Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Scent of Southern Hospitality

Hey, it's Thursday!  My photos from my big South Carolina Adventure should be ready tomorrow.  It was probably the only roll of print film they had to develop all week.

I lived in the Charleston area from 1988 to 1993, and I have to say, it was nice to go back as a tourist (i.e., older and with a decent job, rather than younger and dead broke).   With SP as my fearless driver and tour guide, I put on a sundress and some little white flats and away we went.  I had spent many days imagining how this day would progress - turning it over and over in my mind, like a shiny new Coach wristlet.  SP knows that I like to smell like a girl, and had told me of this wonderful, magical place where I could create my own "signature scent."  Well, I was all over that.

So downtown we went, to Happy Scents.  (No, it's not really called that.  I'm not going to use the shop's real name, for reasons that shall soon become apparent.)  A quaint little hole in the wall, Happy Scent's doorway beckoned me from the cobblestone street - come to me, Kat.  Create your dream fragrance here, Kat.  Push the door, don't pull, Kat.

The jingle of a little bell overhead and we were in.  The shop was crammed with perfume bottles from floor to ceiling, pressed together in glass cases which lined the walls; a table in the center of the really, really small room held apothecary jars of potpourri.  Quaint.  Charming.  I was in love.

Along the back wall and behind the shopkeeper's counter stood all sizes of vials and bottles with teeny, tiny labels disclosing a myriad of fragrances.  Ah, yes.  The Creation Counter.  I felt myself pulled toward it, enchanted by row after row of essential oils, staring in wonderment at their colors, their potency.  The shopkeeper gazed at us from behind the counter, a wizened Southern woman, who was most assuredly bold, sassy, and charming.  I felt like I was in a Harry Potter-esque mystical shop, only it was a shop for sexy people instead of weird little kids.  As if in a dream, I floated forward to her.

SP shuffled up behind me, and being the essence of gentlemanly charm, said:  "I was in your store over 20 years ago.  I love ambergris."  he slapped his adorable, slightly flirty smile on his face and waited.

The wizened shopkeeper looked over our way from her pile of papers, and said, "Yeah?" in a tone which one would expect, had SP said: "I was in your store over 20 years ago and scraped dog excrement from my shoe onto your threshold."

The dream is ending about now.  I notice that the charming perfume bottles which are stacked floor to ceiling are actually kinda ratty, and in scents not popular since a certain General Sherman paid a little visit to these parts.

Undaunted, and perhaps a little naively, SP pushed on.  "I told my girlfriend here about your shop, and she's wanting to create a fragrance."  I, in an attempt at a little self-deprecation, threw in: "But with my eyes, those labels are a little hard to read."

With a moderately derisive snort, Shopkeeper strides to another counter, which is stacked with piles of gawd knows what.  She shoves it all aside to reveal a curled paper taped to the countertop.  "Well, there's A LIST."  She left "dumbass" off the end of her sentence, but it was implied.  SP and I obediently scooted over to the "list" counter. 

Hmm...okay, maybe she's not Julia Sugarbaker, but this experience is still salvageable.  I looked over THE LIST and pinged on 2 - White Tea and Summer Peach.  Still feeling confident enough to make direct eye contact, I turned to Shopkeeper.  "How about a combination of White Tea and Summer Peach?"

Bad decision.  Shopkeeper let out another snort, and informed me that she couldn't make any GUARANTEES if I wanted to be a "MIXER", which in her eyes is evidently 2 degrees above "meth head".  With a rather forceful smack, the two containers containing my magic signature scent hit the counter, and each one received an unceremonious paper dip.

"HERE.  Take these OUTSIDE and mix them together on your wrist.  Then SNIFF.  Then COME BACK IN."  I don't know how she managed it, but those words I capitalized - I swear when she barked them, we both were hit with little jolts of scented lightning.  If I weren't Kat, I would have actually flinched.

SP and I gladly left.  Ever compliant, we followed our directions precisely.  It was nice, but it was a little sweet.  "I think I want to try a different scent with the White Tea."  SP-a brave, brave soul- agreed. So back in we went.

"This is almost right.  How about Pear instead of Peach?"

More eye rolling, more bottles smacked around, and 2 new paper strips.  Back outside we went, and - PERFECT!  I announced to SP that this was my 'signature scent.'  He was so relieved, I thought he might weep.

"HERE.  When you RUN OUT, you CALL ME and I will SHIP you some MORE.   I don't have any CARDS but here's a scrap of PAPER with my WEBSITE ON IT.  Now you can't BUY anything on my WEBSITE, you have to CALL ME.  UNDERSTAND?  Now get OVER HERE  and put in your PIN NUMBER when I TELL YOU to.  Don't MOVE from right there or you won't be ABLE TO SEE.  UNDERSTAND?"

Good gawd, yes ma'am, I understand.  You can have my PIN.  At this point, you can even keep my debit card, if it gets me the hell outta here.


Turns out that while I was mixing, PIN-ing, and engaging in other activities which were deemed inappropriate, some poor young sap wandered into the shop and was browsing in "the corner."  He turned, startled, as a young buck might appear in the precious few seconds between the initial realization that he's in a hunter's sight, and the sound of the shot.  SP and I grabbed our treasure and headed for the door.  In a fleeting instant, we met the gaze of the fresh meat as we pushed past him and out the door to freedom.  In that glance, the story of his fate was sealed.   This is the Hunger Games, dude.  Every man for himself.  May the odds forever be in your favor.

1 comment:

  1. LOL!!! Wow! I can't believe you actually bought anything from her. Aunt Gaye would've tortured and killed us if we had treated the customers at the jewelry store that way. Crazy!!!


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