Tag Archives: Featured

Sugar rush!

11 Dec

The Intern Fear Project

13 Oct

Food Truckin’

8 Oct

The WiderNet Project

8 Dec

A more in-depth look at the University of Iowa’s WiderNet Project.

Video by Linda Hays and Tyler Peterson

From teen icons to straight-ahead rock

6 Nov

Pocketing Stereotypes of Gender and Old Age

7 May

The player sizes up the next shot, bending low over the classic green pool table.  Thumb and forefinger steady the cue a few inches from the tip while the other hand quickly jerks the stick into the cue ball.  The glistening white ball collides with a yellow ball which bounces off the side of the table, narrowly missing a corner pocket.

“I like to live dangerously,” says Jan Alan, admiring her shot with a grin.  At 70 years old, Alan is the youngest of the ten members of the Women’s Pool Group at the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center.  The group meets on Friday mornings for two hours, chatting and playing a few casual games of pool.

Alan “Monty” Monsanto, a member of the Senior Center’s Men’s Pool League, started the group in the spring 1998 when his wife wanted to play.  Monty secured the pool room, located in the basement of the Center, on Friday mornings.  None of the group’s original members had played before so Monty instructed them.

As the original members invited their friends to join, the group expanded.  Betty Norbeck says that when she joined the group, everyone was very serious and would be upset when someone would talk during a game.  As the women grew to know each other and developed a sense of camaraderie among the group, the women loosened up.  Alan says that while members of the Women’s Pool Group do not meet often outside the group, they are all friends.

The Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center is not the only Senior Center that offers pool as an activity.  In Iowa, both the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department’s Senior Programs and Mason City Senior Activity Center have pool on their activity lists.  At the South Sioux City Senior Center, pool tournaments are held on the second, third, and fourth Tuesday of every month.

Games at the senior centers are generally relaxed and among friends but some competitive tournaments are held for seniors outside the realm of the senior centers.  The 2008 Iowa State Poolplayers Association State Championships, held from April 23 to April 28 in the Quad-Cities, includes a senior competition for those 55 or older.

Although some of the women in the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center’s Women’s Pool Group are skilled enough to enter such tournaments, they prefer to play for fun.  There is also a certain sense of camaraderie among the women as they congratulate each other for good shots or offer sympathy for shots gone awry.  “It’s like a team sport even if we’re not on the same team,” says Pat Ephgrave.

Like any good team, the women all support and learn from each other.  Even when taking a break from playing, the women cheer for each other from the chairs lining the side of the room holding the two pool tables.

No one is ever a sore loser either.  When Alan saw her partner sink the eight ball too early, thus losing the game for them, her reaction was “At least we don’t have to rack.”   In another game when Alan just missed sinking the eight ball to win the game, Jean Reese, Alan’s partner in the game, said “Well, we just want to prolong the game.”

Alan, a former psychotherapist, says that according to group theory, eight is the perfect number of people for a group.  Most weeks about 8-10 women show up to play, so the group generally stays at that perfect number.

Every member plays a role in the group, according to Alan, and they each take a leadership position.  “It feels good to meet once a week with people you respect and like,” Alan says.

Participating in the Women’s Pool Group gives the women benefits beyond learning how to play the game and developing friendships.   According to a study conducted in Taiwan (H.C. Hsu, “Does social participation by the elderly reduce morality and cognitive impairment?”), participation in social groups can help maintain good health and reduce the risk of mortality.

The study also suggested that older people who participate in activities with high levels of social interaction and intellectual stimulation might benefit cognitive functioning.  As playing pool requires a high level of strategic thinking it would classify as one of these beneficial activities.

This is especially true in the closely-knit Women’s Pool Group with its heightened sense of camaraderie among members.  “We’re very close, very functional, very up-to-date,” says Alan.  Additionally, Norbeck says that being able to interact with others is very important for the members of the Women’s Pool Group since many of them live alone.

Another study conducted by Northwestern University (“Daily Activity Helps Elderly Cognition,” Northwestern University Press Release) showed social and physical activity could improve sleep and cognitive functioning in people over the age of 65.  The study also noted that many people in this age group have sedentary lifestyles and can be socially disconnected, so participation in these activities would be important to combat this trend.

