Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Sole of a Shopper

This week I shopped for three “must-have”s: a car, a computer, and a pair of sneakers.
            Researching a new car was simple. Searching various websites by the simple selection of number of doors and the color gave me a preliminary list. Adding the budget—and out popped a few cars. I weeded out those that failed to meet my Number One request that the passenger seat is endowed with every single adjustment as the driver’s. This is a deal breaker for me, since when my husband drives me around, I am relegated to the passenger seat. But it’s my car, where it is one place where I can choose not to be considered a second-class citizen.
            Only two cars matched my specification. At the first showroom, I sniffed the inside of the car for that delicious leather aroma, took out the car for a spin, signed a few papers, and became the official owner.
            Finding a notebook computer was a more demanding task, requiring me to refresh my terminology of as RAM and Megahertz, and understand what the number of pixels on my screen meant. I got the hang of it as I perused through several catalogues and sorted the models that matched my budget. Then I called online companies and got my deal—sight unseen, a free case included. The computer arrived in a box the next afternoon.
            Buying sneakers, though, demoted me to the class of dimwits. “Do you cross-train?” the salesman standing in front of a wall of sneakers asked me, and in the same breath produced a shoe whose top was crisscrossed by a straining pink mesh that reminded me of my late grandmother’s corset. 
            Cross-train. I mulled over the new term until I remembered someone at the gym where I take Pilates (barefoot) mentioning a cross-training machine. “No,” I shook my head. “But I’m size eight, medium.” Surely he’d appreciate an easy-to-fit customer.
            Unimpressed by my helpfulness, he pulled down another pair. “Do you need the sneakers for jogging? Walking on the treadmill?” He pointed at an air-bubble, like that in a plumb-ruler, set in the back of the heel.
            I thought of my nature walks—in the woods, by rivulets and on rocky inclines. How would I keep the air bubble centered? And if I did, how would I see it? “I just need sneakers.” I pointed to a white-and-blue pair that looked benign enough. “What about these?”
            “Do you do aerobics or jazz?”
                        “Yes, I dance.”
                        He drew my attention to the fact that the sole of the sneaker was broader than the top part, which would add balance if I did aerobics.
                        “But I won’t be able to pivot in a jazz routine.”
                        For that, he showed me a split-bottom, where the heel and toe parts were not connected. I could see all the large stones getting caught in the space should I walked on the graveled walkway, let alone in nature.
            He turned to a Lucite display, where, like a trophy, stood a sneaker whose 2-inch bottom seemed to have been made from stalagmites and stalactites meeting halfway, leaving miniature caves. “Shock absorbers,” he said.
            The caves seemed like a perfect refuge for small cockroaches or little snakes. “Too much sneaker,” I said.
            He turned away from the display in obvious dismissal of that option for me; I was undeserving of that special marvel of human engineering.
            Trying to save face I offered, “I have a high arch.”
            His eyes searched the ceiling and his brows crinkled as he considered that new obstacle. Then his gaze traveled back to the selection on the wall, and he pulled down a sneaker. He flexed it lengthwise and widthwise, explaining the technology involved in designing an arch support. I was grateful that at the car showroom no one had suggested I crawl underneath the axel for an engineering lesson.
            The salesman compared this Eighth-Wonder of shoe engineered against a more cushioned shoe, which would provide a better spring.
            If I were jumping hoops, that is. In my compassion toward the salesman, I scoured my brain to give him something to work with. “I’m planning to ride a bike.” Well, I used to, and they say I’d never forget.
            He handed me a single shoe with Day-Glo strips at the back and sides. Like a chef waiting to hear praise of his Banana Flambée, he watched me with eager eyes. Not knowing what to do with the shoe balanced in my hand—sniffing it as I did in the car seemed awkward—I weighed it in my palm. “It’s heavy,” I said.
            He pointed at the strips. “Reflectors. Good for riding after dusk.”
            “I need a pair that would be nothing special, you know, for everything.”
            It was no use. I would have to throw my own lot with good faith. I yanked a shoe off the wall. It had no mesh, or bubbles, or caves, or glow-in-the-dark features. The heel did not extend out. The gentle-looking sole would allow some toe-pointing. The stitching was a bit fancy, and purple-and-yellow combination was not my favorite color scheme, but this simple Neanderthal model, from times before shoe technology had become a university degree, seemed right. “What about these? How much?”
            “A hundred and twenty dollars.”
            I left the store sneakerless. At least I have a car and a computer.
              Author Talia Carner's next novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN, (HarperCollins, 2011.) Please check my website at