I’m a comfortable shoes guy. I usually only own one or two pairs of footwear at a time: sneakers and shoes just classy enough to get me into places that require formal attire; not dress shoes, per se, but skirt shoes.
For the last few months I’ve been rocking a pair of green Vans pretty much everywhere. Before that, stonewashed denim Chuck Taylors.
Saturday, I was on my way to work when the sky started falling in cold, wet, chunks. Every time I needed to cross the street, I was greeted with several inch-deep puddles of slush. The sharks printed on my socks (you know you’re jealous), kept breaking the surface of my Vans to shout “This water is cold, yo. Maybe it’s time to get boots.”
It was definitely time to buy boots.
Luckily, there is a boot and boot-related clothes store within a block of the store, so I made my way over there
"Feet wet?" asked the guy standing by entrance.
I’ve been talking with one of my old high school friends quite a bit this year, and we’ve had a few conversations about how overly-nice I am to people working in service industry jobs. We were out for dinner last month, and a commercial for 47 Ronin came on. I was just starting to talk about the ridiculousness of having dragons in a classic, supposedly based-on-a-true-story samurai tale, when the host walked by our table. “I’m definitely going to see that movie.” He said, answering the question that nobody in the restaurant had ever even considered asking. “I really like Keanu Reeves.” which is somewhat telling. “And comic books.” Uh-oh. “Did you see The Avengers movie?”
Down the rabbit hole I went, smiling falsely all the way. About twelve? forty-five? seventy-three years, he made a bold, tactical conversation move. “I thought that movie” which one, I disremember “was okay. I really hate Latino stereotypes, though.” Fair. “I’m Puerto Rican, and I hate it when people identify me as Puerto Rican because Puerto Ricans are terrible.” Uh-oh. “I’m not racist or any—” RED FLAG RED FLAG “—thing but, you know all the Puerto Ricans down here have annoying pride about it. They all spend so much money on their cars getting fancy rims and stereo systems to listen to their awful music.” Dude, did you not notice my fake smile is gone? Stop talking. “I mean, I’m Puerto Rican but I was born Connecticut.” Great, now I’m embarrassed that we were born in the same state. “So instead of a Puerto Rican flag in my car, I took the emblem from the Connecticut flag with the Puerto Rican flag in the background.” which is a cool idea, and would be pretty admirable if not for the self-hating prelude. “That way people know that I come from one terrible place, and one fantastic place.” Dude, as someone originally from Connecticut who still has family there, whose current roommate is also from Connecticut, NOBODY has ever said Oh, you’re from Connecticut? I’m soooo jealous. I hear it’s one of New York’s top ten suburbs. I have so much more respect for you now that I know you’re from the same state as…the Whalers used to be? ”Anyway, I’ll let you go back to eating.”
I’d like to say that our conversation caused me to lose my appetite but I definitely kept eating, mainly to keep something between my constantly grinding teeth.
"Most people would have found their way out of that conversation MUCH earlier."JBoB said.
"But then I wouldn’t have that story." I said.
"Yes." I told the man in the Boot Store. My feet are wet.
"Need any help?" He asked.
"Not yet." I falsely smiled. "I’m going to look around for a bit."
"I recommend boots."
I cocked my head, thinking, maybe if I found the proper angle, he would disappear from my sight. It did not work.
I picked up several different pairs of boots, and each time, he either offered to get me a pair in my size from the back or, after I told him I was “Fine.” he strained to keep himself from offering to get me boots from the back.
I was not the only person in the store. In fact, there were probably twenty or thirty people in the store, but I was wearing the Please Annoy Me Retail Employee Pheromones.
Eventually, I found a pair of boots in my price range that I liked. Nothing special, classic brown boots. “What size would you like?” Boot Guy asked.
"Ten and a half." I replied.
He shook his head at me. “They don’t make half sizes. I’ll get you a ten.”
This was new information to me, but it has since been corroborated by The Internet. “Actually, I’d like to try the elevens.”
He sighed. “They run big. I’ll get you the tens.”
I smiled. “I’d like the elevens, please.”
He left for a leisurely jog down the Appalachian Trail, only to return with a pair of Size Tens of the boots I wanted. Ugh. I tried them on and, as I suspected, they were cramped and uncomfortable. “Yea, these are too small. Could I try the elevens, please.”
He sighed again. The kind of sigh I suppress when I’m at work and dealing with a moron. If I were a different person, I’d have asked to speak with his manager, but after two decades of retail work, I am certain he WAS the manager. “I’ll be back.”
This time he went snowshoeing in the Arctic. When he came back, he dropped the box of boots next to me and watched me with more focus than seems necessary when trying to sell someone footwear. “You’re putting that boot on the wrong foot.” He said.
"I am NOT." I said, with no trace of a smile.
"Are you sure?" He asked.
And I actually looked to see if, somehow, after thirty-three years of putting on my own shoes, I had somehow miscalculated which boot should go on which foot. I had not. “Yes, actually.”
Now I was debating letting my feet stay wet and cold to keep this bag of sighs from making a sale. I tried to think of where else I could get footwear. Unfortunately, I forgot there was a giant outdoor clothing and supply store nearly across the street.
"I’ll take these." I said with half a smile.
"You’re sure? We don’t do refunds."
I was pretty sure that was bullshit but it didn’t matter. “Certain.” I stared at him.
I paid the very reasonable price for the boots and walked outside. I couldn’t wait to cross the Slush River between The Boot Store and The Comic Book Store. And, sure enough, I walked through it without an ounce of slush coming in direct contact with my socks or feet flesh. I let out a very happy sigh. And that’s when the passing bus sprayed the Slush River directly into my face and all over my hoodie. Right, it’s about time to get a new jacket.