Stupid Tuesday questions, Russell Saunders edition

The Better Half and I were visiting New York.

As part of our trip, we stopped by the clinic where I worked during my last few years in the City.  It was nice to see several of my old colleagues, but it was especially nice to surprise my favorite co-worker there.  I’ll call her Claire.  Claire is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life.  She and I would joke with each other about stuff that would probably have gotten us fired if we’d joked about it with anyone else.  I miss her.

Anyhow, we surprised Claire at work.  After catching up happily for a while, she invited us to join her the next day to drop in on yet another fondly-remembered former coworker who had left the clinic to raise a baby.  We gladly accepted.

The next morning, the Better Half and I were enjoying the City when we popped into a Gap so he could buy a belt.  (We had neglected to pack one.)  As he was making his selection, I looked up and noted the Baby Gap located within the same store.  And it occurred to me that we should pick something up for the baby.  I may have mentioned this idea to the Better Half, but I don’t remember clearly.

What I do remember clearly is that somehow we both got the notion that we couldn’t possibly buy that baby something at Baby Gap.  No.  You see, the baby’s parents were loaded.  Totally, totally loaded.  “Gigantic apartment in Tribeca” loaded.  To boot, the baby’s mother (I’ll call her Elaine) had thrown us a very lovely shower when we had our big wedding ceremony several years ago.  (We had a religious service, complete with all the trimmings.  Except, y’know…the rights.  If only we’d known to be patient for a mere almost-decade more.)  No, we needed to get the baby something appropriately luxe at a fancy boutique on the Upper East Side.

I’m going to pause and note a couple of things.  First, I’ve gotten the Better Half’s permission to tell this story.  (We don’t emerge looking like super geniuses.)  Second, I’m entirely sure that the idea of shopping in the Park Avenue region was my fault, as it would almost certainly never have occurred to the Better Half to do so.

Perhaps you can tell that this ended up being a very, very stupid decision.  But at the time it seemed just dandy.  So uptown we went.

Eventually we found a charming little boutique called “Prince & Princess.”  Sadly, it was exactly what we were looking for.  In we strolled, finding ourselves in a shop probably no bigger than my current living room.  And the walls were lined with elegant, elegant garments for exceptionally well-heeled tots.  The saleslady was tickled pink to help us, and we settled on an adorable little seersucker number.  Would we like to look at the matching hats?  Of COURSE!  Bring on the matching hats!

If you click through that link, you’ll find the option to “view collection.”  If you view the collection, you’ll see all kinds of pretty little outfits.  What won’t you see?  Prices.  Because it’s the kind of store where the cliché “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” holds.

And because I was having such a faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic time pretending that I was to the frickin’ manner born, I didn’t ask.  No, giddy little gadabout Russell just had them wrap up the cute little seersucker number with the matching frickin’ hat and forked over his credit card.

When they handed back the credit card slip to sign, emblazoned beneath the words “All Sales Final” was a total I still cannot believe was true.  Friends, it never in a hundred millions years would have occurred to me that a goddamn baby outfit could possibly cost that much.  It tells you something that I am still too embarrassed to admit how much it cost, at least not quite so publically as this.  (A cocktail or two would probably pry the sum out of me.)  Suffice it to say that I paid less for the suit I wore to residency interviews, and I bought that suit at Brooks Brothers.

But did we say “I’m sorry, there’s been a terrible mistake.  We had no idea this item cost that much.  We apologize for taking up your time” and go, perhaps a little bit abashed but otherwise no poorer?  Did we ask if maybe they’d left out the decimal point?  No, friends.  No, we did not.  Because God forbid a complete stranger upon whom we would never lay eyes again would think less of us!  God forbid we lose face in front of a woman I could not now pick out of a line-up if my life depended on it!  No.  We swallowed hard and signed for that sucker.

We were both flushed with horror and astonishment when we emerged onto the sidewalk.  Neither of us could believe we had blown our budget on a flippin’ baby outfit.  Thank God for Claire, who admitted to us as we drove to Elaine’s apartment that she had made the exact same kind of stupid decision (though not, it should be noted, to the same degree), and had bought the baby’s bath supplies at friggin’ Saks because heaven forbid you show up at an affluent person’s baby shower with an affordable gift.

Our only remaining hope was that, upon opening the gift, Elaine would… I don’t know, recognize the name of the store or something?  Swoon with gratitude for our largesse?  Maybe angels would appear and drop garlands of celestial flowers on her head when she opened the package?  But no.  She held up the baby outfit, remarked on how cute it was, and thanked us sincerely and politely.  Exactly like she would have done had we shown up with something from Baby Gap.

