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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The fine line between consumer and voyeur

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I was over at the mall earlier in the week picking up something for the office during my lunch break and decided to take a quick look around for a new pair of sunglasses.  I haven't gone shopping for sunglasses in ages, but since I finally seem to have lost the pair I brought with me to Israel I figured 'what the heck'.

Most Israeli malls have between 5 and 35 stores dedicated exclusively to selling sunglasses.  I suppose this is because sunglasses are such an essential part of the Israeli wardrobe.  Anyhoo... I had maybe 15 minutes to kill so I picked one sunglass store at random and did a quick walk around to see if anything seemed likely. 

I've already expounded on Israeli 'tastes' in outdoor eye-wear so I won't belabor the point here.  Suffice it to say that I found nothing that I could imagine myself wearing in public.

As I was walking towards the door one of the pretty young store employees asked me if I needed help.  I told her that I hadn't found anything I liked and she helpfully mentioned that there were more styles in the front windows of the store.

I went out into the mall and walked back and forth looking into the store window.  After a couple of minutes of looking I actually spotted a pair that looked nice.

Two problems:

1.  I tend to like smaller sunglasses rather than the large wrap-around ones favored by most Israelis, and the pair that had caught my eye seemed to be a women's style.  I figured this out because they were perched on the sculpted face of a female mannequin.

2.  The pretty sunglass store employee had followed me out into the mall and was standing next to me ready to offer helpfully advice.  This wouldn't normally have been a problem, except that the pretty young girl cleared her throat and mentioned in an embarrassed tone that I was no longer looking at her store's merchandise.

Sure enough, I had unknowingly drifted a few feet to the left and was now standing in front of the neighboring store's display window.  In my defense, all of the mannequins in the window were wearing sunglasses... but I probably should have noticed that they weren't wearing much else.  I was looking longingly at a nifty pair of sunglasses poised on the face of a scantily clad lingerie mannequin. 

I probably wouldn't have been quite so embarrassed if:

a) ...the store employee hadn't been so young and pretty.
b) ...I hadn't been old enough to be her father.
c) ...I hadn't been wearing a kippah on my head.
d) ...the lingerie on the mannequin had been even somewhat tasteful.

This last point was probably what did me in. 

Israeli lingerie shops are not very um, subtle.  In the US there is a pretty broad spectrum of tastefulness in lingerie shops.  At one end of the spectrum are lace emporiums such as Victoria's Secret... and at the other end there are, er, less classy shops such as Frederick's of Hollywood. 

So I'm told, anyway. [ahem]

If one were to continue walking down the 'class spectrum' from V.S... passing F. of H. ... and then continue walking for, oh, about ten years, one would eventually arrive at the typical Israeli lingerie shop.

On the many occasions Zahava and I have gone to a mall with our kids I have been tempted to cover their eyes as we pass these lingerie shop windows.  The 'fashions' (if one can call them that) on display in these places are what I imagine a sex offender might dream up for hookers to wear.  Except, of course, that no self respecting hooker would ever wear this stuff!

Again... a supposition on my part. [ahem]

In the blink of an eye, by simply taking two or three steps - maybe 4 or 5 feet in all - in the wrong direction, I had gone from being a discerning consumer to being a creepy middle-aged voyeur.

So here I was standing next to a pretty young store clerk in a crowded mall, in front of an unbelievably graphic lingerie display... and blushing so deeply that I could feel myself starting to sweat. 

Under any other circumstances I probably would have just turned and made a run for it (and then never shown my face in that mall again).  But the kooky thing is that I really, really liked those sunglasses.

So, in an attempt to pretend that I hadn't made a really embarrassing mistake I said to the pretty young thing, "Oh, I know this isn't your store... but you see those (pointing directly at the sunglasses on the mannequin)... do you have any like that?

Not only did I not immediately appreciate how that sentence might sound if the girl happened to miss my hand gesture towards the sunglasses... but as if to confirm this, the pretty sunglass store employee asked icily, "We're still talking about sunglasses, right?"

That was all I could take. 

It may be that the sunglass store had the exact sunglasses I was looking for... and had maybe even supplied all the sunglasses to the lingerie store... [side point: who wears sunglasses with push-up bras and thongs???!!!]... but I'll never know.  At that point I looked blindly at my watch, did a fake double take and mumbled something about being late for an important meeting.

