Monday, August 02, 2010

Ugly Americans


North Vikings don't be blue,
Frankenstein was ugly, too!
All right, clap, clap-clap.
All right, clap, clap-clap.
--East Junior High Cheer circa 1972
One of the vast dis-services Hollywood and the television industry has done is fooled us into thinking that there is a world out there populated by attractive, articulate and well-dressed people who rarely age or have weight issues. It is perhaps why I rarely venture out on my lunch hour. Because barely fives minutes after I take light rail uptown I catch myself wanting to scream "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape" like Charleton Heston in Planet of the Apes. Because a trip into downtown Seattle is like a trip to a totally different world populated by people who make apes look pretty damned attractive.

It is my own fault. I wanted to buy a backpack since I have been walking a mile to and from the train station these days. And my shoulder messenger bag is getting old and just doesn't cut it on longer hikes than a block. And since I am basically cheap when it comes to buying things like backpacks, I couldn't stomach forking over $80 in a luggage store for essentially a bag for my lunch. So I wandered into the downtown Ross.

If you aren't familiar with a Ross, Dress for Less store, I congratulate you. A Ross is a discount store. It is just like a Marshalls or a T.J. Maxx. They all carry "named" brand merchandise that wouldn't sell at major retailers because it had a defect or was just plain ugly. I rarely buy clothes at such stores, but I do occasionally buy things like backpacks there. Because they are pretty dirt cheap.

The problem with a Ross and particularly a Ross located in the seedy belly of downtown Seattle is that it attracts the same people who you normally see on the corner of Third and Pine in downtown Seattle screaming about government conspiracies and grabbing their crotches. Ross is one of those downtown stores you basically want to get in and get out of as quickly as possible before you are wedged into a rack of holiday sweaters by four large women with baby carriages loaded with a minimum of three scream kids each.

When I entered the Ross, I half way hoped I wouldn't find what I was looking for. Because if I did, it meant I would have to stand in line at the check stand with 40 other people. I weeded through about 100 back packs tangled together on wall racks, rejecting anything plaid or garish. That left about two back packs for me decide between. I opted for a Swiss Army backpack made ironically in China for the same people who make the Swiss Army knives (which has always baffled me because Switzerland is supposedly neutral on everything so why do they need an army or knives).

I hustled over to the checkout line that wound around in a configuration that would have made Disney proud. There were about ten checker positions, but only about four checkers. Of them, only one seemed to be focused enough to process more than one customer every ten minutes. One checker dealt with the same customer the entire time I was in line and was still dealing with her when I left. They seemed be engaged in a tug of war over a plastic hanger that a shirt had been hanging on that the customer was buying. Apparently Ross' policy is to keep all the plastic hangers but the woman buying the shirt believed it should go with the shirt.

The checker who finally helped me was nice enough though I could tell her heart was not fully into checking the eight or nine pockets in the backpack I was buying to make sure I wasn't trying to secret any plastic hangers out of Ross. After I paid for the thing she slipped it into a large Ross plastic bag so that I could walk back to work proudly displaying that fact to everyone in downtown that I was a discerning shopper and spent my lunch hour at Ross.

I suppose my rambling point here was that there wasn't a single person in Ross or within a three block radius of the store when I left who didn't look as though they'd been mugged with an ugly stick. I suppose I am being harsh in judging the people pawing through the crap at Ross. But even if ugly is only skin deep like its cousin beauty, I'm willing to bet it has pretty thick skin.

As long as I'm messing with cliches, I will have to admit that ugly, like beauty, is also in the eye of the beholder. And I imagine the people I think are ugly don't think I'm any George Clooney, either. But even allowing for my standard of what constitutes as ugly, Ross had more than its fair share of people who could have been employed full time at a carnival sideshow.

So what is it about places like Ross that become lightening rods for the good-looks impaired? Is it economics? Do people with money have more options for masking their ugliness? Because you don't walk into a Nordstrom and see near as many ugly people and if you do, at least they are dressed in natural fiber clothing that fits.

I'm being unfair with Ross. They aren't the only store that has a higher per capita number of ugly people. There are other places that attract even uglier people. State fairs and Denny's also seem to be places where ugly people flock. I find it particularly ironic that the ugly people at state fairs seem to love to go through the livestock barns and make fun of the pigs.

 It would be an interesting study to survey people going to Ross, Denny's and the Puyallup Fair to determine why they are hotbeds of ugliness. I imagine the results of the study could be titled, "It's not pretty being ugly."

I've been trying to finish this blog post for days and it's getting pretty ugly. So I'll stop digging the hole I'm in and stop. I hear there is a sale on at Ross and I want to get there before it gets too picked over.


R. said...

A hard life leaves hard marks. If some of the people were cleaned up I'm sure if you passed them on the street they'd, at worst, look ordinary.

Time said...

R. Long time no hear. It's almost happy birthday time for you! You'll have to forgive this judgmental post. Ross brings out the worst in me.

R. said...

Calling a spade a spade and having a preference for another suit is justifiable.

I prefer not to be around people who clearly have the faculty to follow simple rules of courtesy but choose not to.