Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Warning: Use As Directed

The bell at the front door chimed and I looked up from the shoe I was lacing to see who was coming in, hoping it was someone else who would be satisfied with the apparel section, the self-service side of the store. After spending the better part of an hour dealing with a customer whose heels were both barnacled with calluses and intermittently resting in my lap, I was finished with feet for the day. I was also quite possibly finished with the skin on the top of my thighs, spraypainting my brain with a reminder to stop wearing shorts to work.

"WELCOME TO THE FOOT BUCKET! WHAT CAN I HELP YOU WITH?" I shrieked. It was the requisite greeting and one that always makes the staff sound less like attentive salespeople and more like the clinically insane.

"Hey!" she said with forced enthusiasm. "I was actually looking for...uh...you." She was wearing a baby Bjorn and the tired red eyes of someone who had pulled several consecutive all-nighters or had recently starred in a Lifetime movie. Either the infant sleeping on her sternum wasn't always this peaceful or she'd recently been chased through a parking garage by a former lover.

She gave a polite smile to Barnacle Foot before leaning close enough to me that I could smell the pureed spinach on the baby's bib. "Do you remember my husband?" she asked quietly. I've heard this question before and the answer is always "No" even if you're wondering if you made out with him during the Stanley Cup.

But this time I did...and no, I didn't.

Both of them came in on a particularly slow afternoon last week, one when I'd been amusing myself by seeing how many pairs of socks I could wear at once. The official store motto--ganked from dead fast food McFounder Ray Kroc--is "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean". Maybe, but you also have time to randomly price certain items at $17,000, illustrate advanced sexual positions with the mannequins, and see how many packages of Luna Moons you can empty into your mouth.*

I'd managed to stuff my feet into twelve pairs from the try-on bins when they walked in for the first time. They took a spin around the store, initially deferring my ear-melting offer to help them before circling back to the counter. He placed a pair of shorts beside the register and asked if I could fit him for shoes, politely informing me that anything he bought had to be made in the USA, a caveat that meant his choices would be limited to a New Balance for the left foot and a New Balance for the right.

He was personable, if unremarkable, the kind of guy who would be cast simply as "Male Customer 4" if someone made a movie about my day. He wore a plaid shirt borrowed from the Brawny paper towel guy and a few extra pounds around the middle. The most diary-worthy detail was the fact that he said he was a size 11 and, oddly enough, wore an 11. It's amazing how many men flop around in clown shoes, claiming to be a 13 when they could fit both feet into the same oversized pair of Pumas and wear them waterski style. Then when you point out that you could build an apartment complex between the end of their toes and the end of their shoes and suggest a less laughable size, they act like you've just lopped their dick off.

Anyway.

His wife was lightly bobbing on her heels and waiting for me to say something. "Yeah, of course," I told her with my most nonthreatening smile. "How're those New Balances?"

She jumped on the end of my sentence. "First of all, he wants you to know that his feet feel great!"

Well, neat. I was glad that she'd been dispatched to tell me that our time together was worth the eight bones I'd earned that afternoon. "And he'll be released from the hospital tomorrow."

Aaand...fucktastic.

She continued, stroking the bald head of the now restless infant. "It was like everything was going so well, you know. He bought those shoes and then the next thing I know, he's being loaded into the back of an ambulance."

The woman whose foot I was holding noticeably flinched and stared at me hard, as if to say 'Get these Asics the fuck off of me, Angel of Death.'

She reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a Kleenex. "I'm sorry," she said as she mopped her mascara all over her face. "I just wanted you to know he was going to be OK. Everything is going to be OK."

I hadn't known he was un-OK, but long story short, he felt so good about his new shoes--THE DEVIL SHOES THAT I SOLD HIM THAT WERE MADE IN THE USA, APPARENTLY ON AN INDIAN BURIAL GROUND--that he decided to enter a 5K on Saturday and promptly had what is euphemistically described as "a cardiac incident", making this the most horrid event of my retail career, not counting the time the toilet backed up after Burrito Night with the Triathlon Club. I know we can't decide when we kick off--although I sincerely hope My Time involves soft lighting and clutching a handful of Hugh Laurie's hair-- but I can't imagine paying $20 for the privilege of collapsing in a heap like a discarded cup at a water stop, the screen-printed t-shirt serving as a burial garment to let your loved ones know your demise was sponsored by the Fresh Market and a pediatric dentist.

I didn't know what to say other than "I'm sorry", which I hope covered the spectrum between apologies and condolences. She kept talking, more for her benefit than mine, and I listened as patiently as I could, all the while holding someone else's foot like a talisman and sincerely hoping that, yes, everything was going to be OK.

* The store record is 7 and I'm pleased to report that my name will be etched on that plaque.

36 comments:

Mojito said...

Wow. How surreal.

Mojito said...

I'd have been peeking in the corners for the hidden cameras...

Fleur said...

Well that's awkward. Great story though - was particularly impressed by your sock-wearing abilities.

Phil said...

Male Customer #4 should have known that you need to break those New Balances in before you attempt to race.

D'Jen said...

WOW.

