Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Agony of the Feet

Even though the temperatures lately have been hot enough to turn streets into rivers of molten lava, I have been clomping around in thick, black leather ankle-high shoes. Why? Because it’s not easy to look good in sandals when you have bunions the size of jawbreakers.

So the other night when I took off my shoes and had to pour the perspiration out of them, I decided that bunions or not, I was going to buy some sandals. I didn’t want just any sandal, however. I wanted one with a wedge heel and a wide sling-back strap.

And what I didn’t want was any sandal that had a strip going between my toes. I have learned from experience that any person whose feet are extremely ticklish never should wear anything that rubs up and down between the toes.

I began my search for the perfect sandal by leafing through my four-foot stack of mail-order catalogs. Finally, after about two hours, I spotted the sandal I’d been looking for. It had a wedge heel with rope wrapped around it, a strap around the heel, and was made of my favorite material - denim. I rushed to my computer and found the catalog’s Web site so I could place an order.

I filled in all of the pertinent information and then pressed “submit.”

“Sorry,” a message in red popped up on the computer screen. “That item has been discontinued.”

“Noooooo!” I whined. “You can’t do this to me!”

Desperate, I decided to do a sandal search on the Internet. The computer found 709,000 of them. I looked at sandals for the next three hours, until my eyes began to feel as if I’d taken them out and rolled them in rock salt. Let’s just say that if I’d been looking for sandals in hideous colors with long strips of leather winding all the way up to the knees, I would have been in luck.

I also would have looked like Xena, Warrior Princess…with bunions.

So the other night I decided to go sandal shopping. In the first store, every sandal had a strip between the toes or a loop that went around the big toe. Those toe loops were so small, I couldn’t have wedged my big toe into one of them even if I’d slathered it with axle grease first.

In the second store, the sandals either laced up to the knee or looked as if the soles were made of recycled tractor-trailer tires. In the third store, I tried on a dainty sandal that had two thin strips of leather running diagonally across the foot. My bunion popped out from between the two strips. It looked as if it had been lassoed.

By the time I reached the fourth store, it was 8:45 and the store was closing at 9:00. By then, I really didn’t care because I was certain I wouldn’t see any sandals I liked anyway.

The minute I set foot inside, however, I felt as if I’d just entered sandal heaven. Not only did the store have racks and racks of wedge-heeled sandals, the majority of them were on sale.

I tried on a pair of black and white wedges. They had adjustable Velcro-lined straps around the toes and heel. I loved the adjustable feature because I could loosen the straps to fit around my bunions. I was carrying the sandals to the checkout counter when I happened to spot a sale table. A tan suede sandal caught my eye. I found my size and tried it on. It fit perfectly and was so comfortable, I decided to buy it on the spot. The best part was that it had been $22.99 and was marked down to $9.99.

There was a problem, however. Only one sandal was in the shoebox. The left one was among the missing. I checked every sandal on the table. I looked at my watch. The store was closing in three minutes. Panicking, I asked the sales clerk to help me.

I have to give her credit. She worked so hard searching for that sandal, you’d think it was lined with $100 bills. She searched underneath counters. She opened dozens of shoeboxes. She crawled on her hands and knees to peek under the shoe racks. She even went out back to see if it might have been tossed into what she referred to as the mismatched shoe pile.

She then enlisted the aid of another clerk, who didn’t seem quite as intent on finding the sandal, especially since the store officially had already closed for the night.

“I have no idea what happened to the sandal,” the first clerk finally said to me, her tone indicating defeat. “I mean, where could it have gone?”

“A shoplifter with two left feet?” I answered.

She just stared at me.

I ended up buying just the black and white Velcro-strap sandals.

At least my bunions finally will get some air.

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