What $49.80 Bought Me

I knew it was time to get new shoes when the snow seeped through the holes at the bottom of my beaten down Bostonians.  I’m typically a thrift store guy.  Around here, as in other places, it’s the Goodwill but there’s also the Idaho Youth Ranch and Savers.  I was down for second hand but they had nothing close to Bostonians.  I can’t recall the last time I was in a department store.  I feel very out of my element in them.  I hit up the one nearby that shall remain nameless.  It was typical:  mesmerizing music to numb the brain, decapitated chic mannequins, and shiny floors that clicked against the bottom of my worn down Bostonians.  I made a beeline for the shoe department.  I saw one but as I got closer I realized it was the women’s shoe department.  See what I mean.  I found men’s shoes and was a bit disappointed.

“That’s it?” I said, feeling cheated and irritated at the small selection.

The salesclerk approached.

“Can I help you?” said Rosa.

I assumed they would have wooden-soled Bostonians like the kind I already had, like the kind my drill instructors wore when I was in boot camp.  That was so long ago.  Right before reveille, right before the hats barked Get up!  Get up!  Get outta the rack!  Get up!  Get up!  Get outta the racks! one of them menacingly paced the empty center of the dark squad bay.  I remember hearing those clicks from my rack before dawn, wondering, “Who is that?  Is it Lawler?  Cox?  Ah man, I hope it’s not Prado.  He’s like a hyena on steroids!”  Each strike of their wooden-soled shoes was a purposeful click, click, click; a cruel cadence communicating, We’re going to yell at you soon but not yet.  Hear my feet strike the floor and try to sleep.  We’re going to yell at you soon but not yet.   It worked.  It was eerie.  It takes a special kind of person to scare the hell out of teenagers merely by each strike of their foot hitting the floor.  That’s why it became the ideal shoe for teaching.  They need to be on pins and needles sometimes.   

“I’m sorry, we only have these rubber-soled styles,” she said, pointing to them.

“I see.”

“I’m sorry, I’m the only one working between here and the men’s department so I’m running back and forth.  If you want to try something on, let me know.”

“Will do.”

And I did.  Since the Bostonians were out of the picture, I focused on the six pair of Alfani dress shoes all selling for $40 on sale.  I thought that was good.  I need to be more frugal like my wife and father.  The pointy ones were easy to disqualify because I’m not down for the vaquero look.  Two of them were too square at the toes.  After about half an hour of trying on shoes, I took the style I wanted and found Rosa.

“Can I get these in 11s?” I asked.

“Sure thing.”


Three minutes later.

“Sorry, we only have them in 10 1/2 and 12s,” she said.

Doesn’t it always work like that.

“We have these in 11,” she said, holding up the pointy, vaquero looking shoes.

“I’m not feeling those,” I said.



Deep sigh.

“Well, can you check to see if you have these in 11?” I asked, handing her a style I was indifferent about.

“Let me see.”

She left and quickly returned with 11s.  I put them on and they were okay.  I walked around in them but there was no click.  No click?  How will the kids know Daddy is awake and getting ready for work if they can’t hear my shoes click against the hardwood floor?  How will students know to get serious about a test if they can’t hear me stalking from behind?  I looked at the shoes in the mirror, pulled up my pants from the bottom to check them out and realized my pants were old.  My blazer too.   It was nothing like the ones I walked past; the ones I still could not afford even at 50% off.  Suddenly, an immediate sense of guilt came over me.  I looked around as if I had just done something wrong and the whole world was watching.  I drifted away from the blazer rack and returned to my old beaten Bostonians.  I sat down, took off the Alfani’s and boxed them.  I slipped on my Bostonians and the shoelace of the right shoe finally snapped, leaving me tediously wrapping one bunny ear with a tattered, half shoelace.  I walked over and found Rosa.  

“Will this be all?” said Rosa

I should have just paid then and there and left.  I should have listened to the wife who said Just buy some shoes.  There’s no money to buy anything else.

“I think I’ll look around a bit,” I replied, unsure of if I’d find anything.  But as I walked around the men’s department, I found I didn’t fit in.  What are these fashions and what is this coming over me?  Who are these chiseled faces accusing me?  There’s just enough vanity in me to be swayed so easily into buying the lie.  One thread of vanity is all a lie needs to convince yourself that you need to look like the middle-aged chiseled guy modeling the shirts, pants, and sweaters you can’t fit into anymore.  And for a split second, I think of chariots and horses, strongmen and dictators; and find that none of these can lead a coup over your mind like vanity.  If you entertain it long enough, your mind becomes a puppet, a hollow vessel for vanity to stick its hand inside of, forcing you to say

I’ll fast for you vanity

I’ll eat less and be disciplined for you vanity

I’ll just say no to soda for you vanity

I’ll look into gastric bypass for you vanity

But I’ve never really been that bad that I would need gastric bypass but I can see how it would make things easier.  I know a guy who had it done.  I see how his image and his new body has become his god.  I see how he flaunts what he’s become at the point of a knife rather than the point of discipline.  I think I liked him better fat.  I think that I am better than him.  I have to get out of here.  Where’s Rosa?

“I’m ready,” I tell her.

“Did you find anything else,” she asks innocently.

This was not the time for honest chit chat with a stranger.

“No, nothing at all,” I lie.

The transaction occurs.

“That’ll be $49.80,” she said.

I give her my card.  She swipes, and hands it back.

“Here’s you receipt.  Have a good night,” she says through a taught smile.

“You too.”

That’s the last time I shop at Macy’s.

I’m not living to recapture my youth but I am trying to be a keen hunter of how God is hunting me down.  Perhaps Vanity is one of his agents.  Did not God allow Satan to sift Job?  Perhaps Vanity visited me this night to be sifted; to be shown a fault in me before returning to God who asked “Where comest thou?”  

Then Vanity said, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it, to show that man in Idaho his vanity and to show him that his god is his belly.”

“Do you think it worked?”

“I”m pretty sure.”


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