Thursday, September 25, 2008

Beauty On Location

            At 5:30 on a Sunday evening, I arrived at the Barton Creek Square and entered through the Nordstrom entrance and was blasted by a strong breeze. It appeared that the East side enterance greets visitors by blowing air above their heads from an air duct between the first set of glass doors and the second set of the exact same doors. Inside I noticed the crowded shoe section to my right where shoppers, which mostly consisted of women, constantly being asked by salesmen, “How are you?” and “What size would you like that in?” On my left however, stood racks and shelves full of men’s clothes where a balding man stood looking confused. There were a variety of selection of clothes that one could choose from such as ties, suits, and white shirts by designers like Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein.

            After being bombarded with many questions by Stephan, an over-zealous salesclerk at Nordstrom, I approached the middle of the department store where a small rest area is situated around the center of the store. An olive green upholstered couch was placed on a tan carpet flanked by two vertical beige nightstands on top. There were also two forest green chairs that sat adjacent to the couch for those who would like to sit alone. To the far right of the rest area a piano stood where pianist Eddy Maine performed on a black Parlor Grand piano. The rest area felt serene away from the shoppers and sales clerks.

            Some of the shoppers at Nordstrom appeared to be oblivious to the chairs and did not notice the rest area and preferred to stand or walk around instead. After some time had passed, an African American man sat down on one of the chairs holding a baby in his arm while he waited for his wife. Off in the distance his wife had now become engulfed into the crowd where shoppers gazed and roamed from the shoe department to the makeup section and finally to the corner filled with many glass cases stocked with designer purses.

About ten feet away an elderly woman sat on a foldable black chair that had the words “Nordstrom” printed in white block letters. A Clinique cosmetologist brushed on different shades of eye shadow on her. As I made my way towards the shoe department away from the makeup area to sit down on a black leather sofa I overheard an Asian woman asking a salesclerk in a heavy foreign accent for a size 6 boot. When the salesclerk returned with the proper sized boot the Asian woman appeared to be satisfied and rushed past the other shoppers in order to beat the growing line of purchasers. While I was taking my notes the same salesclerk approached me this time asking if I needed any help. I replied no and took this as a cue to leave Nordstrom and the Barton Creek Square.

The following Saturday I returned to the mall through the same Nordstrom wing but this time things were different. The rest area once furnished with coaches and chairs had been cleared for a special event, with tables and metal shelves that held pamphlets and beauty tip guidelines. The empty walkway that once separated the shoe department with the makeup section was now almost entirely filled with around two-dozen women. Half of them were customers sitting on tall, black, foldable chairs while the other half stood in front of them in black coats carefully putting on lipsticks, blushes, foundations, mascaras, and other beauty products for the customers. The customers that registered for the one-day only free consultation with the cosmetologists were mostly women, who were teens, middle-aged moms, and elderly women. Eddy Maine, the pianist, did not perform that night because he and his piano were replaced by a younger and more “hip” DJ. The DJ was playing upbeat techno music on his turntable while looking at his iBook that had a sticker that spelled “The Party” in orange, green, and yellow typeface. I learned later that this event known as “Beauty on Location” occurred during my visit and reoccurs during the fall season annually. Due to the “Beauty on Location” event there appeared to be even more shoppers inside Nordstrom than my previous visit.

As I grew hungry I made my way towards the food court only to be harassed by salesmen in neckties in a T-mobile cellphone kiosk along the way. This little square kiosk that is located across from Macy’s and next to JC Penney held over five employees, each fighting for a commission. As I read over my notes a man in a red tie with a pony tail barked at me by asking, “Hey you, do you have change for a $10?” I ignored him at first but then said no and quickly walked away. However, in order to further observe them I returned taking the opposite route and was once again questioned by the T-mobile employees. This time an Asian salesman with glasses asked me the following rapidly and consecutively. “Do you have a cell phone? What service do you have? How much?” I answered him by saying, “Yes I do but my dad pays for it because it’s under a family plan.” The T-mobile guy responded by saying “Oh you don’t pay for it? Thanks have a good day.” Annoyed, I walked away and observed other shoppers being asked the same questions the salesmen had asked me. One man was walking next to his wife chatting with her but was interrupted by the pony-tailed salesman. The pony-tailed salesman asked the overweight man if he had a contract with T-mobile and the man replied yes. When he did the pony tailed man caught the overweight man off guard and asked what his service was? The overweight man confessed that he didn’t have T-mobile and was handed a brochure.

Starving now, I finally walked to the food court. After a brief sampling lap around the food court I decided to dine at Sarku Japan. When I was in line I realized that there were a total of four employees all dressed the same with red hats and aprons. All of them wore nametags and had their own unique grease splattering on their white undershirts. Three of the employees were Hispanic and only one was Asian. Surprisingly though I noticed the Asian woman speaking Spanish when she shouted at the other employees in Spanish. I ordered the popular item, the number one, the teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables. As the customers in front of me waited for their food we all watched the chefs Alex and Guilicino cook the slabs of chicken and beef on the enormous hotplate. At first the chicken was raw but soon the chicken began to cook and turn slightly gray as the sound of the meat began to sizzle and the metal vented ceiling began to fill with smoke. Grease and sauce began to splatter onto the glass window that created a barrier between the hotplate and the chefs from the customers. As the glass and the florescent light bulbs began to get foggier with grease Guilicino flipped the partially cooked chicken while Alex scrapped the black ashes, lard, and other unrecognizable remnants of meat into a tray. Alex then sprayed the hotplate with more oil while Guilicino continued to dump scoops of thick and oily black sauce directly onto the chicken. After the third and final scoop of the “teriyaki” sauce, lunch was served.

After lunch I had a stomach ache so I decided to go home. I walked back into Nordstrom and noticed now that every single black chair next to the cosmetologists was filled. On my way out I noticed the people coming inside being blown on by the air duct above them.  


No comments: