Much like Donald Duck, who is pictured in the comics as everything from an industrial gherkin vat skimmer to a sea captain, I have held a wide variety of jobs in my life thus far. I've been a waitress, a college professor, a receptionist, a domestic violence counselor; sorted mail, edited poetry anthologies, dipped ice cream, written encyclopedia entries, sold books, typed letters, taught Hebrew School. I've had temp jobs and careers. But looking back now, I would have to say that my favorite incarnation was as a shop girl in a high-end NYC soap shop.
Of all my many vocations, I was probably best suited to this. I love fancy soap. Love it, use it, and am well-acquainted with its many scents, properties, and varieties. No used-car salesman I, my regional manager once held me up as an example: "Leah has a certain quiet elegance [let's be honest, I was code-switching]. She doesn't use hard sell, but she sells!" High praise, and I've never forgotten those words.
Indeed, I sold. My specialty was the befuddled wealthy young gentleman, who often wandered into this foreign territory in pursuit of a gift. His unease was apparent, the heady floral scents overwhelming his common sense and reason, the boudoir appearance of the place rendering him rather incapacitated.
I had an advantage here in the merchandise for, in addition to the pretty shell-shaped soaps and rose-y creams and talcs and perfumes, we carried a very old and venerable men's line. And chief in my arsenal was the flat glass case containing, like an exhibit in a natural-history museum, the finer implements of consummate masculinity: boar-bristle shaving brushes, straight razors, and leather razor strops. If he seemed especially uncomfortable upon entry into the shop, it was to this case that I would lead him first, before we advanced to the inner sanctum. He, self-effacing; I, murmuring sweet nothings about that manliest of all ventures, the shaving ritual. Once I had wielded that gleaming and dangerous straight razor in my neatly manicured hands, he was usually all mine.
Never mind that his own home habits tended toward a Gillette safety razor and a can of Barbasol. The merest hint that he was the sort who could handle the treacherous task of naked razor against naked skin, could competently sharpen that razor to deadly glint against naked leather, when the need arose...this was enough to bolster his compromised maleness and give him the courage to forge forth.
More than once, the gentleman left the shop with an overflowing basket of pretty ablutions for his lady, in addition to the entire very expensive shaving kit that, in neophyte hands, might end an otherwise humdrum workday morning in severed carotid artery and Italian-tiled bourgeois bathroom re-painted in pint or three of fresh Hedge Fund blood...so easily I conjured the cheerful scene in my imagination as I wrapped the purchases and sent him on his way, hundreds of dollars in the old wooden till, a simple exchange of money for happy delusion. Though as far as I know we never had any true casualties of that razor, for perhaps there was a lesson in its proper use offered by a knowledgeable father or grandfather, or perhaps the wife or girlfriend stepped in at the last moment to save a life...
I will say in my defense that I never lied. I always gave a respectfully delivered caveat: "...but do remember, even for the most dextrous, it takes a little practice..."