2015 POWER  19A. PROVOC & CHALNG W ARCERI POWER Issue 2015 - Garbo And Me - Previously Used In Full, Winter 2010 JPG 



Garbo And Me




I remember a rainy April years ago when I met Garbo in New York City. Greta Garbo – the phantom goddess, the woman everyone hoped to catch a glimpse of but never did – found me. I had been hired to manage the Christmas rush at B. Altman & Co., then a world-class department store on Fifth Avenue and now, a designated New York City landmark.


I was at my desk, awaiting the first customer of the day. When the bell sounded signaling the store’s opening, out of nowhere a woman appeared, looking among the shelves of china. She was dressed in a belted man’s raincoat, flat shoes and a wide-brimmed hat half-covering her face: the face of Garbo. She was a tall, thin woman with Nordic blue eyes; long, blackened eyelashes, and a face tanned like soft leather. Her red-slashed mouth drooped somewhat; her hair was tucked beneath the slouched hat tied under her chin.


We were the only ones in the vicinity, so I got up and moved towards her. She sensed my approach and turned to look at me as if welcoming someone familiar, as if I reminded her of someone. She spoke softly – shy and insecure. “Oh, I was looking for a glass for the bathroom and a breakfast set, Japanese.” I found a glass, elaborately cut, of heavy crystal. “Something more simple,” she said. Then she chose a boxed set of two eggcups, cups and saucers, bread and butter plates. “But,” she interrupted, “I only need it for one.”


Suddenly her eyes looked troubled and she started to move away. She had been spotted and word spread like wildfire. Garbo was there! People began to appear, coming off the escalator, out of elevators, from behind counters. I overheard someone say he was leaving to get a camera. He might just as easily have said “rifle” for the effect it had on her. She looked helplessly at me, trying to decide the best plan of escape.   I whispered conspiratorially: “Follow me.”


She froze.


“C’mon.” I grasped her arm, leading her toward the swinging, private exit doors onto

the freight elevator loaded with boxes of all sizes and, we were on the first floor in seconds. The side street exit loomed large and free. “You know you never did get your glass and breakfast set, Miss Brown,” I said, using her account name alias. She looked amused.


“Next time.”

Then she walked out onto 34th Street and turned left toward Madison Avenue. I watched her walk away on the deserted street, head bowed. When she reached the corner, she turned around slightly and looked back. I waved.


The light changed; Garbo crossed the street and disappeared.


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