When asked how important it is for seniors to stay active, Alan says “If you want to live, you stay active.”  Norbeck, however, says she believes that people who were active when they were younger were more likely to stay active as they aged.  Thus, people who were not as active when they were younger typically do not become more active when they get older.

Alan, the youngest of the group, says she still feels like she is 30 years old.  “The old are just like the young, just more decrepit,” she says.  Yet she has noticed how aging has taken its toll on her and other women in the group.  Some members have had to get new knees and other body part replacements.  “It’s kind of discouraging when you plan what you’re going to do with the rest of your life and your body starts falling apart,” Alan says.

Finding a sport they can excel at counteracts the discouragement of their aging bodies, though.  “I was always bad at sports,” says Norbeck.  “I finally found a sport I’m good at.”

Though Alan says she was taught how to play pool by one of her boyfriends when she was younger, many women were socially restricted from playing pool up until a few decades ago.  Pool was seen as an unladylike sport, played only by burly hustlers from the wrong side of the tracks.

The members of the Women’s Pool Group agreed that no self-respecting woman went to a pool hall because pool tables were in places women did not want to go.  “If I had gone to a pool hall,” Alan said, “my mother would have died.”

This stereotype changed in the 1990s when pool games became more of a social event for both men and women.  According to an article in Maclean’s (Joe Chidley, Mary Nemeth, “The billiard boom”) pool became more upscale and bar-oriented in the 90s, which made women feel more comfortable and the game more socially acceptable.

A lot of these changes can be attributed to the Women’s Pro Billiard Association, according to Adam Gershenson in the New York Times.  Though the organization formed in 1976, it became more influential in 1991 when the women’s and men’s tour parted due to marketing and sponsorship conflicts.

After the split, Ewa Mataya Laurance, former president of the Women’s Pro Billiard Association, revamped the image of pool players, especially women.  Drinking, smoking, and gambling became forbidden at tournaments.  In 1993 the women were required to dress in evening wear for televised matches, adding a touch of elegance to the sport.

The atmosphere of pool halls changed as well.  Mike May, director of communications for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, told American Demographics (“Pool Parties”) that pool halls were redone in the 1990s to model trends in health clubs and popular restaurants.

“People like well-lit, smoke-free atmospheres,” said May.  “It became clear that if billiards was going to survive, changes were needed to make the activity popular with the customers again.”

The members of the Women’s Pool Group did not like the dark, smoky pool halls either.  Before the group started, it was very hard for members who had enjoyed playing pool to find a place that was not smoke-filled.  The only place in the area was the Iowa City Recreation Center, but the tables were almost always being occupied.

However, once the atmosphere of pool halls became classier and dignified women were seen playing in pool leagues, it became more acceptable for women to play pool.

Though pool has become more popular among women, gender stereotypes can still be a barrier for some women’s involvement in the sport.  Women who play pool can be judged as being either promiscuous and shameless or tough and masculine.

According to Naomi Greyser, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Iowa, sexuality is used by society to keep the behavior of women in check.  The cultural definition of femininity pulls women into subordination by making women feel the need to be attractive or sexy.

Not all women, however, buy into this subordination.   Greyser says that when women cross gender stereotypes by participating in “masculine” activities like playing pool or riding motorcycles, they are often labeled by society as being “dykes.”   This label is one that “some women have claimed with pride and others have rejected angrily,” says Greyser.

Society can also label women who break gender stereotypes as being sexually available, according to Greyser.  Though the image of female pool players was improved through Laurance’s efforts, the required evening wear could have had a negative effect as it showed the women as being attractive and alluring.

This stereotype of women who play pool as being “loose” even appeared in the New York Times.  In an article about the changing atmosphere of pool halls (“Eight Ball in the Pita Pocket”), Alex Witchel said pool has become “the perfect mating dance for hot young things who want to lean across a table and show off a cute behind.”

The two stereotypes of women being “loose” or “butch” if they play pool have even manifested in the Iowa City Women’s Pool League.  It is probably no coincidence that in the 2007-2008 season the league included teams with names such as “Charlie’s Rack-em-ups,” “Gus’ Bitchin’ Kitties.”

Perhaps it is also not a coincidence that as of March 31, 2008, the leading team in the league is “IC Ugly Chicks.”  This shows gender stereotyping at work.  Though the women on this team might not be “ugly,” they probably label themselves as such because rejecting the idea that women must be attractive is a way to cross gender borders.

