The Undecided Ones

By ELINOR GOULDING SMITH

I HAVE been the victim lately, with increasing frequency, of a certain kind of lady. Whether it is due to some sort of population shift, or economic disturbance, I cannot determine, but this kind of lady appears on the streets in greater and greater numbers. She is found largely near department stores, linen stores, and restaurants. It is my belief that she is usually shopping for guest towels in delicate colors, with dainty appliqué or embroidery designs, and she is generally in an awful state because it is so hard to find pure linen these days, and she can’t match the shade of apricot on the border of the dressing-table skirt. She is willing to compromise, because of the hardships of the war, on the pale green in the leaf design of the shower curtain, but nearly every green she has seen is just the least little bit off.

When she isn’t shopping for guest towels, she is eating a chopped chicken and vegetable salad roll in a restaurant with her ever present friend, who is eating a Spartan crab flake salad because she is dieting. (Both the lady and her friend are always dieting, but as far as I can see, it never does a bit of good. Perhaps this is because they always wind up with a hot fudge sundae for dessert, with much sighing and moaning.)

This kind of lady (and her friend) is always so upset about the shortage of pure linen guest towels that she is often a little unconscious of where she is and what she is doing. Sometimes she and her friend are strolling along and one of them suddenly spies a simply darling blouse in a shopwindow. They either stop dead in their tracks, in surprised delight at how adorable it would look on Henrietta if only it were black instead of navy, or they suddenly change their course and, without any warning to the unwary citizen behind them, veer across the sidewalk to the window.

Both of these maneuvers are pretty rough on the person walking behind them, who is usually, unfortunately, Me. The instep of my left foot is beginning to look as though I 'd caught it in a waffle iron by mistake. Sometimes they have the decency to say they’re sorry (though they’re not nearly so sorry as I), but more often they’re so intent on the darling blouse (which they have no intention of buying) that they don’t even realize they’ve stepped on something softer than pavement. Perhaps they think I’m a bit of old apple core or something. I don’t know.

These ladies are very prone to stop and chat in front of revolving doors, escalators, elevators, and swinging doors. When I am forced to go to a department store, at whatever floor I have to get off the escalator, there is always a pair of them in front of me, and I have had to learn the technique of a rabbit on a treadmill while the ladies decide whether to shop for lamp shades first or girdles first.

It always happens, too, that these ladies are always going in the opposite direction from everybody else. They’re always getting on elevators when everybody else is getting off. They’re always getting off the bus just when everybody else is getting on. They’re always walking in the wrong direction on the sidewalk. When everybody else is crossing the street, they’re standing on the sidewalk trying to decide whether they should go to Brown’s or Green’s. And when everybody else is safely across the street, the lights have changed, and traffic is just starting to move, they decide to go to Green’s, and run across right in front of the cars.

These ladies have never learned to balance themselves on buses, with the result that every time a bus stops or starts, they have suddenly to rearrange their stance, and I get a new wound on my left instep.

I suppose they can’t really help it. They have worries. And besides, the green towels are going to be just the least little bit off again, and they’ll have to come downtown tomorrow to return them, and then they’ll have to go to Brown’s after all. Or perhaps Wasservogel’s would be better? Well, never mind. Time enough to decide that just as they’re getting off the bus. The front door of the bus will be a good place to talk it over.

And I think I know a good place for the instep of my left foot.