Gucci and me?
Yes, I am aware that by simply looking at me, you would never guess that I am the proud owner of a stylish Gucci original. In fact, I am well aware that I do not really resemble the type of person who would even know who the designer, Gucci, is (does he have a first name?).). What, then, is my relationship to Gucci, the French fashion house that set the global trend? Continue reading to learn about life’s absurdities and my rather innocent – and embarrassing – involvement in them.
It was fate that placed me in the path of the affluent, stylish crowd in that posh, upscale area of London, England, where I had traveled some 25 years earlier for a cousin’s wedding. My wife and I, two American country bumpkins, marveled at the old society charm of English Europe as the rain fell relentlessly from the cloudy, gray skies onto what seemed to be a dull, lifeless world. Unimaginable tourist attractions suddenly appeared in our immediate field of vision. The transparency of our unsophisticated traveling experience must have stood out for all to see as we gasped out loud in sheer wonder and amazement at the wrong side everybody seemed to be driving their cars, trucks and motorcycles, at the grandeur of the great Big Ben clock, the grand Buckingham Palace, and those oddly stiff-looking royal guards with the tall fur hats! We went to some of the most well-known museums, marveled at some of the strangest punk-dressed locals, and had the time of our lives while luxuriating in the wonderful temporary role of being wined and dined without a care other than phoning across the ocean to see how spoiled our children were getting at their grandparents’ house for that one week in June.
Even though the entire experience exceeded any expectations we had for ourselves, it was reviving. I asked if there was anything we could possibly take to family members in America for them as we said our goodbyes and heartfelt thanks to our kind hosts. After a brief period of consideration, it appeared that there was.
“Would you mind very much,” my host began in his quaint, endearing English accent, “if we would ask you to bring a wallet to my sister in Deal, NJ? It’s a Gucci original; it isn’t particularly new, but even so, I know she would like it. And why should it be discarded?”
What a question, “Do you mind?” Sincere to God, I was glad to pay back the special hospitality in a small way!
We prepared the “Gucci thing” in our luggage and headed to the airport. We mentally prepared ourselves for the lengthy flight home and our change in roles as we watched England get smaller and smaller until it eventually vanished entirely as the plane gained upward and forward momentum.
Our enjoyable trip came to a fitting conclusion at the reunion we attended in Newark. Although we had indeed left London, England—home to international culture, fashion, and gales of rain—the shower of unmistakable love we received at our welcome home celebration made us even more excited to return to our own familiar, beloved territory and immediate family.
Life seemed to continue exactly as it had when we had left it, with only the photographs to keep the memories vivid. We switched into our normal gears – I, as father and daily breadwinner, and my wife, as familiar “mommy” figure.
Then, one sunny Sunday morning, my wife brought up the Gucci wallet.
“Max,” she said worriedly, “The wallet was just a memory for me. Do you recall ever seeing it?”
“The Gucci wallet?!” I questioned quietly. “Do not claim that you are unaware of its location. You didn’t pack it inside the large blue suitcase, right?”
“I thought that you had put it away in the carry-on,” my wife responded quickly. “If it’s lost, how awful!” she continued. “What a perfect way to express our gratitude for everything they did for us!”
We frantically searched through every piece of luggage and personal item we had brought on the trip. We spent a good amount of time searching through the clothing and accessories while searching fervently and determinedly. Unfortunately, it appeared that the Gucci wallet had vanished. We came to the sad conclusion that either we had lost it on the way to the airport or it was… stolen. It was a terrible feeling, too bad we hadn’t gotten travel insurance! How would we ever be able to accept responsibility for what had happened after everything our English hosts had done for us?
I cautiously sat down on the living room couch’s edge and began to think. Finally, the obvious response entered my head.
“And what’s so bad about giving our host’s sister a brand-new Gucci wallet rather than his worn-out, outdated one?” I questioned, and the answer I came up with was brilliant in how straightforward it was!
My wife gave me an astonished look. “Where can one go in order to purchase a Gucci wallet?” she asked. “I mean, aren’t items made by Gucci Originals exclusive? Perhaps you have to purchase them from unique specialty stores. What do you estimate their price to be in any case?”
We both understood that the price tags on these kinds of goods were on the higher end of the general merchandise payment spectrum, despite the fact that my wife and I were both raised in simple, no-nonsense homes where designer clothing and goods were things that, for all intents and purposes, did not exist.
“I’m sure that one of the department stores in the mall close to us sells Gucci wallets,” I said. “And as far as the price is concerned,” I continued in a deliberate voice, “How much might a small wallet already cost?”
Having said that, we jammed the kids into our car and drove to the Ocean County Mall for our “trip.”
My wife led our group to the women’s accessories section once we got to our destination. Her intuition had been accurate. A small selection of Gucci wallets and purses were there in the locked case. In my mind, their beauty was debatable and I wondered what the major attraction was about them, but I quickly dismissed the hearsay thoughts as the results of my being ‘uneducated’ in the ways of fashion.
“We’d like to see the Gucci wallets,” my wife said to the woman behind the counter.
The salesperson unlocked the glass display case and reached inside to retrieve the two featured wallets as her key ring jingled. “These are the two styles that we carry,” she said.
“Hmm,” my wife paused. “How much are they?” she inquired.
“This one here is five- fifty,” began the saleswoman. “And this one is seven,” she said.
My wife and I exchanged glances.
“Listen,” I told my wife. “The prices are not at all outrageous. We’ll go all out and buy them both. One for you and one for our hosts’ sister.”
My wife nodded; we were both a little relieved at the affordability of the renowned Gucci wallets; we were generally used to living on a set budget.
“Ahem,” my wife cleared her throat as she began in complete earnest innocence. “You stated that the one over there is seven dollars and this one to the right is five dollars and fifty cents.”
The woman seemed to be processing what had been asked of her during a long, uncomfortable pause. Then, she corrected the glaring, unforgivable error in the icy, unfriendly voice of a know-it-all saleslady.
“No, madam, the price for this one is $550 and the price for that one is $700!”
“Oh, I see, I’m so sorry,” my wife said in a very small voice as the rosy color of embarrassment crept up to her cheeks. “We’ll probably give it some thought, I guess. Thank you.”
Without saying a word, the salesperson gathered the wallets, put them back in the case, jingled her key ring, and loudly locked the glass door.
We laughed together as we hurriedly fled, embarrassed by our naiveté and simplistic expectations. How fortunate and naive we were! $550 and $700 for wallets embellished with some strange man’s name, indeed!
Even though we were aware of how ridiculous the prices were, we still had a problem to solve.
My shameful explanation of the situation to our English hosts over the phone. In typical fashion, they got away with everything, claiming that the lost wallet was too old to have any real value and that the whole thing should be forgotten.
Gucci and I—well, I can’t exactly say that I’ve completely forgotten about it all even though it’s been a while since the unfortunate loss of the Gucci wallet. I can say with certainty that Gucci wallets are not on my personal shopping list because I KNOW there are better things I could buy with my money. Even so, when we think back on our “wonderful unworldliness” and the utterly absurd, ridiculous practices of the “polished, sophisticated” world, the incident makes us laugh uncontrollably!