I have saved the receipt from that store for that gift.  I keep it as a reminder of how epically stupid I am capable of being.  Any time I need concrete proof of how ridiculously moronic I can be, and for the very most lamentable of reasons, BOOM… there is the receipt, to show me what I paid for an outfit that maybe got worn twice at most, and was quite likely soiled with stool or vomit if it was ever worn at all.

So that’s this week’s Question — have you ever done anything monumentally dumb for the sake of not losing face?  If so, was it in front of people with whom you had any kind of meaningful relationship, or can you take your place with me in the dunk tank of life for caring too much about what total strangers thought of you?  Or heck, I’ll take any story people care to cough up about doing something really idiotic for a really idiotic reason.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. That store’s web presence says everything I need to know about it. As in, “We’re not even trying. Because you know we don’t have to.”


    I’ll think this one over. Nothing is coming to mind at the moment as especially worth retelling. Though Boegiboe probably has quite a few he could name. His finds this very thing a fault of mine.

    • There was so much about that store that still flabbergasts me. (And you’re totally right — you can glean ample information about their stance vis-à-vis their customers from that lackluster website.)

      I’m a pretty “live and let live” kind of guy, but the price of those garments was jaw-dropping and obscene. (Of course, having agreed to pay said price, that rather undermines my ability to criticize it.) That the store apparently sells enough garments of that kind to remain open reminds me of how much I don’t know about the habits of the truly wealthy.

        • I cannot really understand the headspace of someone who has so much money that they would think nothing of dropping [redacted] on an outfit that will enjoy such little and limited use. But then, I’m not Park Avenue rich, am I?

          • Jim explained it over a century ago:

            “Blame de point! I reck’n I knows what I knows. En mine you, de real pint is down furder—it’s down deeper. It lays in de way Sollermun was raised. You take a man dat’s got on’y one or two chillen; is dat man gwyne to be waseful o’ chillen? No, he ain’t; he can’t ‘ford it. He know how to value ’em. But you take a man dat’s got ’bout five million chillen runnin’ roun’ de house, en it’s diffunt. He as soon chop a chile in two as a cat. Dey’s plenty mo’. A chile er two, mo’ er less, warn’t no consekens to Sollermun, dad fatch him!”

          • You can always give it to charity and then it gets more use but I generally agree.

            However, I’ve discovered with consumption that everyone has stuff that they are willing to spend money on and stuff that they are not willing to spend money on This goes for all relative income levels. However, they get confused at people who would spend money on stuff that they would not.

            I am willing to go for quality when it comes to clothing and shoes more expensive brands. This is both an aesthetic and quality of material decision. And I’ve had many people not understand this when you can go to the GAP, Banana Republic, et al.

      • great story – i started giggling as soon as i read “park ave” and “baby store”. but such is the upper east side.

        i remember walking into a boutique waaaay downtown when the wife was laden with tiny incipient person and seeing a 3 piece suit for babies – 6 mo and smaller – that cost $650.

        we left so quickly we nearly knocked over the rack of $150 toddler tee shirts.

        i’ve occasionally taken incorrect coffee orders from the lady in the bodega down the block because she’s very nice but her english is really random and i have absolutely no urdu. so i’ll get coffee that has three sugars and no milk when i wanted milk and no sugar, etc. i really don’t want to hurt her feelings even though i’m just giant white person #471 as far as she’s concerned.

        • The way I have reconciled myself to this experience so as to preserve a bit of mental health is to consider the price we paid worth it for a really great story. And the Better Half and I can now wryly remember how much we paid for the fishin’ hat alone and laugh. (And that figure you mention is eerily familiar, is all I’ll say.)

          • consider the price we paid worth it for a really great story

            Russell, baby, I can get embarrassing stories for you at fire-sale prices! Whaddya need? Sexual misadventures that may or may not involve a rare marmoset? Drug/alcohol-related vehicular snafus? Seafood that’s past its sell-by date nearly prompting an international incident?

            Call me, we’ll do lunch!

        • i’ve occasionally taken incorrect coffee orders from the lady in the bodega down the block because she’s very nice but her english is really random and i have absolutely no urdu. so i’ll get coffee that has three sugars and no milk when i wanted milk and no sugar, etc. i really don’t want to hurt her feelings even though i’m just giant white person #471 as far as she’s concerned.

