“So my sister Lori is traveling across country in a piece of shit car with her dog, sleeping in a tent and stopping in all the small towns. Does this sound familiar? I don’t know if you remember me ever talking about her. I think I may have mentioned once that you and her would get along great. Anyway, I’ve attached a couple emails that she has sent so far, I thought you might find them interesting. As I read them I found myself thinking about your trip. I hope everything is going good for you. Keep in touch. I want an autographed copy of your book when it’s on the best sellers list.”
I‘m frustrated and tired. I’m wringing my hands and drowning in the sound of Gordon Lightfoot. My pug is asleep next to me, with a pug baby clasped between his paws. He’s snoring, and I’m wearing Joe’s noise-canceling headphones.
What are you doing right now?
What does it look like I’m doing? I’m desperately looking for a job. [Closes the St. Pete Times.]
What was the worst part of the drive down from Buffalo?
West Virginia. Not knowing if my car would make it over the hills.
What was the best part of the drive?
The final hotel. The fact that the bed was so huge despite it being disgusting.
How many items of clothes can you fit in one of those vacuum-sealed bag?
Over 50 items.
Do you have them sorted according to item?
No I was stupid I didn’t do that. Now I just have bags exploding and I have to pick through them.
What’s your future apartment’s must-have amenity?
This sounds really bad, but a washer and dryer in the apartment or in the apartment vicinity.
Good luck with that.
OK. Air conditioning. It must have air conditioning.
What’s the most you’re willing to spend on an apartment?
Assuming it’s just me and depending on the job, no more than $800.
Any idea yet on how you’re going to meet a man?
What are you a CEO or something?
I know what I’m talking about.
Is there anything you forgot to pack?
Yes. My Pantene Pro-V Anti-Frizz Serum. (Points to head.)
What kind of music did you guys listen to on the drive down?
We hardly listened to music although Leona Lewis’ Bleeding came on every time we got off our route. And then every time we got back on the route Leona Lewis’ Bleeding would come on again.
What is your dream job?
My dream job? I really don’t know what it is. Just a place where I feel comfortable and work with people who are nice. I don’t care what kind of job it is.
What about Florida do you predict is going to drive you batty?
The traffic, the old people and people with that Florida air about them.
You know what I mean.
No I don’t.
Like DeAnna from The Bachelorette.
Is she from Florida?
She’s from Georgia. That’s close enough.
[PK’s friend Erika walks in the room and sits on the couch beside her.]
Erika, what kind of driver is PK?
I think Pam would agree with me. We had some moments. We had some oh shit moments.
PK, what kind of driver is Erika?
Erika couldn’t drive because she’s too long for my car and I also have lifts under my seat so she couldn’t drive. I told her I wouldn’t put her through that torture.
Erika: She kept saying ‘those lanky legs can’t fit in this car.’ My legs would probably get stuck on the pedal. It would be full gas the whole time.
What’s your fast food count at?
P: I took coupons with me for McDonald’s and I showed Erika how proud I was to have them and she said they only take them in New York and Pennsylvania. We didn’t discover that until West Virginia so we ended up at BK and she got cinnamon buns.
E: Only for a dollar though. I woofed those down. They put something in those.
P: You felt great after those cinnamon buns.
E: And for only a $1.
Spot any snazz vanity plates along the way?
P: Pretty Pam was our favorite plate.
Someone had a pretty Pam plate?
P: Believe it or not there are some pretty Pams out there.
What’s the garbage situation look like in your car?
E: All our fast food accumulated by my feet.
P: It kept getting higher and higher until we returned the old McDonald’s wrappers at the window of a new McDonald’s.
What are your plans for tomorrow?
P: Frying at the beach.
What brand vegetable oil did you pick up at CVS?
P: It’s Banana Boat.
Any noticeable differences between the north and the south?
E: Oh God everyone was so friendly. We had to get used to that, how friendly people are. People here are really big at staring.
P: Like the guys at the gas station who made animal noises.
E: We had a group of guys making animal noises in Virginia. Like farm noises, actually I don’t even know if they were farm animals. I think they were wild animal noises.
P: It was like we got out of the car … like we were being birthed. Like it was labor.
E: And we’re both stretching and I see them out of the corner of my eye and I said, ‘Pam lets slide back in the car.’
P: They walked out of their way to our side of the pump.
E: They were gross industrial workers.
P: And they were making animal noises.
What’s the first thing you’re going to buy for your apartment?
E: You need bedding.
P: Well, I need a bed.
Balls. I’ve been told I can’t post about “Lost.” As much as I want to rip into the show, Joe has informed me that in order to give an accurate critique of the tangent-tastic, scuzz opera I have to rent all the seasons on DVD. Apparently watching only 10 episodes doesn’t cut it for Siskel & Joe-bert. So, I must wait and Lance must remain nonpartisan on topics such as “Lost.” (I knew this topic would rile him more than Towelie.)
So instead let me pontificate on Stein Mart. Why I’m rip roaring crazy over Stein Mart, the shopping plaza department store that, on the surface, sells merch to outfit an old biddy and old biddy condominiums.
There’s a Stein Mart up the road from me, in a Publix plaza maybe two, three miles away. Whenever I go there (and it is often) I feel like I’m going to my favorite Q-tipped Aunt’s house for mint juleps and scrabble. The women who work there are sweet as pumpkin pie and call me hon. The first time I walked in there, brand new to St. Pete and on a mission to find a lamp for our new apartment, a lone male employee walked up to me in housewares and asked if I needed help. I never saw the Stein Male again, though he was just as helpful and fatherly as the ladies were doting and maternal. (I think they keep him chained up behind the swinging door in housewares, where he works on Sudoku puzzles and if needed is unchained briefly for heavy lifting.)
Since that day I’ve returned to Stein Mart perhaps two dozen times. I purchased all my family’s Christmas gifts there and traveled with an extra suitcase to Buffalo with all these oddities inside – rubber boots with enormous flowers on them for my sister, Heelya; a blue, blue handbag for my sister PK, pug slippers for my mom, the list goes on …
People have said to me (particularly those family members mentioned above): “What the hell are you doing at Stein Mart, Bea Arthur?
And to them I say: “The place rocks my socks. I got the ass-iest pair of jeans* ever at Stein Mart.”
Some of the other things I’ve purchased there:
1. Two blankets
3. Green shirt that I am wearing to the left on this Lance
4. Our kitchen table, which Joe and I call Grandpa’s snack tray
5. Bed sheets
6. White granny sweater
7. The butt jeans*
*And it’s thanks to my Stein Mart sistahs that I even own the butt jeans at all. I almost bought a frilly, caketopper dress instead for this wedding we went to last week, but Jesus no I didn’t really want to buy it and upon seeing my scrunched up face as I half-heartedly twirled for them in the dressing room, the Stein Mamas told me, “Hon, if you really like the jeans better, get the jeans.”
Which is precisely what I did.
My theory is, is that I’m sister-less and mom-less here. PK, Heelya, mom, Nana, Aunt Winnie … they’re all up in Buffalo. The ladies at Stein Mart fill that void. Perhaps I wouldn’t even shop at Stein Mart if these women lived here. Perhaps I specifically sought a Gouda cheesy department store in an attempt to stir up substitute retail relatives so that when I go shopping it’s like I’m shopping with my ladies back in Buffalo again, which leads me to my final point of the morning – PK is moving here in less than three weeks.
Things are gonna get funky.