Just before tennis yesterday I decided to play some Grateful Dead to settle my mind. I had gotten myself a little worked up about this game for no good reason at all and I don’t know what it is about that music, but it just calms me right down.
This wasn’t a match – it was just my regular Thursday game – although two people were subbing: Debi the Sub, who is from my old, working-person life and whom I’ve recently brought into my tennis web of madness, and Sloane, who used to be in this Thursday group but ditched us this year for better players.
Sloane can be caustic and Debi the Sub can be sensitive and I wanted everyone to be happy, so I was having some pre-game jitters in that way I do when I feel like I need to take care of everyone’s emotional well being. Also, I learned on Wednesday that Laura the Tennis Pro had made the baffling decision to travel home for Thanksgiving next Wednesday, and in so doing cancelled our Wednesday Clinic. So, no clinic next week. No Thursday game because of pesky Thanksgiving. No Friday game because all those women want to spend the day with their families. This was the last time I was going to play for two weeks. As a result, I wanted to play well and leave the game on a high note.
I listened to a few songs from Terrapin Station but still showed up a little frazzled, not even taking the time to tie my shoes before I’d gotten in the car. I laced up, braced up, showed off my new tissues (a gift from Laura the Tennis Pro) which were boldly imprinted – each and every one –with the words You Had Me At Achoo, and stuffed a few tissues into my waistband so when my nose started to run (as it invariably does on Court 5) I would not have to use my shirt sleeve.
I was so pleased with our playing from the very first point. Debi the Sub and I were partners and I felt like we had a good, simpatico thing going on. We were up 5-1 and I was just about to vow to listen to the Grateful Dead every single time I came out to play. But then Sloane and Tracey started getting some games. Several games. And before I knew it we were tied 5-5.
It was warm on Court 5 and we’d already stopped after a few games to take a drink. I would replenish my Achoo tissues. We’d chat a bit. I’m not sure what the score was when we went for that final, fateful water break, but it was after we were all tied up. I had apparently not screwed the top back onto my bottle the time before so when I picked it up the top flew off (which startled me) and I dropped the bottle (which was nearly full) and water (a lot of water) spilled everywhere – all over the little glass table that our waters had been sitting on, all over my warm up shirt and pants that were hanging over the chair back, maybe a bit on my tennis bag, and quite a lot all over the floor. I didn’t act as quickly as I might have – it was, after all, only water. If I’d seen the wet handbag right away I wouldn’t have been so cavalier.
When Tracey reached down to get it, it was the first time I noticed the big water stain on it. Of course, the bag was leather. We all started saying, “Oh no!” and I, of course, was mortified. I think it was Sloane who declared it “ruined,” which was when I chimed in with something completely idiotic.
“It’s going to be okay. Cows get wet all the time and then they dry.” (This is actually the mantra I use when I spill something on our leather sofa.) And it’s true, it does dry. But our leather sofa has kind of a worn-in, distressed look to it. It is not the same effect as this buttery soft leather hobo bag.
Tracey started laughing, but I could tell it was because she really wanted to cry. “You’re not going to believe this, but I just took this bag out of the box for the first time this morning. I’ve never even used it before.”
Ok, now I see what’s happened. It’s not just her handbag I’ve ruined, it’s her brand new handbag. “I’ll buy you a new one,” I blurted out, because I knew that was the right thing to say. I quickly started covering the bag with my Achoo tissues, trying to help the drying process along. Then I got a quick, sick feeling in my gut. “Wait, you probably got this bag from Nordstrom’s,” I said, “not from Payless.”
Tracey was still laughing about cows, but I could tell she was distressed. “I ordered it online,” she said.
“Zappos?” I asked.
“Cole Haan,” she said.
I don’t even know how much a Cole Haan bag is, but I’ll tell you this: once someone told me about what another woman paid for a Fendi bag and I was completely dumbstruck. I don’t even carry a handbag and when I do, it’s from Kohl’s. That’s not because I’m cheap (although I am), it’s because I know that whatever bag I buy is going to fall short in some way. It will be too heavy, or tip over awkwardly in the car. The strap will slide off the shoulder of my favorite coat, or it will be just a little too small to carry a book in. Rather than spend time bemoaning the money I’ve spent on what I thought would be the “perfect” handbag, I get inexpensive bags that I use for special occasions, and the rest of the time I just carry my wallet in my pocket. Before my Fendi education, I thought $200 was a lot for a bag.
Later I found out that Tracey has had the same quest: the hunt for the perfect bag. Although, unlike me, she hadn’t given up. This Cole Haan bag was potentially it. She’d splurged. This was the bag that was going to change her life (as handbags are wont to do).
I spent the day cursing my clumsiness. My forgetfulness around recapping my water. My stupidity around talking about wet cows in the face of tragedy. My ability to wreck damage and destruction every time I leave the house. I cursed the fact that Debi the Sub and I ended up losing 6-8 a set in which we had an early 5-1 lead. And also I cursed the Grateful Dead, who were supposed to bring me good fortune that day, not bad.
In between all that, I went on the Cole Haan website and found the bag (on sale…whew!). I called their customer service department and asked how to antidote a big water mark. The gentleman I spoke to couldn’t have been lovelier, but it was quickly apparent that Cole Haan customers are not typically klutzy, because he had absolutely no experience in dealing with anything like this.
I did a web search, not on Wet Cows/Dry Cows, but on Removing Water Stains From Leather. Fifteen articles came up with the exact same advice (which was, interestingly, sort of based on my “cows dry” theory) and I emailed them all to Tracey.
She wrote me back a note that obviously took her an hour to compose. It was a long, amazing reminiscence of how she had gotten to this bag – the years it had taken her to stop buying cheap bags from which she wasn’t even able to access her ringing cell phone and finally spend some real money on something that would truly make her happy. As I read it, I just felt worse and worse. I knew I was going to be out a couple hundred on the bag – and that it was the right thing to do – but I couldn’t help thinking: Cows Dry.
She ended her note by saying that her family can barely notice the water mark and that if she herself does notice it, it will remind her of how much fun she has playing tennis with me. I don’t even know how someone can get there from where she was. How to go, not from Wet Cow to Dry Cow, but from Wet Cow to I’m Happy To Have The Cow Wet, which is not only the essence of grace, but is surely a Google search that could benefit me a hundred times more than getting in a couple extra games of tennis.