duck-shaped pain

 
 

2000-08-10
Where I Go From A to B

I finally broke down yesterday and ordered my shoes. I've been wanting to buy some new Birkenstock sandals the last few weeks, as directed/hinted at by my leg doctor. Last visit, he was aghast at the shoes I'd been wearing and suggested that I might want to look into better shoes if I was the least bit interested in healing correctly.

One the decision to buy them was made, the only question was where to buy them. I tought about buying them online, but the first problem is that I had no idea what size to buy: the last pair I tried to wear were clearly too large. I wasn't sure if this was because I was wearing them incorrectly or because my feet are actually smaller than I thought.

I felt that I should go try some on in a local store, but if I did that, I would feel pretty shitty coming in, taking up their time trying on shoes, and then actually buying them through the net.

Then I figured that, since I'm going to be in Oregon next week, I could just buy some while I'm up there, which would save me both shipping and sales tax (Oregon has no sales tax -- which I sort of miss).

I called up various shoe stores in Portland, ones which I thought might have what I'm looking for. Sure, they said, we'd be glad to help you find your shoes. Small problem -- none of them had the specific ones I was looking for. But they would be glad to order them for me.

Hey, if I have to go through the rigamarole of ordering them, I'll just do it here at home.

There are only two stores in town that sell Birks: Shoe Store A and Shoe Store B. [1] Oh yeah, the big department store at the mall carries a few types, but they're really Not An Option. The store is mostly staffed by local teens who stare at you slack-jawed when you even think about the words "special order."

I went in Shoe Store A yesterday, to see what they had in. They had the basic style that I wanted (Milano), but not the right material (black leather). So I asked if they had any in the store that were black, leather or not. A very terse, contemptuous "No" was the answer to that question. I never got a chance to ask a second, as the salesperson suddenly had important business to attend to in the back, or the bathroom, or maybe even in the next county.

Shoe Store A is one of the oldest businesses in town. The family that runs it is an old, old, old time local family. Whether their lineage runs to the first load of settlers to plop down in the valley is unknown to me, but they like to cultivate that image, I'm told. Their store has been open since 1911, and you always see pictures of it through the ages in books on local history.

Honestly, I have no idea how they stay open. No one I know ever buys shoes there. They have really bad service (see above for details) and not a lot of selection. My theory is that they operate on reputation alone. They sell shoes to the descendants of other old, old, old local families and those to aspire to be like them. All the snotty girls in my high school got their moms to buy them shoes there, and they let everyone know about it.

Shoe Store B is a relative upstart compared to Shoe Store A, since it was only founded in 1913. Like its competitor, Shoe Store B has been run by the same family since it began. They're pretty alike, though -- they both specialize in clunky European shows which are good for your feet. Why we have two of these stores is a mystery - local footwear preferences seem to run to cheap tennis shoes, cowboy boots and whatever you can get at Target.

Shoe Store B's big claim to fame is that it's the only downtown merchant that consistently refuses to be open on Sunday. This is a much smaller deal than it may seem. Most of the stores in our downtown area are always closed on Sundays, except for the Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then, they all open up those extra days to give people chances to do more shopping. Except, that is, for Shoe Store B.

Every Christmas, Shoe Store B. plasters big signs on their door which decry other businesses for opening on Sunday, and which imply that they alone are the only business in town that knows the real meaning behind Christmas. You know, if you don't want to be open on Sunday, great. But you're not that special for doing so.

So...quite the difficult choice -- Shoe Store A vs. Shoe Store B. One of the problems with shopping for anything in your hometown is that every choice can be a loaded choice. You know the histories of all these businesses, and you've had years of experience in dealing with them. Do you want to eat at the restaurant which completely destroyed one of your favorite old buildings in their quest to remodel? Do you want to shop at the store where someone you went to high school with opened fire on all the customers? Do you want to spend time at the building named after a prominent local businessman who was also a member of the Klan? It's hard, sometimes, knowing all that I know.

I decided to give Shoe Store B a try, after my disastrous experience at Shoe Store A.

When I got there, I noticed that they almost had the shoes I wanted, except in brown, not black. [2] So I asked about it, and they actually offered to order them for me, which is more than I got out of Shoe Store A. So I tried some on, found out I was a smaller size than I thought it was, and went for it. So, in about a week or so, I'm going to have some real shoes -- black cortina leather Milanos. I've actually never spent this much on a pair of shoes before -- I feel like a Real Adult.


[1] If I used their names, you would know where I live. Plus, I say not very nice things about one of them, and it's best to do so as obscurely as possible.

[2] Words alone cannot express how much I hate, hate, hate brown shoes.

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