Stilettos in the Slush

by Marie CooImati

SOME WOMEN CAN WALK IN HEELS-AND I AM ONE OF THOSE women. I always laughed at those silly girls who carried their pumps to work in purses and totes, ruining an otherwise perfectly coordinated outfit with running shoes. But that was be fore I moved from L.A. to New York City. Decked out in my most stylish work clothes for my new PR job, my first few days as a commuter were spent dancing around the sidewalk grates that seemed to reach out and snap at my heels like little steel Chihuahuas. Maybe those silly girls were on to something.

This gave me something new to worry about. Okay, I could bear wearing sneakers with my fancy pants—who would notice another yuppie chick in professional slacks and sporty shoes? But the people who make the pants haven't yet figured out how to let you have one hemline for the street and another for the suite. I tried folding them up in a cuff, but the nicer the fabric, it seemed, the more slippery it was—and the greater the likelihood that I would arrive at work with nasty city sludge on my pants.

I first realized this on a chilly January morning, when the previous week's snow had turned to slushy brown puddles on the sidewalks. I had just left Grand Central Station for a meeting with one of our most important clients, a woman known for sizing people up in fifteen seconds and never changing her opinion. Headlines are my business, and with one false step, I could easily envision the announcement of my new job turning into an obituary for my career. I absolutely could not arrive looking like I'd tromped through a sewer.

Under my left arm I was carrying The New York Times. If only I hadn't tossed out the plastic bag it had come in, I could have used it as a sock and kept at least one leg dry. Looking around, I saw no cabs, no rickshaws, no volunteers to carry me on their shoulders. It was trudge along or be late for the meeting—and the only thing worse than arriving messy was arriving late. As panic set in, I tiptoed my way to a dry corner of the sidewalk and frantically began rummaging through my briefcase, the contents of which have saved me more than once. When I was pregnant and couldn't button my pants (why are all my problems related to pants?), I'd found a nice thick rubber band, threaded it through the buttonhole and wrapped both ends around the button to make an instant waist extender.

My briefcase didn't fail me this time, either: Attached to a packet of press releases and pitch letters, I found four large, silver paper clips. Without wasting any time, I paper-clipped a temporary hem next to both the inseam and the outseam, keeping the fabric safe from the dirty film covering the street. Giddy with relief, I kicked up my feet, half to test the clips and half with an "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" dance step.

As I made it safely and cleanly to the office, I wondered how many of the hundreds of people I'd walked by that morning had silently mocked me (as I would have if I hadn't been me). And then I realized that I didn't care if anyone else thought I was ridiculous. The rubber-band trick kept me in my favorite pants months longer than a pregnant lady should have been able to pull off. And my new paper-clip trick was going to be my daily solution to the hem dilemma.

Marie CooImam works in public relations in New York. Her other million-dollar idea—an adjustable tube of sunscreen that offers a variety of SPF options—has not come to fruition, and she has the freckles to prove it.

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