“It will be fun,” Spike said. “And you’ll have something to write about.”
She was half right. This all began when Spike mentioned that there was a giant shoe sale over at the convention center. Just shoes? Yes. And though I know no more than anyone about what awaits us in the next life, I suspect that spending an eternity in the middle of a gaggle of shrieking females fighting over boxes of footwear might turn out to be a pretty fair approximation of what awaits me in my own personal Hell.
And so why did I go? Well, there were several reasons. One was that we agreed to have lunch at a sushi restaurant after the shoe sale, a restaurant that Spike still held a gift certificate to. Also, believe it or not, I really did think that I might get a story or two out of it, for your entertainment, of course.
There was also a third, minor yet ugly reason. I actually was looking forward to being in a large room where the ratio of women to men was sure to be about 20 to 1. I suspected it was prime “cheap-shot” territory, with scores of women in low-cut summer tops bending over to try on shoes, or dig through boxes.
The reality turned out to be quite disappointing, as reality often tends to do. The women were there in vast numbers, to be sure, but they’re pretty well strapped down these days, what with layers of shirts and ubiquitous brassieres. Now, if I had gone to a sale like this in 1975, women’s fashions being what they were at the time, that would have been much more enjoyable. (Not to mention the fact that I would still have been in my 20’s.)
We parked a few blocks away from the event (Because paying a $10 parking fee to go to a shoe sale would have been, to my mind, nothing short of ludicrous.) We found the entrance to the sale and got at the end of a long line of people. Why, I wondered, was there a line? Why couldn’t we just walk into this thing?
A few minutes later a couple of punks (my word for anybody under 40) walked down the line and, without questions or explanations, distributed wristbands to everyone in line. And I, dutiful 21st century American citizen that I am, put it on, without question. Still, this was another puzzler. The event was free. There was no booze for sale. Why did I need a wristband?
We waited a few more minutes and then a bunch of us were allowed to enter the vast, warehouse-sized room, where we saw little except groups of large, shoe-filled cardboard boxes scattered throughout the building. Signs were posted identifying the shoes as Women’s, Men’s and Children’s.
“Why don’t you go check out the Men’s?” said Spike immediately. I just laughed. I’ve been around her long enough to easily translate that statement. She was basically telling me to get lost.
“No, I want to stay with you,” I laughed. This might be fun to watch after all.
And it was, at least for a few minutes. Fun, and occasionally borderline scary. For example, after we were there for a short time one of the workers brought out a new box, filled to the brim with shoes. He placed it on the floor right near the section I had been observing, and then the women moved in. I try to always be honest with you, and so I have to admit that I’ve never actually been at the zoo when they throw an antelope carcass into the lion den, but, well, you get the idea.
A few minutes later Spike was holding up a pair of shoes, completely covered in red sparkles, for my inspection. My reaction was to laugh, but I managed to stifle it. Ladies, why would you ever want a pair of red sparkly shoes?
“What do you think of these?” Spike said.
“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” I answered. And frankly, at this point of the shoe sale, I was starting to believe it.
Suddenly there was an announcement. It instructed those shoppers wearing an orange wristband to please proceed to the checkout to pay for their shoes. Aha! There was a purpose to the wristbands! See, the people in charge of things have a very good reason for doing what they do. There’s absolutely no need for us to question them. Ever.
And so we got in the line for the cashier. Along the way we passed a trash can, and I threw out the empty plastic bag that they had given me to fill with my purchases. Even Spike had only chosen three pairs of shoes (including Dorothy’s magic slippers) which I thought rather constrained until the cashier said they were seventy-seven dollars.
What? I though we came here because this was some big discount warehouse sale. Spike assured me that it was, and that the fragile-looking footwear that everybody was jumping on usually cost forty bucks a pop!
Listen, I can pretend that I understand the whole shoe thing, but, again, I want to be honest. I didn’t see anything in those boxes that was much different from what you might find at a Payless for five bucks. Except, of course, that all-important designer label.
Later, belly filled with free sushi, we finally arrived back home. Spike immediately tried on a pair of her new shoes.
“These are so comfortable!” she said.
“That’s nice,” I answered.