However, not all women are aware of the stereotypes.  When asked about stereotypes of women who play pool, some members of the Women’s Pool Group were confused.  Some claimed to not know the stereotype existed, and some even laughed when they were told women who play pool are sometimes seen as being “promiscuous.”

On the other hand, some of them are aware that the stereotype exists.  They know women are portrayed in the media as being either “loose” or masculine, often depending on the clothing they are wearing, if they play pool.  They also know that when people see them outside the pool hall, their age and gender makes them appear to be “nice, motherly ladies,” as Alan says.

Hidden away in the basement of the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center, the Women’s Pool Group seems to not be shaken by stereotypes of women and the elderly.  “When you get to be over a certain age you try things regardless of stereotypes,” says Alan.  “We’re old enough to do as we damn well please.”

For two hours every Friday morning, what these women please to do is play pool.  The game has become more than just an activity for them.  It has become a way to bond with friends, fine-tune their skills, and find a sense of accomplishment.

Surveying the table, Norbeck approaches to take her turn.  She lines up a shot that, if done correctly, would send the cue ball far across the table to kiss a yellow ball, putting it in the nearby pocket.  Drawing the cue stick back, Norbeck takes the shot.  The cue ball rolls across the table, doing exactly what was intended.  Pointing at the table, Norbeck says “That’s the kind of shot that feels rewarding.”

Counterfeit Chinatown

29 Feb

Let me out!  I don’t want to be sold into White slavery! the voice inside me screamed as I was shoved into a dimly lit, closet-sized room behind a corkboard wall.  I was too scared and confused to open my mouth.  Just moments ago I had been looking at cheap imitations of designer purses in a tiny shop on Canal Street in New York City’s Chinatown.

Before I knew what was happening, I felt someone behind me push me into the back room.  I thought it was like the holding cells of the Chinatown White slave trade I had seen depicted in the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie.   I didn’t want to end up like Mary Tyler Moore!  But then the lights came on.

Designer purses, actual ones with the real logos, were stacked high along the walls around me and the ten other tourists in the room.   It was like a dream.  I wanted to buy them all, and I didn’t care they were being sold illegally.  Apparently neither did anyone else in the room.

Many tourists go to Canal Street to buy knockoffs, intentionally following shady-looking characters for blocks or going in hidden back rooms of stores.  Though selling these counterfeited goods is illegal, Canal Street tourists care as much about respecting the law as people do when they download songs from fileshare software like Limewire.  If people want something, they don’t care about copyright law—they care about getting the best deal.

Counterfeit Rolex bought in New York City

That is exactly what my sister, Karen, and I wanted.  We came to New York City in March 2006 with our parents for spring break vacation.  On our “Must Do While in NYC” list were many of the landmarks of the city: see the Statue of Liberty, tour Ellis Island, journey to the top of the Empire State building.  Karen hates anything having to do with history and tours, so she pushed for another bullet on the list: “Buy Coach purses in Chinatown.”

It wasn’t like we had never been to a Chinatown before.  My family has been to the Chinatowns in Toronto, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  However, the Chinatown in New York was completely different from any other Chinatown we had seen.

My dad says New York’s Chinatown was not as “authentic” as the others.  Compared to the Chinatowns in Los Angeles and Chicago, he thought there was not as much Chinese architecture or statues in New York.  While some vendors, especially off the touristy Canal Street, sold smelly fish and chickens hanging in store windows, it seemed like New York’s Chinatown thrived more from hawking knockoffs to tourists.

But that’s why we went to Canal Street.  We’d already experienced the “authentic” Chinatowns.  This time, we wanted to experience the “underground” Chinatown and in New York, the underground isn’t so hard to find.

When we first stepped on Canal Street, my family and I had no idea what was going on.  Tourists were moving in groups like schools of fish among the sardine-packed stalls on the street.  The stalls were filled with shoddy jewelry and purses with labels like “Prado.”

“If I wanted this crud I could’ve stayed in Chicago,” I told my mom.  “Where’s the good stuff?  I want Coach!”

“I’m not really sure how this all works,” she said.  “Let’s just go into this store and see what happens.”

