Every time I go into a shoe store I feel like a freak. I’m six feet tall so, unsurprisingly, I have big feet. Over the years I have learned to avoid “regular” stores altogether because they don’t stock shoes in my size, and looking at all the things I want but can’t have just makes my heart ache.
If I’m with friends I’ll either wait outside, or sit down in the “boyfriend” chairs and zone out until it is over. But today I decided to tough it out and I went into the Naturalizer store with Jessica.
As we entered the store the smell of leather filled my nose. It wasn’t immediately terrible.
We were greeted by a ridiculous pair of running shoes with rounded soles like the rockers on a rocking chair. The shoes looked like they had been melted around the side of a melon before tying the laces up. They were certainly not shoes that I’d covet.
The painful florescent lights highlighted a wall of “comfortable” shoes – the kind of shoes your grandmother would wear – with their thick soles, and supportive leather uppers. They screamed celibacy.
But on the other wall, there was beauty. Sling backs! Peep toes! Kitten heels! And they were in glorious colours – golds, blacks, zebra prints. Oh, glorious shoes.
And then I remembered: I can’t wear regular shoes.
But as Jessica picked up a fabulous pair of all-leather Mary Jane’s, I couldn’t help myself anymore. I carried the pair over to the sales woman to ask what size they carried. I expected her to say the usual “nine” or “ten.” To my surprise, they carried up to size 11.
I waited anxiously as she ducked behind the curtain to find shoes for me. I gave her appearance little attention because I was completely focused on those shoes. But that didn’t last long.
When she reappeared with the box, I heard a loud voice that said “now, if you need something larger, that’s what we call ‘specialized’ and you’ll have to check out the website.”
I looked up to see an enormous head of red, curly hair, thick, gold hoop earrings, and a three-inch gold cross that hung around her neck. Her denim jumper looked like it could have been borrowed from Michelle Duggar, while the lime green tee-shirt she wore underneath reminded me more of a summer camp tye-dye project.
I suddenly felt like I was at a roadside diner not a shoe store at trendy Yonge and Eglinton.
Luckily, she didn’t have the personality of a typical sales clerk at Yonge and Eg — only moderately friendly and mostly disinterested.
She was boisterous. She was friendly and knowledgeable. She was a delightful woman. But it was a bit like sales on speed as she manically raced between customers, shouting to one while finding shoes for another.
The woman seemed so out of place, yet oddly comforting. She reminded me of someone’s small town aunt who’d come to visit from “home.”
As I slipped my foot into the shoe I quickly realized what I already knew: I don’t wear a size 11 shoe. My feet are, indeed, “specialized.” I only tried the shoes on because it was the closest I’ve ever come to finding shoes in an average shoe store.
But I wasn’t immediately flooded with sadness over the loss of those shoes because my focus had already switched to watching the sales woman’s interaction with the next customer.
Watching this delightful and surprising woman made me smile. I didn’t get any shoes, but it didn’t really matter. I left happy.