          That’s not dumb, that’s very sweet. One of my big lessons in how to treat people in the service industry when when my family and I were at a pretty nice restaurant and the waiter brought my dad completely the wrong order because he’d misheard it, and Dad just went “that’s fine, this looks delicious too, I’ll keep it”. I, meanwhile, was at a phase where “this has a sauce I don’t like” was sufficient reason to refuse to eat something.

  2. Had it been me, I would have done the same thing, and then gotten the gender of the baby wrong.
    “You know, Emily is a girls name Aaron…”

  3. have you ever done anything monumentally dumb for the sake of not losing face?

    “Sure, I’ll follow those 12 beers with a shot of Jagermeister, ’cause I don’t wanna look like a puss.”

  4. There is a store in San Francisco that sells upscale-casual clothing from Japan* for men, women, and children. The stuff looks really good but is really expensive especially the stuff for toddlers. Not at the level of the prince and princess store it seems but fairly high. There is a store in Lower Pac Heights that looks like the one you strolled into.

    That being said, I am surprised that the store does not list their prices. Pretty much everyone lists their prices including upscale places like Barney’s and Bergdoff Goodman.

    To answer your question: Yes and recently.

    Westboro Baptist Church is protesting at my alma mater on Thursday because we are an “Ivy League Whorehouse” and “Fag Enabler”. The Alumni/Alumnae Association sent out an e-mail asking local chapter heads to plan events for the 28th. The San Francisco branch has monthly happy hours and our head mentioned she was too swamped to plan something. I came up with an idea and said I would facebook invite everyone that night and explain the event. Our local chapter head said she would send the plan to the Alumni Association in the morning so an official e-mail went out.

    I facebook invited all of my local contacts and other friends. No one RSVPed except one woman in San Diego with “wish I could be there”. I don’t even remember sending her an invite because of her address. As far as I know, the local chapter head never e-mailed the Alumni Association because I never received an official e-mail.

    Yesterday, I cancelled the event because of a lack of interest and my chapter head as such.

    Mainly I am a bit annoyed because everyone on facebook was getting very psyched about going against WBC but the idea of all meeting together did not fly. Or I am just not the type of person who can pull off these kind of events. Meanwhile there is a woman who is also and alum. We are not facebook friends but every now and then run into each other on the bus. I told her about the event a few weeks ago but haven’t seen her since and don’t have contact info. Now I am worried that she will show up and noone will be around. Probably not but a large part of me is tempted to show up on the 28th in case she does show up and sees no one.

    • Westboro Baptist Church is protesting at my alma mater on Thursday because we are an “Ivy League Whorehouse”

      And in the admissions’ office, recruiters are pumping their fists and yelling, “Yes, yes! Thank yooouuuuuu!”

      Just imagine what the new fight song for the fondly-nicknamed Whorehouse U. might be like.

      • We are Division III and don’t even have a football team. Our song is in Latin!

        Needless to say we are not very sporty. We have school pride but not homecoming game type stuff.

        This is going to sound like a humblebrag but my undergrad has a big endowment and enough desiring applicants not to worry about stuff like this. Now my law school is suffering because of declining tuition.

        • New Dealer, you’ve recently gained admission to the Guild. Now is the time to pivot on this position.

          Here’s your talking point: “There are too many law schools and the bar’s entrance criteria are too relaxed. What we need is greater selectivity, because the quality of legal services being offered to the public has declined to a precipitous and dangerous place.”

          Rephrase, regurgitate, recapituate, and repeat, until retirement.

          • There is that way of thinking about it.

            The problem is that my law school does not have an endowment. During the boom years, they were able to give money to the rest of the university. Now that they need money, the rest of the university does not want to give back according to my sources.

            I am a big fan of my law school. It was the small liberal-arts version of a law school. In more sane times, they used to be a well-respected Bay Area law school that provided training for most of the lawyers at small and medium firms through out Northern California. Also government lawyers.

    • Though I should add:

      The woman I was worried about contacted me today. Apparently I gave her my e-mail and she asked if the event was still on. I was able to explain everything.

  5. One of my worst was a moment of saving face to myself. If that isn’t epically stupid, I don’t know what is.

    The set up: I was on a hiking trail in a river gorge, by myself, in a semi-remote area. There is one part of the trail where it morphs into a rather sheer rock face for a hundred yards or so. Normally, local hikers maintained ropes across the face so people can continue on the trail (the big payoff is a very nice waterfall and diving pool at the end). The county decided it was too dangerous and had removed the ropes. All that was left was some jerry-rigged wire/cable. So there I am, making my way across when I get to a point where I will be in a position where I’m not sure my knee (which I had injured a couple months back) will support me. So I think to myself, “I guess I have to turn back.” Idiot part of me replies “Come on, don’t be a wuss.”

