When I was growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Loehmann’s was synonymous with Death.
Giant, brightly lit stores, filled with hideous mother-of-the-bride dresses, Loehmann’s was a glue trap for the crotchety. Everywhere you looked, elderly women with carrot-colored hair clawed through piles of beaded formals, tried dresses on right over their clothes and eyed each other’s finds with a mixture of jealousy and contempt.
My mother loved Loehmann’s, but as a pouting, teen-aged, overweight drama student, this was clearly not my scene. I only accompanied her when I absolutely could not get out of it, rolling my eyes while she tried on anything metallic with shoulder pads in it. Truly, she was Alexis Carrington on a fixed income.
So when she called me earlier this year and started telling me how she and my sister Amber had gone the week before, and about how much “Loehmann’s has changed”, I instantly began formulating an excuse.
But then she said something that stopped me in my tracks.
“You know, they have Theory there.”
This was strange for two reasons.
One, Theory is a very good brand, and it has no business being at Loehmann’s.
And two, it would be completely off my mother’s radar if she hadn’t actually seen it there. If my mother was lying to get me to go to Loehmann’s, she’d probably tell me they had culottes.
Like most things my mother tells me, this required back-up. I immediately called Amber for confirmation.
Amazingly, she assured me that there were many good brands there, and she had found some things she liked a lot. I think you can imagine how excited my mother was when I told her I’d pick her up Thursday.
The first trip was life-changing. Not only did I see Theory, I saw D & G, Norma Kamali, Donna Karan, True Religion, Phillipe Adec, Moschino, Armani and on and on and on.
For hours I carried armloads of clothes into the giant, communal dressing room, trying on anything and everything that interested me. I had no idea what I wanted, just that I wanted. And while I loved the clothes I bought, nothing was as satisfying as seeing my exhausted mother leaning against a display, rolling her eyes.
Several months later, I was driving home by way of La Cienega. I had driven this route hundreds of times, but it was only this day that I realized there was a Loehmann’s there, less than a mile from my house. And not just any Loehmann’s: a two story Loehmann’s with its own parking garage! I vowed it would be mine.
Shopping at Loehmann’s is not a passive thing. Woman stare when you take something off the rack, sometimes grouping themselves around you, waiting for you to put it back. It’s not unlike the way Sully looks at me when I’m eating. My mother once dropped a black sweater while we were shopping, and when she turned around to get it, someone had already grabbed it and disappeared.
Yesterday, I decided to brave it and I drove down there. I knew it would be dicey and I suspected there would be some bad manners on display. And It didn’t take long.
While I was waiting in line to get my ticket to get into the garage, I noticed a very small parking space right by the door. It was pretty prime. As I inched up, I looked at the ground, and saw that the word “COMPACT” was painted in the space. Seeing as I drive a Mini, I decided that was my spot.
As soon as the guard arm lifted, I made a very hard left and parked in that little spot. As I got out of the car, I heard someone yelling at me in a very thick Russian accent.
I turn around and there’s an ancient hag in a Buick, about three cars down the line to get her parking ticket. She has her window rolled down, and she’s gesturing wildly at me.
“Yes?” I say.
“Do you working here?”, she yells.
“No,” I say, and start to walk into the store.
“Then why you parking there?”
I stop, totally confused.
“That space is only for people who is working here. You no working here, you can’t parking there.”
Is she right?
I go back and look at the space. There’s nothing on the wall. There’s nothing on the ground. I walk to the back of the car to make sure I read it correctly, and there on the ground it says, “COMPACT”.
“No,” I say, “it’s not reserved.”
“Yes it is! It say right there, RESERVE.”
“No,” I say, getting irritated, “it says COMPACT.”
“No, it say RESERVE! I see!”, and she continues pointing to the ground.
“Lady,” I say, “RESERVED doesn’t start with the letter C!”
Not getting what she wanted, she started to attempt to engage other people in their cars.
“Look, she is not working here but she is parking in that spot!”
At this point I figure there are two ways to fix it. I can either pull her out of her car and beat her with her antenna, or I can get a ruling from an employee.
Opting for the Ghandi approach, I walk all the way to the opposite end of the garage to find the cashier’s booth. The whole time I could hear her yelling from her car.
I approach the cashier and ask if I can park in that spot. He looks over at the car, then at me, and says, “I don’t care.”
I tried looking for her in Loehmann’s, but they all look like her in there.