Okay, I’ll confess — I haven’t worn a pair of high heels in nearly a decade. And the number of times I’ve worn a pair of “regular” shoes can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand (or toes of one foot). I wear Nikes. All. The. Time. No, not the super-duper, athlete-signed, bells-and-whistles versions — but terrific, supportive, adorable ones nonetheless. I love my Nikes (still affectionately known by me sometimes as sneakers, other times as athletic shoes) and my feet love me.
So when we got ready for our recent week-long vacation to northern California, my Nikes, of course, were ready to go too. And because we pack smart – that is, not over pack – the only footwear I took was the pair on my feet. Besides, why would I need a second pair?
As he is wont to do before we go anywhere that might require tons of walking (e.g., from city streets to Muir Woods), B. suggested that I check that the bottoms had enough tread left on them to ensure I wouldn’t slip. I laughed him off. I’d been wearing them every day (for longer than I’d thought, as it would turn out, in these days when everything tends to blur together); they were perfectly broken in; what did he think could possibly happen? (The fact that this pair wasn’t the usual sturdier Air Max running-shoe style I usually wear but more of a walking style never entered my mind.)
There we were, taking an after-dinner stroll around a small town in California wine country, somewhere between LA and San Francisco, when it happened. My right heel suddenly sank into the pavement with a squish. And continued to do so with each step. A collapsed Achilles tendon, my overactive imagination wondered? Not likely, given that, although I wear Nikes, there is nothing athletic about me. (Oh, yeah, and that there was no pain involved. Duh.)
Sitting down on a nearby bench, we inspected the bottom of my sneaker and discovered the problem. The small, cushioned air bubble at the heel had gone flat. Deflated. Hollow. I’d had a shoe blowout. Uh-oh.
What to do? We walked (B. walked, I squished) back to our hotel, but clearly that was the extent of how far these shoes would take me. I was off-balance, off-kilter, and off to flush my head down the toilet at the thought of actually having to spend any of our vacation time shopping for a new pair. When my brilliant husband said, “Hey, it’s 8:00 – how late are stores open?” I thought he was kidding. “Usually until about 9,” I answered glumly, wondering where he thought we were going to find a store that sold Nikes – or any brand of running shoes – anywhere in the vicinity at this late hour.
Suddenly the setting sun shone a ray of light (I kid you not) on a building just down the hill from where our car was parked. A building that was part of a shopping center. A building with a sign that glowed “Kohl’s.” As in Kohl’s, the department store.
Me: (Shouting) Look, it’s a sign from the universe! (Hobbling off as fast as my squished sneaker would let me)
He: Sweetie – ?
Me: (Impatient) Come on, they’re probably closing soon!
He: Honey –
He: Get in the car, it’s easier.
And so my sweetheart of a husband, who hates nothing more than shopping, whisked me off to a department store while on vacation.
And that’s when all hell broke loose.
We now had 45 minutes before the store closed – so my take-no-prisoners shopper instinct kicked in.
Upon reaching the shoe department and locating the selection of Nikes (yay! they had about 15 different styles), I proceeded to pull out every box in every style in my size.
He: Slow down. You’re pulling out styles that don’t even make sense. You have to look at the display shoes on the shelf and then only pull the boxes under the shoes you want.
Me: Tried that! (breaking a sweat while trying to get around him) But they’re all mixed up. Hurry! Just pull all of them in my size!
He: That’s not logical – maybe try to calm down. (Opening a box for me) Here, try these. They’re Air Max, the kind you like. They look like they’ve got good support. And there’s some pink on them, you love pink.
Me: (Head spinning around Exorcist style, grabbing the box from him while shoving my feet into another pair) Good, good, that’s good – keep ’em coming!
He: Honey, you really need to take a breath. We’ll find a pair, I promise. But throwing all these boxes around isn’t –
Me: (wild-eyed) Really?! I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation. We’ve got to find a pair RIGHT NOW!
He: (Offering up another choice while trying to sort out the mayhem I’ve created in the shoe aisle. And while trying to ignore the stares of fellow shoppers who have obviously never seen a neurotic former New Yorker in a shopping frenzy) What about these? Also Air Max. And they come in three different colors.
Me: (Close to hyperventilating) STOP LOOKING! This is the one – the pair you brought me before with the pink. I love these! (Attempting to get them on but getting tangled up in trying to loosen the laces)
He: Okay, it’s okay. I’ve got you. (Loosening laces and slipping the shoe on my foot à la Prince Charming) There you go. Take a walk in them.
Me: (Breathing calming down and spirits rising) Hey, these feel really good.
Me: See, I told you we’d find a pair tonight. Piece of cake.
He: (Staying quiet because, after 24 years of marriage, the man knows how to read the room. Sometimes.)
©2021 Claudia Grossman