    My knee wasn’t able to support me – it gave out, I slammed against the rock face, the cable snapped and tore open my hands, and I fell 20+ feet into the river. Then I had to get out and hike the few miles back to the trail head and wrap my hands so I could actually handle the steering wheel of the car to get to some first aid.
    The biggest problem with vacationing alone in remote areas: there’s no one to save you from yourself when you’re being epically stupid.

    • +1 on this.

      And even worse is the folk who go into remote areas thinking they can call for help on their cell phone. Because cell pones need to talk to a radio tower; and generally, remote areas don’t have radio towers in sight line.

      • I had a friend in Mountain Rescue and his pet peeve was people who try to navigate using street map apps on their phone. They are usually the same ones who think sandals or heels are the best footwear for a 45 degree rocky slope.

        • My pet peeve is when Google Maps decides a streambed is actually a road.

    • Yes. So don’t vacation alone! Find a friend. Also, bring a fucking first aid kit.

      I’ve been days away from civilization, and with a bear twenty feet from me, staring at me.

      You want dat first aid kit (moreso if you’re doing crazy shit like that).

      Now, I know me some really fucking stupid folks (naturally, they’re smart). So, this is three martinis and a bet:

      • I had two first aid kits: a basic one on me and a better one in the car. But they were woefully inadequate for the job, though they did protect my hands enough that I could drive until I got to town. I will never forget the “zwip” sound of the cable shooting through my hands as I fell. It basically flayed open one palm and the fingers of the other hand. Also I was never more thankful that I always keep extra water in the car – even a rental – so I could wash the river water and sludge from the wounds (though the blood was doing the job nicely).

        As for vacationing alone, a friend was supposed to go with me, but he bailed at the last minute. And I sure as hell wasn’t giving up my first vacation in six years just because he wasn’t coming.

        • *blink* *blink* first vacation in 6 years? wow.

          … the point of the first aid kit is to get you to civilization again. I suppose it did its job. (I think my first aid kit would cover that, although I figure your fingers might have been given the mummy treatment (bandage them all together), which is far from ideal.

  6. All I can say Doc is that in the future, I have many highly skilled friends who would be happy to handcraft a sweater, hat, mittens, booties, blanket, or other snuggly baby wear (or adult wear) or hand-made animals for reasonable amounts of moola. They would be grateful for the extra income, and baby’s of no need get one-of-a-kind heirloom fiber bling; cabled, lacy, or (in the case of my work,) graphic with what the new-agers call ‘sacred geometry.’ (I just call it cool, the only thing sacred about it is the work to challenge my afflicted brain and keep it nimble.)

    But yes, we’ve done similar things. We bought a house in Portland, just before the real-estate collapse, with the intent of moving there. Charming house, nice yard, desirable neighborhood. Every time we’d looked at it, it was summery, the windows were open. After the closing, at the beginning of Nov., we went to our new house. Windows now closed. And it smelled funny. We did everything to solve it short of gutting the place; even hired a building-forensics expert. No mold, no rot, nothing obviously creating this very disturbing smell, which both of us could detect, but only about 1 in 10 people could smell generally.

    We decided we couldn’t stay there, and the market had deflated like a punctured tire. We owned two houses now, and had both up for sale, one we preferred to live in, one we thought we couldn’t live in. Luckily, we sold the Portland house first; at a pretty big loss, to very nice people who seemed to be amongst the 9 out of 10 who couldn’t smell the odd smell. Luckily, we’d never actually moved into this house, so we’re able to claim a capital loss on our income taxes.

    Lesson learned is to make sure that houses are always examined after an extended time with the windows closed.

    We’re still in our old house, it’s really quite wonderful, and the mountains, lakes, and woods here give us great joy; but we’d really like to be someplace closer to Boston where most of my sweetie’s work playing jazz occurs. Right now, he drives eight hours there and back again for two hour gigs; so he gigs rarely.

    • I’ve had a long-standing rule of looking at apartments/houses when the weather is bad whenever possible. Windows closed, deary day, poor lighting – you get a sense of how livable a space is really going to be.

  7. See… I really struggle with businesses that engage in practices like that. There should be transparency in pricing. You should know BEFORE you get to the counter what you’re going to be asked to pay, ESPECIALLY if all sales are final. They know exactly what they are doing… using social pressure to make folks like yourselves part with their money. It’s bull crap.

