Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Window Dressing. Literally.

By the front door of this modest, circa-1950s public library, right across from the vintage sign with the international "Radiation" symbol that reads "FALLOUT SHELTER," there resides a proud display window. It is a prominent space virtually crying out to be decorated by a creatively inspired designer in a manner that will thrill the visiting public and fire them with the urge to read our books and participate in our programs. Or something.

This display window has been my nemesis since my very first week on the job. At a staff meeting my boss asked for a volunteer to step forward to take over the decoration of said window. In a scene straight out of a Mel Brooks movie (or, at least, this is how I remember it), rather than a volunteer stepping forward, everyone else took one step backward, and I was suddenly crowned with the title of "Front Window Designer." Since I still had that new-employee-smell about me, I hardly felt it was possible to turn down this plum assignment.

When I peeled back the weathered blue curtain on my first venture inside the aquarium-like window box, I found myself surrounded by a faux-nautical world of plastic octupi, papier-mache fish, and severely sun-faded children's books from the undersea life section. Based on the barely detectable hue of blue on the "water" background and the fact that some of the fish had started developing rudimentary legs and feet with which to someday soon evolve beyond this prehistoric swamp, I guessed that the previous Front Window Designer had been retired for some years now.

Since we were entering the month of October, my first design inspiration seemed rather obvious. I was directed by my boss to check out the library's labrynthine upstairs storage loft, within which I found five decades worth of varied, decorative, what I believe the French call "crap." After assembling an inspired Halloween display out of 1970s-era monster masks and ominous spooky twigs a la the "Blair Witch Project," I went on a months-long spree of front window masterpieces.

For Presidents Day I unearthed a pair of mostly intact Washington and Lincoln busts from under a pile of Mardi Gras beads in the storage loft. The Lincoln bust even looked assassination-accurate due to a nasty spill it may have taken off the top shelf a few decades back. The very next month I exhumed the aforementioned beads for a Mardi Gras spectacular complete with cracked plastic trombones and saxophones for that "3:00 a.m. on Bourbon Street" flavor. For Easter I somehow shoved a ten-times-greater-than-life-size stuffed Easter bunny in the display window; I'm not sure if it was his apparent case of frightening elephantitis or the sideshow contortionist pose I had to arrange him in, but I distinctly remember fewer children coming in to the library that month.

Soon enough, however, my creativity was spent. For weeks at a time the window laid un-decorated through the uninspiring summer months (a fact that was noted months later on my annual employee evaluation; apparently "front window design" had been included under the always treacherous "Other Duties As Assigned" section of my job description).

I've gotten by in recent months by recycling leftover craft debris from our security guard's prolific personal collection and appropriating the after school art projects of neighborhood kids. Someday, though, my ultimate masterwork will come to fruition. I've noticed that the most attention the front window display seems to ever get is when I'm crawling around inside it trying to tape crap to the ceiling or arrange a stunning selection of glittery cardboard valentines just so. I think it's the "Human Zoo" quality that especially captivates passers-by, so this summer I'm planning a "Beach Reading"-themed display complete with umbrella, beach chair, some sand, some trashy paperbacks, and a certain staggeringly lifelike, Speedo-clad, sunglasses-wearing Circ. Clerk working on his golden summer tan.


Blogger Adjective Queen said...

Please please please do that window for customer appreciation month. It would surely be an attention-getter!

2:12 PM  

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