cleaners. I could walk to the cleaners, turn over my suit and leather jacket for cleaning, and come back wearing a clean suit.
Down the elevator I went, and across the street to the cleaners. When I arrived I helplessly flung my leather jacket onto the counter and breathlessly explained the problem.
“… and I know this jacket is a little beat up, but it’s my favorite, and I just want you to get this stuff off without it leaving a stain, and the same for my suit.”
The man behind the counter tilted his head and spoke to me in a slow, patronizing tone.
“Sir, I really can’t do anything for the coat now that you’ve let it wear through to the lining.”
Now, many of you have seen me digitally or physically wearing the mod-squad jacket, and though I might have let bits of it get slightly tatty, I’ve never literally worn it through. So, imagine my surprise when I looked down past his patronizing gesturing hand to discover that the strange orange marmalade was now encrusted around a quarter-sized hole in my jacket that – yes – showed through to the lining.
After a moment of consideration I decided that said hole definitely was not present when I examined my jacket in the office. The orange marmalade had eaten through my jacket.
How had my life gone from a typically busy morning of corporate communications to some oddball Jack Bauer subplot? What could I have possibly rubbed up against between my front door and my desk that would eat a hole through otherwise impervious 30-year-old leather?
Why was I still wearing a suit covered in the stuff?
I swiftly stripped down behind the cleaner’s changing curtain as they retrieved my on-hold suit, passing it into the booth in exchange for my soiled clothes. I came out of the store sans-coat, clutching my suit jacket closed with one arm and holding my mod-squad jacket (rejected by the cleaners) far away from my body with the other.
And that was all before lunch.
To the best that anyone has conjectured, at some point I leaned against some element of Septa that had recently been liberated-from or treated-for rust, and the mixture of the solvent involved and the leftover grit wound up pasted across my backside. Curiously, it didn’t seem to be harming my suit (nor my briefcase, which I noticed was slathered in the stuff hours later).
The upshot is that my beloved mod-squad jacket is now wrapped in airtight dry-cleaner’s plastic, probably on the way to an ignoble end in an industrial strength trash bag, and my best-fitting suit is at the cleaners being de-marmaladed (if such a thing is even possible) and I won’t know the outcome until the morning.
Frazzled, distraught, and facing a walk home in the cold without a jacket, at 5pm I decided that I could not let Septa’s passive act of terrorism against my fashionable layering cow me into inaction and dowdiness. I would fight back the only way I know how – with an ample credit limit and a trip to Kenneth Cole.
Now, if only I could figure out a way for this story to end with Septa picking up my K.C. credit card bill I could say I lived happily ever after with my new perfectly-fitted not-too-warm winter jacket (and accompanying splurge-shoes).