    To your question… I once went shopping for shirts at a nice department store… Nordstroms, I believe. At the time, I wasn’t much of a shopper (I am moreso now, but only with a select group of guy friends… go figure). And I didn’t know a thing about fashion. But I was in very good shape and young, meaning sales people who were really into fashion got off on helping me pick out clothes. I could pull off just about any look and presented a much better customer than some schlub. Anyway, I’m starting to sound needlessly arrogant, but it is sort of relevant.

    So I’m in Nordstroms and I’m trying to find shirts that will fit my oh-so-hard-to-shop-for 42-inch chest and 32-inch waist without making me look I’m wearing a parachute. And I like color and contrast, the types of shirts that Cam on “Modern Family” tends to wear (I love when the inner lining of the cuffs and color are different than the shirt itself). So one particularly motivated salesman goes to town picking out shirts, showing me the designers who cut for my body type and those who utilize color and the whole 9. We pick out a half dozen shirts, which I really did like… until I saw the price tag. They were each about $75… not an ungodly sum, but more than my 21-year-old ass could afford. But I didn’t have the heart to tell the guy. He was so pumped… I had been so pumped.. I didn’t want to ruin the moment. And he seemed like a really nice guy, too. So I bought them… and immediately found another register out of his section to return them. He probably found out when they did their commission and I still sort of feel bad about it… but I couldn’t justify spending $500 I didn’t have.

    • Also, I would have had the same reaction you did to the question of a matching hat…

      “Do I want a hat to go with the seersucker? Wait… are we talking about me or the baby here?”

      I still regret Zazzy not letting me wear seersucker at the wedding. The most I got was the tie.

    • It occurs to me as I read your story that, tragically, I have another tale of my own stupidity, wherein I spent an ungodly sum that I couldn’t afford (I could, at least, afford the loss for the baby clothing) because I got carried away at a charity auction. (It was to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and involved the cast of “Naked Boys Singing.”) But I think one saga of my own idiocy is enough for one day.

      [Edited to add: And I knew perfectly well what kind of store I’d entered before I even walked in. I veritably reveled in playing the role of a person who never had to ask the price for anything… right up until the moment I saw the actual price.]

      • Sure… but I venture to guess you might have been a bit more mindful if you knew in advance that all items were final sale. Maybe not. We all get in over our heads from time to time. If nothing else, there is one well-dressed baby downtown right now.

        That is, until he shits all over the suit.

  8. Nice one, Doc!

    So….. awhile back, The Wife and I were on our first trip to Europe, in Vienna, Austria (still my favorite city in the world). One night, we decided we needed to go out to a bar, and wound up at a small place with a Mardi Gras theme just off the Ringstrasse. We were the only tourists there (always a good thing), and there were just a handful of locals in the bar (it was a Sunday night, IIRC). We wound up drinking with this dude who claimed to be a city councilman or some similar low-level elected politician, me talking to him in my terrible German, he to the Wife and I in his only slightly better English, and the Wife just speaking straight English. We had a blast, and even traded e-mail addresses, but there was no reason to think we were anything other than drinking buddies for a night, a fact of which I was well aware. Nonetheless, he insisted that we come visit him at his place of work the next day, and for some reason we agreed.*

    That place of work was Hugo Boss. I do not shop at Hugo Boss….ever, nor could I possibly afford to. Our new “friend” was of course working, so there was not much socializing that could have been accomplished by paying him a visit in any event. Yet we inexplicably felt we owed it to our drinking buddy to swing by. I don’t have a clue what we were expecting.

    Needless to say, having inexplicably decided to save face by paying him the visit in the first place, we (ok, I) inexplicably decided it was also necessary to further save face by agreeing to purchase something from Hugo Boss during the visit. I also inexplicably decided that I couldn’t get away with buying some sort of trinket, but needed to actually buy an article of clothing. I did at least have the good sense to seek out the most affordable type of clothing I could imagine at such a store – a nice short-sleeved golf shirt. In the middle of February. In an Alpine country.

    I should mention here that I am 6’3″ tall. The shirt I picked out was the largest size they had of that style, which was the equivalent of a US Medium. It was clear that it would probably be too small for me. Trying it on would have been a pretty good idea, but that somehow would have just made an awkward situation arising out of a pointless attempt to save face even more awkward.

    It was, as I said, the cheapest thing I felt I could get away with buying without losing face. It was still sufficiently expensive that our drinking buddy felt compelled to spend a solid 10 minutes explaining how to navigate the process to get the VAT tax back on the item when we left for our flight home (a process we ultimately failed to navigate when our connecting flight home in Frankfurt turned out to be on completely the opposite side of the airport, leaving us no time to locate the place to redeem the VAT tax).

