Department of Redundancy Department

For most of the Brooks Brothers shoppers I didn’t register on the “people we treat with basic human dignity” radar.

Aside from the painful realization that most of these customers would just as soon run me over with their car than make eye contact, inconspicuousness had some benefits; for instance, stalking recognizable politicians or D-level celebrities.

Once I hit two birds with one stone when Senator Fred Thompson came in one day in his workout clothes. Star of both the Watergate hearings and The Hunt for Red October? Jackpot!

Eventually, the manager found me some buddies. One was a slightly older girl who was also blindsided into being a stock boy. Then this total Jesus freak, who ached to finally do the nasty with his girlfriend.

Marital-only sex and Christian rock and roll were at the tippy top of his go-to conversation topics. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tune out because every time he saw me drifting away, he said, “Am I boring you?”

Are you kidding me? Jesus Christ!

You get free alterations at Brooks Brothers, and I assumed they were outsourced to China where underage girls with bound feet make sure Mr. Wentworth Vanderich gets a proper break in his BrooksEase slacks.

Instead, deep below the earth’s surface, was the alteration room. Dirty painted cinderblocks lined the walls. There may have been six or eight sewing machines, and just as many middle-aged Hispanic women who didn’t speak English.

Their Maestro was a middle-aged, overweight man with poor English, whose job was to hang up the suits once the women had altered, pressed, and steamed the clothes to his satisfaction.

I finagled my way into a data entry job in the alteration room. It was summer in swampy D.C. and being stuck underground in a sweat lodge won over upstairs air-conditioning and the droning of abstinence man.

After hanging the suit on a rack, the Maestro’s only other job was to pin a ticket to the lapel or waist to identify its owner. It was my job to take down the clothes from the rack, unpin the ticket, input the same contact information into the computer, re-pin the ticket to the suit, and re-hang the item.

I suspect efficiency experts would call this redundancy.  Which, I now understand is the norm in Washington.

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