How She Shut the Store Down

SHE WAS basically an apolitical Cliffie. She would argue at Adams House with her friends about the war and the blacks and the tactics of SDS. But she had never gone further than the personal dialogue. She had never marched through the streets of New York or across Memorial Bridge in Washington. In the snowy days of New Hampshire she had been quietly at work in her room painting and writing poetry.

But there she was now with her signs and instructions from the Vietnam Moratorium Committee. She had gone to the office at 44 Brattle Street with a certain amount of curiosity, and an infinite amount of apprehension. They had told her that they needed people to go from store to store in Cambridge asking the merchants to observe the Moratorium by closing up shop on the 15th. And before she realized exactly what it was she had gotten herself into she was out on the street heading for her first confrontation.

"Excuse me, sir," began the mildest confrontation on record, "but I would like to talk to you about the possibility of closing up your store to show your sympathy with the Vietnam Moratorium."

"I am sorry young lady but you'll have to talk with the manager about that," replied the middle-aged man behind the counter. He fidgeted with some sales slips as he spoke, and he seemed about to walk away when the Cliffie regained her composure.

"Is he available?" She thought she close her words well.


"Back in there," and he pointed to a shiny red door at the back corner of the store.

She knocked on the door and went in. She was embarrassed in the first place by the fact that she was supporting the Moratorium with her little deed. Carrying around the posters and the instructions seemed like some kind of wife-of-the-liberal-professor racket and she despised the image. But add to that the embarrassment of barking up the wrong tree and then getting barked back at and she was just about to call it quits.

"May I speak with the manager?" she said this time. No one was going to catch her twice with the same trick.

There were two men in the room sitting at desks that faced each other. They both spoke at the same time.

"He's not in," scoffed the younger man on the right.

"I am he," said the other.

They both looked at each other in quiet amazement. She looked at the floor and understood she had been caught again.

Five stores later the results had not improved. She had begun to organize her thoughts into a form which argued her feelings about the war more coherently, but the answer to her questions and her arguments was still the same: NO.

I am sorry no. I sympathize, but no. I would like to, but no. Nonetheless, it was no.

At the sixth store, they told her to wait a few minutes and the manager would be right down to talk to her. She waited. Five minutes went by, then ten. She returned to the clerk and was told that the manager was informed and would be down momentarily. Five minutes later she turned back to the clerk and asked again.