As I hurried away I felt as though every shopper in the mall had turned to watch the creepy guy in the yarmulke who had been leering at the hooker-wear in the store window.

I think I might just be able to manage for a little while longer without new sunglasses.

221_16_5_72

Posted by David Bogner on September 28, 2005 | Permalink

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» What Is Jerusalem? from Cosmic X
After lacking inspiration to write anything today, I finally got some after reading this humorous post by David at Treppenwitz. Read the post. It really is funny. [Read More]

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» Link Love from An Unsealed Room
You really need to read blogs to find out what's truly going on in Israel. The papers tell you only about Sharon, Netanyahu, the Likud convention, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile Yael's getting mugged by 11-year-olds, Lisa's meeting hot Arab sex... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 29, 2005 10:06:31 AM

Comments

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Heh heh heh.

Hee hee hee.

LOL.

::wipe away tears::

Posted by: Sarah | Sep 28, 2005 11:36:42 AM

David,

This is hilarious. LOL!!!

Posted by: Cosmic X | Sep 28, 2005 1:08:37 PM

After that story, I only have one piece of advice:

Now go out and get yourself some big black frames
With the glass so dark they won't even know your name

Posted by: Dave | Sep 28, 2005 1:15:05 PM

Aggh! Now I must get a towel with which to remove the finely atomized spray of coffee and breakfast cereal from my monitor. Harh!

A great addition to the Embarrassing Story Archive, for sure.

Posted by: Elisson | Sep 28, 2005 1:21:12 PM

::giggle::

Oh, ouch! Poor you!

Posted by: Rahel | Sep 28, 2005 1:32:16 PM

Hilarious… is this on of those situations where someone goes oiiii? Off the record David, sh*t happens; it was one of those moments you had to learn something the hard way.

Posted by: kakarizz | Sep 28, 2005 1:37:56 PM

I don't know what is more funny...the story or the fact that you just shared it :}

Posted by: Safranit | Sep 28, 2005 1:41:16 PM

Very funny. Thanks for the laugh at 8:15 AM!

Posted by: Sandra | Sep 28, 2005 2:18:55 PM

[dabbing eyes still gushing with tears 'o laughter!]

Um, honey?!....mmmmmmmbwaaaaahhhhhaaaaaaaaahhhhhhaaaahh [gulp of air] bwaaaaahhhhhaaaaaaaaahhhhhhaaaahhbwaaaaahhhhhaaaaaaaaahhhhhhaaaahh!

To those who don't personally know Trep, however, I must -- IN THE STRONGEST TERMS POSSIBLE -- explain that this is the first I am hearing of the story, that IS how embarrassed he was. He is, deep down, a very shy and modest person. If I know him as well as I think I do, he really was THAT embarrassed!

Posted by: zahava | Sep 28, 2005 2:30:43 PM

Hmmm... perhaps for Hanukkah, a trenchcoat might be in order for my dear bro'!!!!!

Posted by: val | Sep 28, 2005 2:35:07 PM

I so feel for you as I laugh. This one's a keeper. In addition to sunglasses, I never understood the need for the ridiculous amount of shoe stores in Israel...

Posted by: mcaryeh | Sep 28, 2005 3:12:27 PM

Too funny! Thanks for the laugh so early in the morning! You never cease to amaze me with the amount of sharing you do regarding your personal life. Good for you! (I suppose that is what makes your blog so popular)

Posted by: Essie | Sep 28, 2005 3:49:50 PM

You are so right- no self-respecting hooker would be seen dead buying undies in a "Frecha" shop.

Classic. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: PP | Sep 28, 2005 4:14:01 PM

Excellent!

Reminds me of the classic excuse that people read certain magazines for the articles. Some people look at certain lingerie mannequins for the sunglasses.

Posted by: Jameel Rashid | Sep 28, 2005 4:21:15 PM

Oh behave!

Posted by: Dave | Sep 28, 2005 4:29:47 PM

"We're still talking about sunglasses, right?"

*cackle*

Posted by: Tanya | Sep 28, 2005 4:35:26 PM

I'm sorry - i know this was really embarrassing for you, but i find it very endearing and sweet...your mind is definitely not in the gutter if you were concentrating on the sunglasses instead of the naked dummy.

