Monday, November 24, 2008

John Mozeliak goes shoe shopping, part 3

John Mozeliak sat on the floor in front of his closet, rows of shoes laid out before him. In his hands he held a clipboard and a pencil, and he was busily making a list of the sizes, styles, and conditions of his various pairs of shoes. His eyes were red and puffy, for he had been up all night crying over the predicament he was in. 

No, it was no one's fault, he had told himself. It was just a fact of life that shoes got worn out, or didn't fit, or were damaged in some way. That didn't make it any easier to do what he knew he had to do, however. 

He finished the list, stood up, and made a half-hearted salute toward the faithful friends he was preparing to betray. The list, he knew, was the easy part. The hard part would come next when he must actually go into the shoe store and carry out the treachery.

John hated the mall, and he loved it at the same time. So many people, so many products, so much activity. Chances are, you could find what you needed if you looked around long enough, but sometimes if you waited, you could get it on sale. The problem with that tactic was that if you waited too long, your size could very well sell out before you got there. 

Though he was reluctant to replace his old shoes, he found the idea of the "hunt" and the negotiations very intriguing. Some people like to gamble on horses or cards, but John's weakness was shopping. 

He stumbled through the automatic doors at the mall entrance, just barely recovering himself after the bottom of his shoe got caught on the metal lip of the door frame. He had decided to wear the running shoes because (a) even though they were dangerous, at least they were comfortable, and (b) his task today was to replace the old running shoes, and he figured it might be helpful to compare them to the new ones he tried on. 

When he found the shoe store, he was impressed by the wide selection available. There were shelves and boxes and rotating stands full of shoes. There were running shoes, dress shoes, and sandals. (There was also a good selection of socks, but John didn't let himself get distracted.) Of course, he wasn't the only shopper, so without delay, he began to inspect every pair of running shoes he saw, and to make a mental list of the options. 

Requirement number one, he thought, was that he was not going to spend a lot of money. He wasn't a miser, but he had a lot of shoes to replace and there was no sense emptying his wallet on one pair. He must be cautious. Keeping this in mind, he narrowed down the choices to a few pair. The next requirement, obviously, was that they must fit. And the only way to find that out was to pull them off the shelf and try them on. 

The first shoes he tried were teal with a yellow sunburst design on the side. It wasn't an ideal color combination, but the color didn't matter all that much to John. The laces were white, but too short to be double-tied like he liked. The style was last year's, much different than what was popular now, but they were still decent shoes. They had obviously been tried on once or twice, because you could see that the fabric on the inside was not as fluffy as it had once been. But the soles were clean and bouncy, and the leather was pristine. The shoes were in good shape. 

He sat down on a bench and pulled off his old shoes, then (as they were already laced up) pulled on the new pair and tightened the laces. He looked at them on his feet for a few minutes, rotating his ankles so as to get a good view from every angle. He ran his finger along the inside edge to make sure there was plenty of room. He wiggled his toes and flexed his heels, adjusting the shoes to his feet. Then he stood up. 

He stood still for a minute, then walked in place for a minute, then turned in circles for a minute. He examined the shoes in the slanted mirror on the bottom of the bench. He crouched down, and sprang back up. He put his weight on the balls of his feet, then on his heels, then on the sides of his feet. He pressed his thumb into the space between the end of his big toe and the end of the shoe. 

When he was satisfied that they fit, he walked around the perimeter of the store, avoiding other customers and benches. He walked slowly at first, then jogged a little. He lifted his knees and marched a little. He stopped short. Then he sprinted down one aisle. Finally, when he had exhausted every test he could think of, he sat back down and pulled the shoes off, placed them carefully back in the box, and summoned a salesperson. 

"How much are these shoes?" he asked and held up the box for her consideration. 

The girl smiled and pointed to the price tag on the box. "That much," she answered. 

John chuckled and shook his head. "No, I mean how much are they really?" He emphasized the last word and gave the salesgirl a knowing wink. 

She gave him a very blank stare in return, then slowly lifted her hand to point at the price tag again and repeated, "That much." 

John leaned closer to her, put his hand beside his mouth, and asked again, quietly, "But what's the real price, you know, what you really charge?" 

The salesgirl, now frowning, replied, "Sir, I don't know what you mean exactly, but the price on the box is the price you'll pay." 

"No no no," he laughed and shook his head again, then raised his eyebrows as if to imply some unspoken agreement. "Rea-lly." 

At that point the salesgirl, confused and irritated with the conversation, turned and walked away from John. "I'll get the manager," she mumbled as she disappeared into the storeroom.

To be continued yet again...