Warren Miller 

In search of perfection

Spring skiing seems to have arrived. Earlier this week, I was skiing on a hot, sunny afternoon in snow so wet that I had to quit early. I approached the base lodge in the heat of the afternoon just in time to see a huge icicle break free from the roof. The sun had loosened the icicle’s grip and the whole incident lasted only a fraction of a second, a matter of perfect timing. As I watched the deadly weapon fall, I was reminded of a cold day in December…

There were only three shopping days left before Christmas as she hurried along, bundled against the biting wind and the hurrying crowds of last minute shoppers. Every store in the city was elegant this time of the year and Park Avenue was stunning. There were millions of lights everywhere and every store window amazed and then entertained anyone who stopped to look.

She left their large four-bedroom apartment on the East Side of Park Avenue overlooking Central Park and headed downtown. Tonight there would be another round of Christmas cocktail and dinner parties. Her beauty shop appointment shouldn’t take longer than an hour and a half. She had to look her best for these two parties because one of them was a cocktail party for major donors of the opera and the other was a formal dinner party for the partners of her husband’s stock brokerage firm. Even though it was only mid-afternoon, she was, as always, elegantly groomed and striding purposefully downtown. Without so much as a glance, she hurried by Gucci, Bergdorf Goodman and Yves St. Laurent.

Her husband worked long hours in the bowels of Wall Street. He exchanged endless frantic hours of his life for the elegant clothes that she wore, as well as to finance the mistress that he kept in Boston where his other office was located. Of course, he also had to support the Park Avenue Apartment, the maid, the cook, the house and caretaker in the Hamptons, and the condo in Vail along with the Mercedes that sat in the garage there most of the year. Then there was also the tuition and overhead for two kids in private school in New Hampshire.

Her closets contained five fur coats, 31 jackets, 84 pairs of shoes, and 38 formal dresses. She was almost secure in the knowledge that the fur coat she was wearing cost her husband more money than most people earned in a year.

After her diet lunch, she had spent over an hour selecting the perfect outfit for her daily afternoon walk to the beauty shop. She wore calf-length boots that had been handmade in Italy. Her watch had been designed and made as a one-of-a-kind for her in Switzerland the year her oldest son was born. The bracelet on her other wrist had been made in Bombay, India on their fifth wedding anniversary and their first around-the-world vacation.

Her husband had personally selected the ring with the unusual coloured diamond the year they went on the photo safari in Nairobi. Near the end of the safari, they had taken a side trip to the diamond mine. On the way home, they stopped in London and hired an 84-year-old diamond cutter to specially cut and polish the stone. A friend from his old skiing days in Sun Valley custom designed the ring and set the stone for their 15th wedding anniversary. Her simple but elegant jacket and skirt were handmade from the finest silk and tailored in Paris on another trip. The fur coat she had elected to wear today was made of the finest Russian sable that money could buy. The pelts were matched, cut and hand-sewn in a loft on West 43rd Street. Her prescription amber, dark glasses had been hand ground in Munich by Germany’s foremost ophthalmologist so they would accentuate her cosmetically altered, perfectly made-up eyes.

She had now walked her prescribed daily 10 blocks worth of exercise and was comfortable enough with her surroundings to occasionally glance in a store window. As she did every afternoon, she was again pursuing her lifelong search for that man-made accessory that she could purchase to cover her own imagined imperfection.

In the window of Cartier, she saw a small stickpin with a brilliantly cut amber diamond, surrounded by a dozen small rubies. As she was thinking about which of her outfits it would go with, she glanced at her watch to decide whether or not she had time to go inside and still be at her beauty shop appointment at her regular time.

On the 14th floor of the building, a leaking faucet in a janitor’s closet had overflowed the slop sink, flowed across the floor and dripped outside of the building. There, it had been slowly forming an icicle that already weighed about a hundred pounds.

As the woman took a split second to decide to run inside and charge the diamond and ruby stickpin to her husband’s account, she was hit midway between her two strings of perfect Japanese pearls by that perfectly shaped hundred-pound icicle that had silently fallen 14 floors. Her search for perfection ended in an instant of perfect timing.

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