Posted by: mata hari | Sep 28, 2005 4:37:34 PM

Sarah... See, this is what gets me upset. There is nothing comparable to this kind of store in any respectable mall where girls can be comparably shamed. Somehow it doesn't seem fair! :-)

CosmicX... Thanks... and thank you for the link/mention on your blog. I'm always happy to provide inspiration for people... even if it means shaming myself publicly to do so. :-)

Dave... At least this store is on the second floor of the mall, so I can still go back and shop on the first floor without fear of recognition.

Elisson... The worst part is that as I was driving back to my office with my face still beet read, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would be sharing my humiliation here. How sick is that?

Rahel... Thanks for the sympathy. I suppose that beyond giving everyone a laugh, I was sort of looking for the sympathetic response. I knew I could count on you. :-)

Kakarizz... Actually, it would be "oy" ('oi' is more of an Aussie thing I think), but yeah... this would be the appropriate time for that. As they say: "Sometimes you're the windshield... and sometimes you're the bug". Thanks.

Safranit... My friend Psychotoddler summed it up well on his blog when he said: "The funny thing is, I don't think my life is any more interesting now than it was before I started blogging. I think I'm just paying attention now". One thing I've gained from blogging/journaling is the ability to notice things and crystallize them down to their essence. If this had happened 5 years ago I would have been embarrassed and would have gone away with a vague sense of having acted like an idiot. Now I was able to not only remember clear details of the event, but I have learned to laugh at myself a little bit. It actually feels pretty good to gain clarity and not take oneself so seriously all the time.

Sandra... I giggled while I wrote it at 5:45AM... so why shouldn't you get a morning chuckle from it?

Zahava... Yes honey... I was that embarrassed.

Val... No, but maybe a Groucho Marx mustache to go with the big glasses Dave recommended.

Mcaryeh... Not just that there are a gazillion shoe stores, but that they are all right next to each other! If you ever figure that one out let me know.

Essie... I try to share the stuff that doesn't hurt or bore. Believe me there is plenty of both that you never see. Thanks though.

PP.. THANK YOU! I was looking for a good term for these stores, and 'frecha shop' is spot on perfect! I would try to give a working definition of frecha but I'd just mess it up. Anyone want to give it a try?

Jameel... I'm human. I'll admit that walking around Israel in warm weather can be every bit as fulfilling as going to an art museum; beautiful things no matter where you look. But in this case I really was 'reading the articles'. Honest!

Dave... Yeah baby!

Tanya... One of the humiliating things about this encounter is that coming from a guy her age, this sales girl might have found the line to be kinda naughty (in an exciting way). But coming from me it was just creepy (and her tone made that perfectly clear).

Mata Hari... As I said to Jameel, my mind spends about as much time in the gutter as the next guy... but in this case I was really being a good boy! That's what made the whole encounter so embarrassing.

Posted by: David | Sep 28, 2005 5:36:21 PM

Tell us the truth, the mannequin was wearing Yankee gear and that is what caught your eye. Ok, I won't go there because I won't wear Yankee crap either.

Speaking of baseball I was walking down the street yesterday with a colleague who is from Boston when all of a sudden he says in very graphic terms that guy over there looks just like Bucky F*ing Dent. Sox fans have such a loving way of saying that, it warms my heart.

But on to the more important part of this which is in regards to your post. Part of what I really enjoy about hanging out here is your willingness to share pieces of yourself that many people would not, especially when it is so easy to censor and show just what you want others to see.

It really is an endearing trait and makes you come across as being very warm and human.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 28, 2005 5:46:09 PM

That's hysterical! You have to at least appreciate her sharp wit and sense of humor.

As far as Victoria Secret, uh...well you may need to rethink about their displays. Their new, edgier, look, seems to be influence by the centerfolds of Penhouse. Whoa...boy was I in shock when my son and I were strolling by their storefront in the mall. Talking about in your face...I am far from being a prude, but even I was uncomfortable.

Posted by: Jaime | Sep 28, 2005 6:34:58 PM

ha hahahhaahahha.
i have such a wonderful visual in my mind.
its so funny - its going to take some time for me to be able to see my monitor again and go back to work.

Posted by: lisa | Sep 28, 2005 7:51:31 PM

Jack... Invariably the parts of my life that are entertaining enough to share here tend to be somewhat out of the ordinary. I hope you (and everyone else) can appreciate that this kind of stuff is not the norm for me.

