In the spirit of first-person participatory literary criticism, I visited the flagship store of Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue this afternoon to see if the store could make me feel like Truman Capote's Holly Golightly, a place to beat the "mean reds." In her conversation with Capote's narrator in the novella, she describes the "mean reds" as different from the blues, a normal sadness. They're "horrible," Holly explains, a mixture of fear and anxiety without a rational explanation or source - "something bad is going to happen, only you don't know what it is."
Holly's way of coping is to get in a taxi and go to Tiffany's:
"It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets."
Her quest is to find a place for herself that makes her feel as secure as she feels in Tiffany's.
While I don't necessarily find Tiffany's in particular to fill that kind of emotional need for myself, I do find in the store values of style, quality and customer service that I think other establishments should emulate. What strikes me most in every visit to Tiffany's is the staff's beautiful courtesy and manners. The store is a destination New York site for throngs of visitors, partially because of Holly Golightly, but the staff always treats them with courteous respect. During the holiday season, I've seen doormen at Tiffany's beckon the many bedecked tourists to come in, and you know, this is a wonderful thing. Some people, aware of their lack of resources, wouldn't even even think about going in the store. Once inside, the same courtesy and manners prevail, and the elevator operators seem to take pleasure in reciting the various items featured on every floor. And, by gosh, the men and the women who work at Tiffany's do look handsome in their suits.
In Breakfast at Tiffany's, the narrator gives Holly a St. Christopher medal he bought at the store. He knew a present of any sort from Tiffany's would be welcome. In that spirit, I shopped around the store today for something I could possibly afford as a gift myself. With a little advance scouting on the store's website, I decided to seek out a small leather 2009 pocket diary, available in brown, Tiffany blue, and pink ($50).* After being directed to the fourth floor, I picked up the brown version of the item in question. I liked the feel of the paper, the look of the typeset, and I especially liked the maps of major cities in the back of the diary. The little diary had a Tiffany aura, and indeed the endpapers spell out the store's name. After I told the woman behind the counter that I had decided on one of these, she walked over to a cabinet and picked out one tucked away in its blue box. I watched her tie my box with the white satin ribbon and then put it in the little bag. I had told her it was a gift, and she asked if I wanted a gift card. Yes, please, thank you. She was understated, elegant, and appropriately cordial, and the cool thing is that I know she is like that with everyone.
* Even more affordable items include some holiday ornaments. Among them is a nice little glass gingerbread man I'm sure someone would love on their tree.
See the previous entry, The Golightly Variations: Introduction to a Walk
Images: Walking Off the Big Apple, October 9, 2008.