Zen and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

Over the holidays while I languished on the couch after knee surgery, I had the deliciously decadent experience of watching lots of television. One evening, I stopped channel surfing at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, an annual extravaganza of impossibly skinny models striding down the runway in bedazzled bikinis and not much more. I paused for a moment to admire how gracefully they walked in stilletos, because in my post-op condition, I could barely stand or point my toes, and my swollen leg looked like a fire hydrant.

Then the incomprehensible happened. One of the models–Ming Xi, whose hometown was  Shanghai where the production took place and whose entire family was in the audience–slipped and fell. She accidentally stepped on her chiffon cape and suddenly she was on all fours, dazed but trying to recover.

Ming untangled herself from the gossamer yardage, struggled to her feet in sky-high heels, and adjusted what looked like a cherry blossom tree on her shoulders, all while drenched in hometown humilitation. The model queued behind her–Gizele Oliveira–arrived, steadying her with a sisterly smile and an encouraging hand squeeze, and sent Ming on her way. Ming struck a contrite pose with downcast eyes and a wan smile before disappearing backstage, where she burst into tears (which was also captured).

The Victoria’s Secret fashion show isn’t a live performance, and they film it twice so it’s possible to cull only the finest moments. For some reason, the producers kept the mishap in the show   although they could have easily cut to the singer or another model. They also dubbed in the backstage audio:  “Model down. Ming has fallen. Oh my goodness.”

In a sparkling spectacle of perfection, this was a mike drop moment. Why immortalize it?

“Because it’s ratings gold,” a friend said. “Like hockey fights or a crash during a car race.” Talk show host Wendy Williams opined, “Hey we all know her name now. It’s Ming.” Girl, enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame. All publicity is good publicity.

I have a less cynical view of it. Here are my three generous takeaways from the Victoria’s not-so-Secret spill.

First of all there was the touching vignette of Gizele speedwalking-without-trying-to-look-like-speedwalking to assist her fellow Angel, who was still in a heap on the runway. Their sweet exchange was heartwarming. As mop-up operations go, that was about as good as it gets.

Then there were the backstage scenes where we panned past Ming in tears as another model hugged and comforted her, repeating “You look beautiful!” Tux-clad performer, Leslie Odom Jr., of Hamilton fame, offered this commentary to the camera: ”Happens to the best of them. Sometimes we fall. We get back up. Fall down seven times; get up eight.” That last sentence was so profound that I wrote it in my journal.

Fall down seven times; get up eight. We lose our balance. We fall. Get up. Shake it off. Move on.

What if Victoria’s Secret retained Ming’s flub as a wink and a nod to the viewers? Perhaps it was woven into the broadcast as a precious reminder of the human condition. Just in case we were deluded by the pageant of rail-thin models sticky-taped and stitched into skimpy, elaborate costumes, there was this bulletin: clay feet were still standard human issue. “Hey folks, we’re keeping it real for you here. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.” The slips, the gaffes, and yes, the kindnesses, are life.

By including the fall, the producers celebrated how Ming owned a difficult moment and moved forward with grace and determination. Was it ratings gold or a public service announcement? Maybe it was both.


Corral Those Shopping Carts

An item bouncing around the internet declares there are two kinds of people in the world: those who return shopping carts and those who don’t.

While some would say this is an oversimplification, I think it’s a useful rubric.

The kind of person who doesn’t bother to roll an empty cart into the corral (which generally is no more than 20 to 30 feet away) is someone with a self-centered approach to life. There isn’t a thought of what this loose cart may do to other automobiles, or about how deserted carts contribute to a shortage for incoming shoppers. Worse, when the cart is left in a parking spot, it blocks a space. Worse yet, I’ve seen people leave an abandoned cart in a handicapped spot. Cart deserters operate under the blithe assumption that everyone else will accommodate their lazy choice, and eventually an employee will pick up the carts.

With concessions for the elderly, handicapped, and parents shepherding young children, cart desertion is just shorthand for lack of consideration.

For two years once, I lived in an urban location and frequently saw neighbors pushing grocery carts from Kroger down the city sidewalks to their homes. Not surprisingly, on my walks, I saw many abandoned carts far from the store, and nothing says “ghetto” like upended carts tossed into vacant lots. At 75 to 150 dollars per cart, I can only imagine what this theft cost the store. Kroger also absorbed the expense of paying a team to prowl the downtown streets in a large pickup truck to repatriate grocery carts, and their truck bed was typically full.

Sometimes I’d find a cart left on the street corner outside my apartment, so I’d roll it four blocks back to the store, just as I always grabbed a rogue cart when I walked through the parking lot to the entrance. For one reason, it prevented hazardous situations, such as the one I witnessed on a windy fall day when an abandoned cart accelerated across the asphalt and t-boned a Lexus.

For another, it gave the stocker, bagger, or check-out clerk who got tasked with rounding up the carts–sometimes in rain or freezing temperatures–a small break. I once pushed a cart through several inches of snow and slush (not easy), to spare the cart retriever the hassle of chasing down one more. Many hands make light work.

I’ve never seen deserted carts in the Aldi’s parking lot. That’s because in the epic measure/countermeasure struggle, Aldi’s has hit upon a solution with their twenty-five cent deposit. More than people want to languidly discard their carts, they want their coin back. They have a quarter-sized piece of skin in the game.

Even without a quarter on the line, I’d like to see shoppers exercise this simple act of personal responsibility in parking lots. It’s just common courtesy.