    I have not once been in contact with our drinking buddy in the six years that have elapsed since then. I might have worn the shirt 3 or 4 times, and then only when I ran out of clean clothes, because it cannot reach my waistline without substantial stretching (and never could).

    *Redeeming side note: immediately subsequent to our drinking at the bar, The Wife and I wandered over to the casino, eventually finding the Hold ‘Em table. The Wife held her own, but eventually busted out when she went all-in against me. But at one point, when I was about even, I looked down to find AA in my hand, sitting under the gun +1. I made a small raise, got re-raised, got re-raised again, and then the dude in the big blind went all-in, with me having no choice but to follow suit. We wound up with a total of I think 5 people all-in, and around 600 Euros in the pot. There was, in addition to AA, also a KK, QQ, JJ, and AK, with The Wife folding KQ. My AA held up, making the Hugo Boss purchase a few hours later far less painful, if no less stupd,, embarassing, awkward, and frivolous.

    • I have no idea how to parse that last paragraph, but good GOD, how I can relate to the rest of your comment.

      I can totally see myself shelling out money I didn’t want to spend on a garment I didn’t need in a store I’d otherwise never have entered to fulfill a social obligation with no real meaning to anyone.

    • The wife and i were having a nice stroll through Florence after dinner. We thought, lets get some gelatto. We happened to be crossing the Ponte Vechio sp? which is a tourist attraction/bridge over the river that runs through city. I go into a yummy looking shop order two big ol cones of gelatto when it occurs to me that i’m buying a desert in the absolute epicenter of the tourist traffic. D’oh. I think it was 29 euro for two, admittedly tasty, cones. Not as expensive as your guys stories but at least we ate the evidence.

      • Oh, haha, that reminds me of when a friend and I went into a cafe just in front of the Notre Dame cathedral. We ordered a Coke to share and it cost us 64 francs, or the equivalent of about $12. My friend was furious, but that later became a catchphrase for describing her horrible trip to Paris. “I paid $12 for a Coke, and it didn’t even have ice!!!

        • Dude, you were in France. You were expecting ice?

          On our last visit to Italy, one of my innumerable cousins named Paolo* put three ice cubes the size of thimbles in two glasses of a fizzy soda pop type beverage, and then offered them to my wife and I “moda Americana” with smug satisfaction that he’d now made us feel completely at home.

          * Seriously, I must have enough cousins named Paolo to populate an entire Apennine village. And somehow everyone but the Americans know which Paolo they’re talking about, at all times. It should also go without saying that virtually every woman is named Maria, or some variant thereof.

          • I wasn’t expecting ice; she was. There was a nice slice of lemon floating on top, though.

            We discovered that trip that Paris is the worst place for tourists to visit on Christmas Day, and Neuchatel, Switzerland, is the worst place to spend New Year’s Eve.

    • Now this is where price differation is interesting. I don’t think of Hugo Boss as being a super-expensive brand. They are not on the low end for sure but to me they are not expensive.

      Hugo Boss red label shirts are nice for work and Bloomingdale’s has them on sale often enough.

      This is why class consciousness is hard.

      My Vienna story is getting asked by an Italian if I was Italian at the Summer Palace.

      • My Vienna story is getting asked by an Italian if I was Italian at the Summer Palace.

        Nice! That reminds me of another of my favorite anecdotes.

        The Wife and I were in Prague, walking up towards the castle when all of a sudden, a French woman (apparently mistaking me for a countryman?) walks up and asks “Pardon, ou est le…..”

        Somehow, without thinking, and before she even finished her question (which I knew I wouldn’t have been able to answer), I blurted out “Je ne parle pas francais” and continued on with my head down, leaving the poor woman with perhaps the most confused expression I’ve ever seen anyone wear.

        By the time I realized what I had just done, I was too far away to do anything other than accept the award for World’s Biggest Asshole.

      • I have one pair of Hugo Boss pants, which I bought when they were significantly marked down.

        Were I still childless, I’d consider shopping there from time to time. But I rarely spend money on high-end clothing for myself these days. (I usually request a Ben Sherman or similar shirt for my birthday, I got some nice shirts from Brooks Brothers for Christmas, and my dad got me a gift certificate for a couple of bespoke shirts that I have yet to redeem.) These days I tend to content myself with H&M, Banana Republic, etc. (Thankfully, my haul from Barneys warehouse sales past has also held up well over time.)

        • One of the Hugo Boss labels (I forget which) fits me well. One of my “fancy shirts” is from them… the type of shirt I only wear with a suit, a garment I usually only wear 4 or 5 times a year, if that.

