Last Sunday, my Dad was headed into New York to meet me at a function at NYU.  On his way, he sent me a text message that read, “Do you have an extra handkerchief?  I left mine at home in the rush to make the train.”

Now, before I continue, here’s a little background. My Dad, while actually very modern (he has an iPhone 3G-S), is still of another era. An era where scalloped potatoes made with mostly butter, heavy cream, oh and a few potatoes, along with a barely seared T-Bone steak, was considered a heart healthy meal fit for a champion.  And an era where men wore suits all day and carried handkerchiefs instead of pocket Kleenex and Purell.

Believe it or not, when we eat in a restaurant, he is still able to call a young waitress over to our table and say something like, “Can I just tell you one thing?”  She’ll nod and lean in.  “You.  Have GREAT. Eyes.” And instead of a look of disgust, he gets a smile, a genuine blush, profuse thanks, and outstanding service.

Side Note: This has yet to work for me with either men or women.

But I digress.  Anyway, without thinking, I naively texted back, “Sure! I will get you one.”  And so, I left my breakfast meeting and headed off to find my Dad a handkerchief in New York.  On the way out the door, I asked a friend where I might find one in the area.  I got a blank look and an “I don’t know” shrug.

Suddenly, I realized that I hadn’t the foggiest idea where to find one, either.  I thought back to being five, when I wanted to be just like my Dad.  I remembered my Mom giving me a lovely box of three Christian Dior handkerchiefs in different colors for Christmas that year.

Back on 15th Street, I wasn’t anywhere near Christian Dior, but I was a block away from Paul Smith.  Surely, I thought, Paul Smith would have them.  I walked in and asked for handkerchiefs.  The sales gay directed me to the back room, where amidst the scarves and the leather gloves, there sat a few beautiful, delicately folded, brightly colored, polka-dotted handkerchiefs.  For $45.  Each.

I picked one up.  It was translucent silk.  I thought, “My Dad will actually sneeze into this.  I can’t.”

I proceeded onto Banana Republic.  J-Crew.  Kenneth Cole.  Agnes B. All the same story.  Silk “pocket squares” priced between $40 and $105 each.  No cotton / linen machine washable, please-sneeze-into-me, old-fashioned handkerchiefs.  Anywhere.  Someone finally suggested Brooks Brothers, but I was out of time and couldn’t make the trek uptown.

Finally, I remembered this sort of Men’s Warehouse-type store on the Northeast corner of Union Square.  I ran over there, desperate.  I walked in, terrified.  I felt like I was in that scene in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion where Lisa Kudrow tries to get a job at that bargain basement store and finally, pathetically says, “I need to get out of here.  Now.”

They even had a sign with an arrow pointing downstairs that read, “20 Steps to a GREAT suit!”  I’m not sure if they meant 20 steps as in the number of physical steps on the staircase or 20 steps as in the number of steps in the process of fitting the suit.  Either way, for me, I have narrowed it down to one simple step to a great suit.  Prada.

But once again, I digress.  I walked up to the woman behind the counter and asked her if she had handkerchiefs.  With a warm smile, she reached behind the counter and retrieved a rather large package containing not one, but 13 handkerchiefs.  The kind you sneeze into.  For $20.  SCORE!  I paid her, thanked her profusely, and ran off to meet my Dad.

As an addendum, once I arrived at NYU and handed my Dad the handkerchiefs, I noticed a Purell dispenser by the elevator.  “Dad,” I asked, “Did you Purell today?”

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