You don’t wanna hurt yourself, hurt yourself…No no no no…
That’s Fink playing “Looking too Closely“. (Always too closely.) I’m running on the Mianus River Park trail and the lyrics trigger moments two Saturday’s back.
I grab the shoe off the shelf and wait for help. She’s serving another customer but sees me lurking. She offers up a warm smile and lip syncs: One Minute. She’s 5 feet flat, silver hair, middle aged and a wisp. Or that’s what memory seems to draw. “Kim”, I think.
My expectations for national retailers couldn’t be lower. Less than zero. Salespeople uninformed, unhelpful. Inventory stocks, a slow intravenous drip via IV – on life support. Size unavailable. Width unavailable. Color unavailable. Brand unavailable. 15% higher priced. Because of me and Amazon Prime, and my need for it now, right NOW, they fall. Sports Authority. Blockbuster Video. Circuit City. Brookstone. Waldenbooks. Barnes & Noble. Borders. Gone.
Yet, this retail store is Alien in today’s landscape. It starts at the entrance. From the cool feel of the aluminum door handle on the wood grain door to the greeting you receive as you enter – a retail sanctuary. Can I help you? And they actually help…
Hi. Can I try this shoe in a size 12?
She glances down at my shoes.
“No no no no”
She’s telling me: No no no no?!? Really?
“You have a wide foot. And high arches. That shoe won’t work.”
She’s called it exactly right, both times, in a flicker, a 1.5 second glance.
“Are you sure that you’re a 12? Are your toes bumping against the toe cap? Let’s measure your foot.”
Man thing. Couldn’t acknowledge that she’s right and I’m stupid. Tippy toes are purple, bruised, and have been slamming into the toe cap. Damn! She’s right again. Zeke flashes up. Submissive. Rolling on his side. I’m all yours now Dad. All yours.
“Your shoe is 1/2 size too small. Let’s try these Hoka’s.”
Hoka? Come on. This Brand Man rides Asics, New Balance, Nike, Saucony and maybe Salomon. Hookah? Hoka? Really.
“I’ve never heard of Hookah.”
“It’s Hoe-ka. Please try them on, and let me know what you think.”
I slide them on. Unorthodox-Ortho looking beasts with thick white soles. Shoes that Nurses, on their feet all day, would wear to cushion the footfalls. Or, me, 20 years forward, walking around the old folks home, pausing for a breather, admiring the color of the falling leaves – face raised to the Sun, warming. These boats are Heavy, long lasting, trying to impress no one. I couldn’t be caught dead wearing these.
“I’ve had 20 consecutive pairs and won’t wear anything else.”
“You’ve had 20 pairs? Really?”
20 pairs. That could be 7-8 years, same brand.
I walk out slinging a Hoka box under my arm.
Roll forward two weeks. I’m back on the track on Mianus Trail listening to Fink. The shoes cushion the blows from jagged rocks and roots. We’re floating along on a magic carpet ride – surfing on clouds.
Kimmmmeeeeeeeee! How great are you!