          I’ve been buying a lot of Brooks Brothers lately (“a lot” being a relative term), mostly from the outlet near my house. Their casual shirts fit me well, so long as I don’t try to wear a tie and subsequently suffocate.


          The problem with stores like H and M is that the stuff falls part very quickly. A friend in law school got a suit there for interviews. It looked sleek and modern but was falling apart at the seems within a few months. The average American buys something like 64 clothing items a year from places like H and M. This is bad for the environment and many other things.

          There is something to be said for buying quality over quantity but that does not seem to be the American way many times.

          • quality over quantity

            Esp. shoes. As a general rule (there are exceptions) you get what you pay for in shoes. A good pair, you may leave to your son or even grandson (I used to have some wingtips that were my grandfather’s; I don’t have them now, but I have a couple that will probably at least make it to my son if he wants them).

          • I’m with Glyph here on the shoes; but I have back/neck troubles, and the platform at the bottom of it all matters. I’ve finally convinced my husband that a pair of good shoes — the kind that can be resoled — is a better investment then the ill-fitting sneakers he’d worn for years. (He’s got a size 14 foot; footwear is a challenge.)

            Though I design fashion, I’m not much for changing fashions and fashionable fads (unless I’ve launched them, of course,) that so drives women’s clothing.

            But worst of all is the declining quality of the fabrics used to make clothing. It’s really difficult to avoid walking around dressed in plastic these days. Wool sweaters are nearly impossible to find anymore. And the worst is women’s jeans; they typically contain up to 10% spandex (means they stretch, so they don’t have to make them actually fit the variety of bodies women have), which start out tight in the morning and grow through the day so that by day’s end, they’re two sizes larger.

            I pity men’s limited wardrobe choices, but perhaps that’s not as bad as women’s wardrobe fashion-crapification — planned obsolescence at it’s pink-slimiest.

          • Glyph,

            Agreed on the shoes. I just got rid of some boots that I owned for years. But I still have a leather jacket that I got 17 years ago.


            Wool sweaters can be found but you have to go up to mid-market brands like Steven Alan or Billy Reid. Guy’s jeans tend to be 2-3 percent poly/spandex these days. Some are still 100 percent cotton though.

            I think there is variety in guys clothing but it is more in term of style than types of where. You can go brodude, prep, American workwear inspired, etc.

          • New Dealer, those brands carry wool blends. They carry cheap cashmere from China (don’t get me started on that.) But this is not the same thing as a fine 100% wool sweater with heavy Aran cables or fine Fair Isle color patterns.

            I live in the land of L.L. Bean. And even there, the hallowed halls of how to dress Maine, the wool sweater (more in women’s then in men’s clothing) is a vanishing creature.

            I don’t buy them, I make them. But it makes me sad to see the once-upon-a-time most commonplace of warm clothing become quaint and rare.

          • Zic,

            On shoes, I struggled for a while to find comfortable “grown up” shoes, in part because my feet grew accustomed to wearing really well worn-in sneakers at prior jobs with minimal dress codes. I find that Johnston & Murphy has the most comfortable casual and formal dress shoes I’ve ever found. I routinely wear a pair for 12-16 hours, sometimes longer, without even remembering what is on my feet. As a runner who has struggled through multiple ankle injuries, they’ve been a godsend.

          • I swear by Merrells. I’m also a runner, and developed nasty plantar fasciitis a little while back. I’ll spare you the whole saga, but suffice it to say that everything cleared up almost immediately when I went back to wearing Merrells as my regular shoe.

          • I have a Merrell running shoe, one of their minimus models that has done wonders for what I suspected might of been PF but never got diagnosed. Do they make dress shoes?

          • I don’t know if they make a real “dress” shoe. If so, I’ve never seen one, and when a genuine dress shoe is required I go with something else. But they’re good enough for the “professionally casual” look that I rock in the office, so they’re pretty much all I wear now.

            And I haven’t hopped on the “minimal shoe” train as of yet, partly because I’m pretty sure my PF started when I began wearing a minimal-style walking shoe all the time. I’ve had good luck with a standard running shoe, so I figure why change?

          • Gotcha. Yea, my *REAL* dress shoes are big names and I wear them but a few times a year. My everyday work shoes are of the type you described and I’ll have to check out Merrell’s collection.

            For a long time, my running shoes were an old pair of trainers that I had broken in to death, reducing their cushioning to basically the same as what a minimus offers, but with a bit more weight and stability. These were wrecked during a Tough Mudder and I picked up a new pair, which just didn’t feel right and gave me an excruciating pain in the heel. I took some time off after an injury but the heel pain remained. I switched to the minimus shoes and haven’t had an issue since.

