Sunday, November 7, 2010

Button Up Your Overcoat

I decided to take advantage of last week's lovely Indian summer (Can you still say that?!) to try on winter coats at Macy's. My hatred of the 34th Street Macy's is too great to comment on here; however, since I went to the store at 10:30am on a weekday, it was fairly manageable. In the 'burbs, end-of-season sales are an excellent way to go when making a substantial purchase, but in the city, when you wait that long, there's no inventory left. Thus, I went shopping while it was still 70-degrees outside.

I had a winter coat that I absolutely loved, but it had one overwhelming flaw: the zipper got stuck on a regular basis. It was a lovely brown quilted knee-length winter coat from Abercrombie, a store I almost never enter unless I want to assault my ears with music and my nose with overly perfumed air. I—shock of all shocks—actually paid full price for this seemingly perfect coat. It was feather light and toasty warm. The first time the zipper got stuck, I was at home, so I stepped out of the coat as if it were a dress and used a safety pin to unstick it. I foolishly assumed that I had purchased a randomly defective coat and exchanged it at the store for a new one.

Unfortunately, the new coat's zipper continued to get stuck again and again. Sometimes it would only catch a bit of the coat's lining, which I could pretty easily get free. Sometimes it would get stuck on nothing at all and a little bit of firm pulling and a quick prayer would help. But one time at the doctor's office waiting room, on a very cold day when I had zippered the coat all the way up to my nose, the zipper got stuck right at the base of my throat. At first, I wiggled the zipper pull, assuming it would give way. It didn't. I couldn't physically look at the problem, but I felt around the catch and realized that a chunk of my coat was stuck in the zipper, and I couldn't pull it out. And I couldn't pull the coat off over my head because it was still zipped so tight that it wouldn't have cleared my chin. Panic set in. I tried to pull my arms into the coat to maneuver the zipper from the inside, but the coat was too tight to get at it. My heart rate began racing, making me overheated, claustrophobic, and cranky.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was in a very public place, in a very small room, with several very bewildered people waiting to be seen by various physicians. I smiled at each of them as if to say, "Isn't this funny? I'm stuck in my coat! I must look ridiculous! Have you ever seen anything so hilarious?" They wouldn't make eye contact with me. Either they had no sense of humor or they thought I had some sort of dire disease that resulted in a mental imbalance. With red cheeks, disheveled hair, and spastic body movements, I probably did look certifiably insane.

After several more minutes of struggle, the nurse called my name. My coat was still zipped up to my neck. I sheepishly followed her into the doctor's office and told her, "My coat. It's stuck. I'm stuck in my coat." She replied in a mild island accent (don’t ask me which island), "Oh, no worries! My nine-year-old daughter does that all the time!" And she got to work, tugging and pulling and nudging and pleading with my stuck zipper. It took a good 20 minutes, but she was finally able to unzip my coat enough for me to step out of it. After that, I never used the zipper again. I used the snaps instead.

Now I’m on the hunt for a winter coat that is as warm and stylish as that damaged one. You’d think it would be more important to have a warm coat in Buffalo than in Manhattan, but I beg to differ. In Buffalo, you generally wear your coat to travel from your house to your car and from your car to your office. You may be out in the cold for less than a minute a day. In Manhattan, I walk at least 30 blocks on a slow day. New York City may have a fraction of the snowfall there is in Buffalo, but the wind whipping down the avenue is no joke. You know what else is no joke? Me. I fully marched back into Abercrombie with the coat to tell them about the whole embarrassing zipper incident. There might have been some stern voices and asking for the manager involved. And maybe a strongly worded letter to customer service. But in the end, Abercrombie took the coat gave me a portion of my money back. Of course, it doesn’t compensate for the pain and humiliation I suffered as a result of the defective coat. But it sure helps.


  1. I laughed out loud to this blog, I ALWAYS tell people your bit about it actually being "colder" in Manhattan than it is in Buffalo! Loved it!

  2. I will say that while sitting in a freezing cold car before the heat kicks in is completely unpleasant (this was basically every school morning from October through May), at least the wind isn't slapping you in the face.