My mom, my dad, my sister, and I went into the first stall we came upon that looked a little less crowded than the others.  I headed to the back and picked up a purse that kind of looked like Coach, but had a repeating “G” print instead of the trademark “C” print of Coach.  As I put the purse back on the peg in the corkboard wall, I heard a little commotion behind me.

A group of about ten people started moving towards the back wall of the stall, pushing me along with them.  The little Chinese woman who worked in the stall removed some of the purses hanging on the back wall, and then pushed the wall in like a secret passageway in a mystery movie.

That’s how I ended up in my first illegal merchandise display room.  My sister, Karen, had also been pushed into the room with me, and had a very similar reaction.  She had been listening to her mp3 player, so she was even more confused than I was.

The look on Karen’s face when we first entered the room was priceless.  I’d seen that look only once before, when we were on a “ghost tour” on the Queen Mary in California.  She was scared out of her mind.

When the lights came on, though, her eyes lit up.  Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, and Coach purses—the real stuff—were hanging on the walls by the hundreds. Karen and I dove under the other tourists, searching the Coach merchandise for purses we thought were “pretty.”

Although there were some good choices, we thought we could do better, especially now that we figured out where the knockoffs were hidden.  As a few of the tourists left the room, we followed them out.

My family went into another stall next door.  This time, we stood by one of the Chinese men working in the store and pretended to look at the purses.  “Eh, this one’s okay,” I said.  “I wish they had something more authentic-looking though.”

The man’s ears perked up.  “You want see back room?” he said to my family.

“Sure,” my mom said.  “I guess it couldn’t hurt.”

We had figured out the secret to getting in the illegal storerooms: act like you want something better, but don’t make a big deal about it.

Sometimes the rooms with the knockoffs were actually in the basement of the store, so we’d have to follow the workers down a few flights of stairs, around stacks of cardboard boxes, through metal gates.  The buildings were poorly constructed, probably didn’t have any kind of fire alarms, and should have been condemned.

Mott Street in New York City's Chinatown

Often the clearance above steps to the basements was very low, so most people had to duck in order not to bang their heads.  Once, while I was walking up the stairs, a man who was about six and a half feet tall came down the stairs.  He had to bend over almost completely at the waist in order to make it down the stairs safely.

The people running the illegal operations usually had walkie-talkies and right before they took us into a knockoff storeroom, they would quickly speak into the walkie-talkie.  Although I couldn’t understand what they were saying since I don’t speak any Chinese dialects, I assumed they were asking look-outs for an “all clear” signal.

Selling counterfeit merchandise is illegal in the United States, although most Americans seem either not to realize how illegal it is or don’t care.  When I later told my sister that we had been dealing with criminals on Canal Street, she was confused.  “It wasn’t stolen,” she said.  “It just fell off the back of the truck.”

While I was in Chinatown shopping for knockoffs, I had no idea how illegal and dangerous the business actually is.  In his article “The Hoods Who Move the Goods,” Sam Cocks said that the value of the illegal drug market worldwide was $322 billion in 2003, but value of the counterfeit merchandise market worldwide was over $600 billion.  Cocks said of all merchandise sold worldwide, almost seven percent is either counterfeit or pirated.

Organized crime groups have taken over the counterfeit goods market and since most of these goods come from China, most of the organized crime groups are Chinese, called triads or tongs.  According to Cocks, “Canal Street functions as the hub of the triad-operated counterfeit goods distribution system with tendrils extending throughout the northeastern United States.”

The people I had followed seemed a little suspicious, but I never thought they could have been involved with organized crime groups.  An article in the New York Times, “The Knockoff Squad,” said that in the 80s and 90s, Canal Street was much more violent.  When private investigators in tandem with the police would raid illegal goods operations, members of the Born to Kill gang would throw bombs made of nails, tin cans, and M-80 firecrackers.

“The Knockoff Squad” also showed how the knockoffs industry is tied to sweatshop labor.  In the mid-90s, Robert Holmes, a prominent counterfeit investigator, discovered an elderly man working in a hidden room in the back of a Canal Street store.  Locked in the room for seven hours, sitting in his underwear and a t-shirt with two bottles of water and a jug for a “bathroom”, the man sat on a stool, labeling counterfeit purses.  Holmes figured the man was working off a debt to a smuggler.

