Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Parallel Universe

I am up early today, due to a horrible dream in which I was teaching math at Hogwarts, and Professor Snape made me prove my mathematical prowess by solving a thorny calculus word problem, the objective of which was to find the coordinates of the Whomping Willow. The problem took me over an hour to solve, mostly because he made me do it while I was completely exhausted and I kept making mistakes.

This past weekend I was a vendor at the Pumpkin Walk in Stansbury Park (near Tooele). I will never do that again. Aside from the fact that in two days I sold about as much merchandise as I had done in a single morning at the Gardeners' Market, it was horribly demoralizing. I felt like I was in a parallel universe. I'd come from one where my merchandise was cool and people would at least look at it, to one where it was not even worthy of a glance inside the booth.

All my best sales tactics didn't work at all. One thing I do, for example, is to ask people if they'd ever seen a dish scrubber like mine before. In Logan, the answer was always "no"-- it was only ever "yeah" if they'd received one as a gift from one of my other customers. Here, the answer is "yeah, I've seen 'em before" even though hardly anyone has bought one. To which I would reply in my head, "Liar!" These are my own original design, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody else who makes dish scrubbers does them with nylon yarn or makes them in cute shapes like mine. Most crocheted dish scrubbers are plain and circular and made with nylon net, which is not as nice a material as it isn't as durable in the wash, and tends to collect crusty bits of food inside it.

Another tactic that usually works, but didn't, is to put out a small child's chair. (After dark I put out a propane heater instead.) Small children wandering by will go and sit in the chair to rest (or warm their chilly hands at the heater) . When the parents chide them for it, I tell them it's OK with me if they rest (or warm themselves) for a minute. When I speak, the parents turn to look at me, and they see the merchandise, and so they let their child rest while they take a minute to look around. This totally did not work out here. Parents seemed to have no sympathy whatsoever for their poor little children. I knew the children had to be tired because I'd just seen them walk around the entire place in the Costume Parade, or cold because they were in flimsy costumes in 40 degree weather; but nevertheless their parents, every one, grabbed them by the hand and literally yanked them out of my booth. Except for the nearby vendors who had brought their kids, not a single parent allowed their child to remain where it was warm or comfortable.

When they weren't yanking children out of my booth, the adults were just walking on by. Very few of them even glanced inside my booth as they walked. It was like I was totally invisible, with my display of brightly colored tie-dyes and sparkly beaded ornaments. The few who did pause long enough to talk, told me that they already had several tie-dyed onesies. This surprises me-- where on earth do you get tie-dyed onesies, if you don't even look in craft booths? And if you make them yourself, do you use the high-quality dyes I use, or do you use (spit) Rit dye (spit) and color your entire wash load every time your kid urps on his clothes? There is just no appreciation for quality around here. If you can't get it at Wal-Mart, it simply doesn't exist; and if you can get it at Wal-Mart, why would you bother getting it from a craft booth?

I don't think I'll be doing many more shows in Tooele.

This week I'm doing a show in Ogden that I hope will be more lucrative. It is my first central checkout show ("central checkout" means that all purchases are paid for at registers at the exit, like a supermarket). I don't have to be there all the time, which is nice, but I do have to go out to Ogden every day and re-set my display, which is not (it's a solid hour's drive to Ogden from here). The show is heavily advertised, with radio, TV, and billboards as well as flyers, so I have high hopes. However, my merchandise looks really out of place there. Most of the other merchandise is really "country" looking-- lots of painted signs to hang on walls, every other thing decorated with raffia, and skinny scarves knitted out of chunky yarn. It's not really my style, and my funky tie-dyed onesies and silk scarves stand out like a sore thumb. Some days I just want to pack it in and go home, especially after the demoralizing Pumpkin Walk. But then yesterday, as I was leaving after re-setting my display, I noticed somebody was carrying around one of my velvet scarves, and I felt a little better.