            Everyone is different. I’m not a devotee to the barefoot running movement or any other dogma. I just try to find what works and hope I don’t break down down the road. Our physiology is so diverse that I can’t accept there is any one-size-fits-all approach to a movement as complex as running.

          • zic,
            I don’t mind if people replace wool with things that work better AND don’t cause wool allergies…
            (betcha they cost more than wool, though)

        • My comment was more about American culture than you. Obviously a lot of my lifestyle will change if and when I become a parent.

          Unless I am a multi-millionaire first.

          • I’ve actually had strangely good luck with H&M clothing. Pretty much everything I’ve ever gotten there I’ve managed to gets several years’ wear out of.

  9. I’ll tell a story on both me and Jason.

    Back when I was a newly-minted engineer and Jason was working on the PhD, we only had one car for the first year or so. Eventually, Jason was fed up with taking the train to and from school, so we decided to buy a used car. We got a really great deal on a Toyota Corolla from this guy we found through a Want Ad; we knew the Corolla was a good model. The guy was nice, and that and a test drive convinced us that we didn’t need an inspection. Days later, the transmission started behaving badly; we’d been tricked into buying a lemon from a complete stranger, and for my part, I went ahead with it in part because I didn’t want the stranger to think badly of us. We ended up donating the clunker (which we had named “Lucky”) to a charity and we bought an Echo from a licensed dealer (that was a great car).

  10. Mine was a belt. One of those nylon fabric-weave belts. In Ravenna. My pants kept on falling down around my waist as Mrs. Likko and I wandered about and explored and I had completely failed to pack a belt from my wardrobe in the States for our trip. What’s more, I’d passed up buying a cheap leather belt out at the mercato where they were going for ten Euros each. So I figured, hey, it’s Italy, leather is cheap here. I’ll just pop into this shop and buy a belt.

    An undisclosed but mortifyingly large number of Euros later, it was clear we’d be sharing a pizza and flat water for dinner that night instead of having a more relaxed high-end meal with wine. But my pants stayed up, and to this day my wife hectors me to get as much use out of that belt as I possibly can.

    • to this day my wife hectors me to get as much use out of that belt as I possibly can.

      with the verb ‘hectors,’ this verges on the kinky.

        • Well, I’m not sure ‘interesting’ is the right word.

          Rather, the antipode of tender, which is also not ‘interesting,’ but has a lot going for it; can help get a couple through many, many years. (we’ve got #33 coming up, the year of Larry Bird and Rolling Rock beer.)

  11. Does anyone watch “Parks and Rec”? Because Garry/Jerry is springing to mind.

  12. As with Jason, I know I’ve found myself in this situation before, but I can’t think of an example. But I just wanted to mention that I was narrating this story to my wife, and she was a little disappointed at the ending, because she was just sure the denouement was going to be that as you watched your friends unwrap the presents, you noticed that at least half of them were in Baby Gap boxes.

    • We weren’t actually at a shower, just stopping by with a gift, so there was nothing to compare it to. (Claire’s gift was for a previous occasion.) But you’re right, it would have been hilarious if we had been going to a shower, and a substantial fraction of the gifts had come from Baby Gap or Old Navy.

  13. Oops — rather than “narrating”, I should’ve said “inaccurately summarizing”. But when you retell the story in the future, this would be a great way to make the fish a little bigger.

  14. I’d be happy to actually tell the story of my most idiotic minor decision over cocktails sometime, but not so much so in a public forum. However, I do feel the need to share the conclusions I drew from it:

    1) If you are habitually “the soberest one” in some group (no matter how small a group), and the other members assure you that THIS TIME, you should totally feel free to get utterly trashed, and they will take the responsibility for making sure nothing gets out of hand, DON’T BELIEVE THEM.

    2) If, in your alcoholic haze, you have a small twinge of concern that something is getting all fished up, no matter how incredibly enjoyable your reasons for shrugging off that twinge may be, DON’T SHRUG IT OFF.

    No one was hurt, or even cheesed off. Money is just money, at the end of the day. So it could have been very much worse. But BOY, was that avoidably stupid.

  15. So that’s this week’s Question — have you ever done anything monumentally dumb for the sake of not losing face?

    Well, I’ve made the monumentally stupid mistake of failing to do something I should have, for the sake of not losing face. When it comes to girls, there’s no surer path to ruin than playing it safe.

  16. Also, I’m still mad that you were in the New York area and didn’t stop by for tea.

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