Had I known things like this were happening, or had happened in the past, I would have never even looked at any of the merchandise.  I would have stayed on Fifth Avenue.

After our first day in Chinatown, my family decided to pop in the real designer stores on Fifth Avenue, a mere five blocks from Canal Street.  Like Canal Street, Fifth Avenue was a whole different world than I was used to, but on the opposite end of the spectrum from Canal Street.

While there were many tourists and locals crowding the stores, it seemed much more posh and upscale.  The air even smelled cleaner, but that might be due to the fact that Canal Street used to be Manhattan’s primary sewage drain.

In the stores on Canal Street, two or three Chinese people would be working in the store.  One would be sitting in the front, usually holding a walkie-talkie and looking down the street for cops.  The others would be in the back, sometimes eating noodles and but not seeming to care too much about helping customers.

The stores on Fifth Avenue, however, had generally about fifty employees, wearing high-end fashion, standing around waiting to sell someone something.  “It seems like overkill to have that many people,” my dad said.  When I entered the Coach store  in my jeans and t-shirt, I felt like the employees were scoffing at my clothing, thinking I was just another sucker tourist.

“May I help you?” asked a woman in a ruffled top and tailored black pants.

“No thanks,” I replied.  “I’m just looking.”  What I didn’t tell her was that I was looking for the style of purse I wanted to get when I returned to Canal Street.

Part of me felt guilty.  I knew that these companies were getting ripped-off by counterfeiters, but when a purse is priced at $500 on Fifth Avenue and I can get it for $30 on Canal Street, I’d rather save my money.

Besides, buying knockoffs isn’t illegal in the United States, just selling them is.   According to an article in the Toronto Star, the French and Italian governments made it illegal to buy knockoffs in 2005, but such legislation has not been enacted yet in the United States.  If I had brought an obvious knockoff into the Louis Vuitton store on Fifth Avenue, the store couldn’t do anything about it, but I’d still feel bad.  Louis Vuitton is a multi-million dollar corporation, but buying illegal merchandise that rips-off their design is still like stealing.

The fashion industry isn’t taking this stealing without a fight.  Hermes, famous for the “Birkin” bag, sued a retailer who was selling a transparent rubber version of the “Birkin” design.  Eight companies, including Burberry, Givenchy, and Marc Jacobs, sued the Vincent Terranova estate in November 2005, claiming six Terranova properties in New York’s Chinatown were connected to the selling of counterfeit merchandise.  In 2004, Louis Vuitton reached an agreement with some Canal Street landlords, requiring the landlords to take action against knockoff-sellers on their properties.

These lawsuits and agreements haven’t done much damage to the counterfeit purse business on Canal Street, though.  When I was there in 2006, the most popular brand of knockoffs was Louis Vuitton.   Police and private investigators regularly make busts on Canal Street, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the knockoff business there.   It just becomes more underground, with the walkie-talkies and fake walls.

In an interview on National Public Radio, Francesca Sterlacci of the New York Fashion Institute of Technology said that most designers don’t do anything about the knockoffs.  Lawsuits are expensive and a win isn’t guaranteed.  Once Sterlacci even saw her own designs being copied, but she knew she couldn’t do anything about it, much like how there isn’t much the music industry can do about pirating and filesharing.

I felt bad for these designers, seeing their hard work being duplicated and getting no cut of the profits.  Yet, I really wanted a Coach purse and there was no way I was going to spend hundreds of dollars on one.

A few days later, my family returned to Canal Street.  This time, Karen and I were more determined in our mission.  “Today, I get my purse” she declared.

We went back to the first stall we had been in, because we remembered that the selection there was pretty good.  Following our finely tuned routine, we headed towards the back and talked about how we wished there were better-looking purses.  When there was no response from the Chinese woman sitting in the back, we tried again.  No luck.  Finally, my mom went up to the woman and asked “Do you have anything else in the back room?”

The woman feigned a puzzled look.  “What back room?” she asked quietly.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Disappointed, we left the stall.  Outside, we heard some tourists saying that block of Canal Street had been busted pretty badly by the cops the day before, which was why many of the workers were reluctant to take people to the illegal storerooms.

While completely ending the counterfeit goods sales on Canal Street may be impossible, New York City police have been cracking down much harder in the past decade.  According to an article in the New York Times, because the rate of violent crimes has decreased in that area over the past decade, the police are able to devote more time to busting Canal Street vendors.