Jaime... I'll have to take your word for what is and isn't in Penthouse these days. ;-) In all seriousness, the VS in Fairfield CT got a lot of complaints about the window displays in their store in the center of town. Believe it or not they changed the displays to something much more demure. I know you risk sounding like a 'church lady', but it never hurts to speak up.

Lisa... Maybe I should change my tagline to: "Treppenwitz: Impeding productivity since 2003!" :-)

Posted by: David | Sep 28, 2005 8:49:41 PM

The productivity line has already been taken by http://j-walkblog.com.

"Reducing corporate productivity for 1078 days."


Posted by: Safranit | Sep 28, 2005 9:16:21 PM

"We're still talking about sunglasses, right?"

You're not ready for Israelis. Yet. The only butt-saving reaction should have been a "high five" and a hearty laugh [you know, the way as if it was you who made the joke].

Anyone have a spare screen wipey? No? 'k....*shrugs*

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Sep 28, 2005 9:48:35 PM

“Oh. Gee! Look at the time. I have to run … and aaahh … rotate my bees.”

Later that evening the pretty sunglasses store employee calls her best friend in America who works for LL Bean. They compare notes.

David, with all sincerity, only a great guy would have the sensitivity to get so flustered and the skill to write about it so entertainingly. You’re my kinda froll.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Sep 28, 2005 11:15:57 PM

Safranit... Oh well. I was originally going to use a tag line I actually copyrighted for my blog: "Laying the groundwork for an insanity defense since 1961", but it didn't have anything to do with the definition of treppenwitz. In the end I settled on what you see at the top of the page. Boring, but accurate. :-)

mademoiselle a. ... Clearly I am always going to be a cultural American. Sorry about the screen. :-)

Doctor Bean... Trust me... this girl probably thinks LL Bean is a rapper. :-) Anyway... better a 'froll' than a 'troll' I always say.

Posted by: David | Sep 28, 2005 11:37:23 PM

She was not a very good saleswoman or she would have sold you those sunglasses and the lingerie,lol

Posted by: Jewish Blogmiester | Sep 29, 2005 12:54:59 AM

This is absolutely hilarious... LOL! : D

Posted by: Irina | Sep 29, 2005 5:47:50 AM

i HONESTLY think that is the best story ever. thanks for making my day : )

Posted by: Lisa | Sep 29, 2005 8:16:37 AM

David, I had to stifle my laughter at work yesterday evening. :) Thanks for one of the most entertaining posts ever. (There's so many to choose from!)

And believe me, you will always be a cultural American no matter how long you're here.

Posted by: jennifer | Sep 29, 2005 11:17:13 AM

Jewish Blogmiester... True. Like most people, I have more trouble saying 'no' to attractive members of the opposite sex. This is why you see so many young, attractive clerks in stores. But I'm actually pretty safe in most Israeli stores because the extra effort to be friendly/engaging is almost always missing from the interaction. That aspect of customer service hasn't really arrived here in force.

Irina... Only if you are reading about it... not reliving it. :-)

Lisa... As much as I'd like to agree with you, there is the outside possibility that someone else in the world of classic literature just might have written a story or two to top this one. Maybe. :-)

Jennifer... Happy to lighten your evening... and yes, I know. :-)

Posted by: David | Sep 29, 2005 11:31:23 AM

You and Zahava are amazaing, to be able to air dirty laundry in public like that. That's really great, I think...

Posted by: Andy | Sep 29, 2005 3:31:21 PM

Andy... So far as I can tell, Zahava simply had to own up to being married to such a stooge... I had to admit to being a bit oblivious... and the only 'dirty laundry' was on the mannequins (but it was only dirty in the figurative sense).

Posted by: David | Sep 29, 2005 5:40:40 PM

"We're still talking about sunglasses, right?"

I wish I could read the pretty salesgirl's blog post about this incident!

Kind of an Israeli "Roshaman."

Posted by: savtadotty | Sep 29, 2005 11:15:21 PM

Not sure of all the details, but not only is Victoria Secret crossing the line to Adult themed clothing and displays (it has stirred up so much attention, now the TV and Radio News programs are reporting on their bad taste.) Target is planning to do the same. There was story on the local radio news program that mentioned that Target is planning to sell Adult Themed merchandise. Can you only imagine all the scenerios?

Posted by: jameselvin | Oct 7, 2005 9:42:00 PM

Meant to add this link

http://wtop.com/?sid=583970&nid=104

Posted by: Jaime | Oct 9, 2005 4:46:51 AM

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