I wonder if she also went around to the stores he bought his races clothes from, the store he bought his breakfast food from, etc. to also let them know that everything was going to be OK.

You know, as you do...

The Dutchess of Kickball said...

Wow, this woman's karmic balance seems to be a bit out of whack!

Jenn said...

Ok, you should get an award for the most interesting life on the planet. How is it that all of this crap happens to you?

I feel boring in comparison!

Jenn

Marathon Maritza said...

Holy crap, that's nuts.

Jemima said...

Maybe he laced your Devil Shoes too tight before racing. See, it IS your fault after all! Hie thee to a confessional!

TheDAS said...

I think this is an interesting start to a ficlet perhaps?

Lora said...

when I was little I snuck downstairs one night to watch Pet Semetary. There is a scene there where some dead guy walks down the hall with his brains falling out. I think he was racing and got hit by a car or something. I can't remember the details, I've repressed them. Until now. I totally pictured this lady's husband as that gross brainsy guy.

Thanks be for heart attacks. so much better than smashed skulls

Jade said...

Dang. Poor woman must not know what to do with herself.

Laura said...

But what did the other customer do? Did she refuse the Asics, fearing you were going to give her a heart attack too? Or did she see the woman for the grief-stricken crazy she was?

Also, I totally agree with D'Jen's comment.

Tracer Bullet said...

Eh. If he'd bought a butcher knife, he would have chopped off a finger thinking he was Bobby Flay. Running shoes don't make you a runner. Maybe you can use your powers for good? Ya think John McCain needs a new pair of kicks?

Felicia said...

I don't understand why this lady felt the need to come in and tell you that. Why do you run into such strange people?

Mermanda said...

I can think of about a million better uses of that woman's time... none of them involve making you uncomfortable. Sorry.

Indy said...

I wear a size 18 shoe, though I can conceivably fit into a size 17...they don't let me buy shoes at regular stores...or spend time with regular people...

wanderingtex said...

ohhh my gosh. you are totally the angel of death. dont come anywhere near my feet!!!

Good Girl Gone Blog said...

I encountered some strange situations when I was in retail sales ... but not like this one. Wowsers.

Hot Librarian said...

Dude, that's just weird. I'm going to start going around to random stores I may or may not have shopped in to let the staff know my husband DID stub his toe in their parking lot, but he's going to be okay.

thecusp said...

Uhhh...seriously? What? Did they just move and she's not made any friends to talk with about 'cardiac incidents'? Gawd. Go home lady. Send someone an email. A note. A courrier pigeon. Anything but crying to the shoe lady.

the cubicle's backporch said...

Uh. That's pretty weird. And awkward.

Bradshaw said...

I worked in a shoe store for almost a year and never had a customer come in to tell me about that. Nor have I had any cardiac incidents with my New Balances. (I *heart* my New Balances). Customers are weird.

P.S. On a whim, I bought the first season of House. I must commend you for your encouragement (albeit unknown to yourself) to purchase such a glorious manifestation of goodness. Season one seen? Check. 24 hours spent lounging in my bed with Oreos and Reese's peanut butter cups? Double check. Thanks for that.

Bogart in P Towne said...

"...tired red eyes of someone who had pulled several consecutive all-nighters or had recently starred in a Lifetime movie."

That line has moved into my top lines of all time list! Fantastic!

k. mead said...

so did the lady need shoes, or just want to tell you that her husband is hurt?
You could make a movie/short film. Sort of like Clerks - style about your adventures in store.

Mickey said...

Seven? There's always room for one more.

And shouldn't every pair of shoes come with a disclaimer, like "Don't be a fucking hero."

Vanilla said...

And to think I almost bought a pair of New Balance running shoes the other day! I could have been dead by now.

punchlinewalking said...

Wow. I wonder what possessed her to tell you what happened, she must be all out of sorts.

CC said...

whoa whoa whoa...hold the phone. was this woman implying in anyway that because you sold him the shoes that this was indirectly your fault?! cause i'm pretty sure that would make her crazy.

what did the lady with gross feet say?

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

That. Is. Cra. Zy.

Also, this?

"He was personable, if unremarkable, the kind of guy who would be cast simply as 'Male Customer 4' if someone made a movie about my day."

Possibly my favorite line from anything, ever.

Heinous said...

I hope he's okay, but if you're gonna run, it should never be in new balance. He was just asking for trouble. Asics could have prevented this.

Andrea said...

....and THIS is why I prefer my dog to most people. We never have those awkward moments and the conversations are always much more rational.

Nate said...

You know, I read this story and all I can think is, only in Slappytown. Of all the places I've ever lived in my life, anywhere else this story would shock the hell out of me. But hearing that it happened THERE, in THAT particular little corner of 'Murka, all I can think is, Yeah, that sounds about right. And yes, I'm a heartless bastard.

Andy said...

Made in the USA= Heart attack. That's why people outsource.

Laurin R. Kelly said...

so weird and pretty awesome...I agree surreal...

perpetualsmile.net said...

Found you through Lizzy and your blog title reminded me of how I justify my blogging while at work.

Anyway, truth really IS stranger than fiction!