Canal Street Photo by Derek Jensen

ABC News reported in February 2006 that 13 buildings connected to the selling of counterfeit goods had been targeted by Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-counterfeiting program.  As a result, $47 million of counterfeit goods had been seized.

I knew that the police were just doing their job by shutting down stores selling knockoffs, but I was mad.  I wanted my Coach purse!

Luckily, hope came in the form of a tiny Chinese woman with a bobbed haircut and a walkie-talkie.  “Gucci?  Prada?  Chanel?  Louis Vuitton?  Coach?” she asked my mother.

“Coach?  Yes, Coach!” she exclaimed.

“Follow me,” the woman said, her eyes darting back and forth before she took off down the street.  We followed her as best we could, dodging cars and tourists along the way.  My poor dad, dragged along by the women in the family, wasn’t paying attention and almost lost us before he realized what we were doing.

The woman stopped in front of what looked like an apartment building a block off Canal Street.  She pulled out her cell phone, said something I obviously didn’t understand, and then opened the gate in front of the door.  My family followed her up two flights of stairs, down four hallways, and into a room filled with boxes.

She moved the boxes aside, revealing a door that led to the display room.  A Chinese man and three tall, blonde women were already in the room.  The women were sorting through the Louis Vuitton luggage, while the man told them the prices of each piece.

Karen and I headed towards the Coach section.  Immediately my eyes were drawn to a purse just big enough to fit my TI-83 calculator, indicating that it would be perfect to bring to school.  The fabric was light pink with the signature “C” print and the trim was white leather.  I had to have that purse.

In the 15 or so other back rooms I had been to on Canal Street, I had seen other people buy purses, so I had an idea of how to act.  I picked up the purse, and unzippered it, examining the inside.  The man who had been helping the three women came over to me and asked if I liked the purse.

“It’s okay,” I said.  “I don’t know though.”  I knew I had to play it cool.  This was how you haggled on Canal Street.

“45 dollar,” he said.  “Good price.  Nice purse.”

“Eh,” I said.  “I don’t know.  Mom, do you think we could go look somewhere else?”

“Okay,” the man said, starting to panic a little. “40 dollar.”

My sister had bought her purse earlier for 30.  I wasn’t going to settle for anything more than that.  I didn’t want to seem like I couldn’t haggle as well as my mom haggled for her.

“Well,” I said again, putting the purse back on the rack.  “I don’t know if it’s really worth it.  It’s cute and everything but, I don’t know.”

“30 dollar,” the man exclaimed as I headed out the door with my family.


“Hmm, alright,” I said.  “I think I might buy it then.”  Sucker.

I returned home with my prize, eager to show it off at school.  In my high school, like many high schools, designer labels are status symbols, especially among girls.  I couldn’t wait to get compliments on how cute my purse was, and I was especially excited to tell my friends about how I flirted with the law to get it.

“Coach” Purse from Chinatown © Copyright 2006 Linda Hays

It seems as though people will do just about anything nowadays to be “cool” while still being “thrifty,” even if it means possibly supporting terrorism by buying counterfeit merchandise.  Limewire and BitTorrent are popular for downloading songs and movies for similar reasons: people want to have the latest media, but would rather support illegal operations than having to pay for it.

In the end, though, karma comes to bite you back.  Many songs off Limewire are not as good of quality as the original, and some may even come attached to viruses.

My sister told me the other day that she rarely uses the Coach purse from Canal Street any more because “it looks like something ate it.”  When I asked her why, she replied “Why do you think?  It wasn’t even real.”

I learned my lesson too.  The strap on my purse had broken only three months after I got it, but luckily a tailor was able to fix it for me.

However, last year, I was at the train station downtown Chicago with some friends.  We went into the bathroom, and when I went into the stall, I hung my purse on the hook.

When I went to take it off the hook, I saw a piece of metal fall to the floor.  The magnetic clasp on the outside strap had fallen apart.  That was something the tailor couldn’t fix.

“Damn!” I yelled.

“What happened?”  my friend Lyndsey asked.  “Did you fall in?”

“No,” I said, emerging from the stall.  “My stupid purse just broke.  That’s what I get for buying a knockoff.”