Applying shopper's wisdom to the ballot box

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 2003, Debra LoGuercio, all rights reserved

Everything I need to know about this recall election I learned at the mall.

Say a big event is looming near -- a wedding, a holiday party, a reunion. You've known for weeks, maybe even months, that you need a new dress, but for one reason or another you've piddled the time away and now you're approaching shopper's meltdown. The party's tomorrow. You need a dress and you need it now.

You head out to the mall bright and early, feeling pressured but optimistic, because you're sure that somewhere between Macy's and JC Penney, that perfect little black dress will fall into your path. It may be a sleek, slinky sheath with spaghetti straps or maybe a 50s-ish little number with a full, chiffon skirt or a flowing, peasant-style wrap. Not to worry, it will be there, in one form or another.

Fast forward to about 6 p.m. You've tried on every black dress in the whole freakin' mall, and each one ended up in a heap on the dressing room floor. This one made you wonder if there's a hippo out there that lost its butt. Get the zoo on the phone -- you found it. That other one made your hips look like they each need their own area code. And the satin number? Fuggedaboudit. You'd have to wear a full-body ace bandage to keep all the ripples from casting shadows.

You're discouraged. You're tired. You're disgusted. Your blood sugar is crashing. And you'd like to strangle all the fashion designers who no longer create clothing for anyone over the age of 19. Bubbling to the surface of this soup of despair is panic. The party's tomorrow! You have to choose!

On the other hand, maybe you don't.

You park yourself on a bench with a nice cold frappuccino (because most shopping crises can be averted with a little sugar and caffeine) and re-evaluate your situation. The answer's right there in the back of your closet - that good old black velveteen tank dress, more versatile than a Swiss army knife.

Wrap a silk crochet scarf across one hip, pull on some strappy sandals, add some gold bangles on your wrist, and it's comfortable and casual. Pair it with satin pumps, sweep up your hair and dangle some sparkly rhinestone drops from your earlobes, and you're a class act.

Yup, it's one fabulous frock, that tank dress, except for one little thing: You're sick to death of it. It's been in the closet for so long, you'd like to throw it on the front lawn and run the lawn mower over it. It should have been offered up at your last garage sale, but it was shoved so far back in the closet, you forgot it was even there.

Until now. And what seemed like a major "fashion don't" the last time you rejected it for a little soiree is looking pretty darn fashionable right about now. At least it doesn't make you look like a tube of dough that ought to be squeezed out, sliced up and baked at 350 degrees until the edges are golden and crispy.

You slurp down the last of your frappuccino and feel life surging back into your bloodstream (God, have I thanked you for coffee lately?), and glance at your watch. Time's ticking away, but there's just enough left to pick up something to toss over that tank dress - maybe a gold satin blouse and a couple of long, bright, dangly chains.

That's the ticket. True, it's only a short-term quick fix, but it'll do for now until you find something you really like. But before the next big party rolls around, by God, that rag is dumpster-bound. And good riddance, too. You won't shed a tear when you toss it. It's outlived its useful life, and even it hadn't, it doesn't matter. You're sick, sick, sick of that nasty, nappy, ugly black sack.

Except for today, when you're thankful it's still in the closet.

Compared to the racks of ghastly gowns you tossed aside today, that old tank dress looks downright hot. Well, lukewarm, anyway. If nothing else, it's the least bad choice of all the other bad choices.

In the great shopping mall of politics, Gray Davis is that old tank dress. He's drab, familiar, a big fat yawn, but compared to the other choices, he's the least bad one. Unless you feel passionate about another candidate, you're better off steering clear of her or him. That's Rule One of every world class shopper: Don't buy it unless you can't live without it.

Me, I can live without Arnold just fine, and that goes for all the rest of the clowns in this circus too. I'll keep my MasterCard in my wallet, thank you very much, and spiff that old black tank dress up as best I can for the time being and just make do until something better comes along. That Davis design may not be haut couture, but at least it doesn't give me a hippo butt.

Gray Davis: Better than a hippo butt. In this ridiculous recall election, that's as good a reason as any to vote "No."