My tailor feels straight out of an Episode of Seinfeld, and I am not sure whether she’s been my primary for clothing alteration projects for the past five years because of proximity and flawless work or because she intrigues me and makes me smile.
With no business hours on her door in bustling downtown Seattle, she’s forever placing post-it notes on the door that say Back at 10:15, 11:30, 2:45 or some other random time that she never quite makes.
She speaks with a heavy, expressive Italian accent and hand gestures, walks with a limp made worse by rain, and her plain uniforms of comfy neutral slacks and button-down blouses say she is unimpressed by the expensive suits and fancy dresses crammed into her tiny shop. The shop, I must point out, reminds me of a clown car. It is tiny and yet she deftly plucks newly hemmed, repaired and altered clothing out of nooks and crannies for pickups and squeezes customers into a curtained corner to take measurements.
She no sense of urgency about tailoring tasks. At all.
Pictures of her grand and great grandkids scatter the walls, and if you ask, she will proudly tell you little stories about them.
For her part, she collects stories too. With customers who always have somewhere else to be, she leisurely asks: how are ya, how’s the family, how’s work? Ordinary questions, but extraordinary is that she waits for answers and expects some back and forth.
My weight doesn’t fluctuate wildly, so she mostly alters my nicer thrift-store finds, without judgy comments about me occasionally wanting dresses turned into skirts. I give her my vision, but she gives me hers too and we settle on something.
She writes slips that are illegible. Just a dash with a curly tail no matter what I drop off. I recommend her all the time, but people get frustrated with her unpredictable hours and disregard for deadlines. Once she was gone for a month, and someone kept sliding notes under her door that read, “Where are you?!!!” along with a phone number. The little stack of frustration disappeared one day and she had a line outside her shop. “Cataract surgery,” she explained. “I couldn’t see nothing.” Then her hearty laughter filled the shop.
Even with one bad eye, she is a master tailor. Shouldn’t be possible, but why question magic?
Instead of quoting a price, she often says, “Whadda you wanna pay?” like she’s Priceline or Ebay. Or she quotes cheaper than the going rate for a metropolitan city tailor and asks if I want to buy a couple of the two-dollar candy bars her granddaughter is selling.
“She doesn’t know how to run a business,” a co-worker I referred complained yesterday, and I couldn’t disagree since she still has a dress I dropped off three weeks ago that I almost consider kidnapped. Still, I keep going back because I enjoy her unhurried energy and the adventure of never knowing if she’s going to be there or if my clothes are going to be ready, and look forward to swapping stories.