The proposition was tempting: I pose as a waitress for one morning and get paid $300. I wouldn't be lifting heavy trays or putting up with crass customers and cranky cooks. I'd just have to wear a waitress outfit, hold a pad and pen, and smile.
``It's a bank ad, no one will ever even see it,'' my mother assured me. ``You can use the money for Christmas presents.''
I was a senior in high school, and this offer wasn't too unusual. As children, my three brothers and I did a fair amount of modeling in New York. We weren't the glamour kids, but had that freckled-face, towheaded, all-American look that was in demand 15 or 20 years ago.
Our family of six did commercials and magazine ads for Volkswagen mini-vans, Kodak film, Sony television, Betty Crocker, and the like.
``OK, I'll do it,'' I told my mother hesitantly. But under one condition: No one finds out about this waitress gig.
The photo shoot turned out to be a cinch. It took place at a diner several towns away. The idea was that I would be talking to potential bank clients from behind the counter, telling them about this great checking-account deal - and that it was the ``best tip I ever got.''
The diner was closed that morning, and the photographer worked quickly. ``OK, look here... click... good... click... tilt the pen this way... good... click....'' Several hair-dos and 20 rolls of film later, it was a wrap. And I had $300 coming my way. (Best tip I ever got.)
As I planned my Christmas-gift shopping spree, the ad agency got to work on that flyer. Several weeks went by, then one day my dad came back from running errands in town. ``Look what I got,'' he announced, holding up a glossy brochure about the size of a checkbook.
There I was, looking pretty silly, I thought. I was holding the pen out as if I were pointing to a prospective customer, about to snap my gum, and say, ``What'll it be, hon?''
The copy had me saying: ``5 1/4 percent checking was the best tip I ever got.''
``Oh gross,'' I said, slapping it down.
Then it hit me. My dad had just come back from his bank - the one in our hometown. ``Were they handing those out?'' I fired.
``Oh, they just had a stack there in the lobby,'' he explained nonchalantly. It occurred to me to send him back to gather up many as he could so none of my friends would see the ad. ``Don't worry, most people go to the other, bigger banks in town,'' he said. Dad was right. Right about the bank's popularity, but not about its promotional activities.
Come Monday morning, several classmates at school stopped me in the halls. ``Hey, I got a bank brochure in the mail and the girl on it looks just like....''
I was mortified. The bank had done a mass mailing. Two days later, the whole senior class knew about it, and I became the target of monumental teasing. I heard calls in the cafeteria ``Hey, waitress, over here!'' My chemistry lab partner pointed out his nifty new bookmark (the brochure).
The ad also showed up on bulletin boards and above drinking fountains. My science teacher declared: ``You're a pretty good student for someone who waitresses and works for a bank.'' Everywhere I went - there I was: the waitress. I wanted to take a vacation, switch schools, move - anything.
All this made me sit down and think: Was it worth 300 bucks? But even more, what made me so embarrassed - the actual ad or all the teasing? Maybe I was upset because my cover was blown. I decided to shrug it off. At least I wasn't promoting imitation butter.
Just when I thought I had endured the last of the teasing, the guy I was dating called me over to his locker. ``Can I have your autograph?'' he asked mockingly. I rolled my eyes, and he snickered. Then, as he opened his locker, I saw it had been ``wallpapered'' inside with brochures. We laughed.
That Christmas, I presented him with a nice sweater, wrapped in bank brochures, of course.