| Musings |

A Tale of Two Shoppers

She knew that there was a backstory, because every shopper has  a backstory

This is a tale of two shoppers.

The first shopper is Me.

Me needed shoes. For Me’s kids. Me has been needing shoes for her kids at least twice a year for enough years to know that this need is no simple need. Me fantasized and fretted, calculated and dreaded.

Me knew what she was in for, and Me made many phone calls, clipped many ads, peeked in many store windows, and browsed many websites as the season of Buying New Shoes dawned. Me was determined to get shoe shopping done with the least necessary time wasted, headache inflicted, and money spent.

Me started the process. She ordered shoes from Amazon and returned them. She listened closely to the experiences of fellow shoe shoppers, gleaned nuggets of insight about which stores carried what and for how much. Me even made pilot trips to shoe stores — solo pilot trips — to scout the turf. In short, Me did everything in the effort to acquire the many pairs of shoes she needed to acquire, everything but the obvious: take the kids to the shoe store.

But as the season advanced — not the season in which the shoes were meant to be worn, obviously; the season of purchasing, which is totally unrelated — Me’s shoe shopping anxiety got the better of her and she took the first real, tentative (last-season-shoe-clad) step toward acquiring shoes.

Me went to a shoe store. With one kid. A baby. During school hours, when there was no line. Me was out the door in under eight minutes, feeling smug.

Me had done it. Me had avoided the seven-hour line. And the pair was fairly priced to boot — uh, to high-top first walker shoe of which there are very few options to choose from, to be precise.

Feeling emboldened, Me advanced on her mission. Back home, while sorting through storage, Me came across a beautiful pair of Shabbos shoes that, for some reason, a kid had hardly worn. It was exactly the size of the kid’s younger sibling, and the younger sibling was too young to notice or care that his “new” shoes did not come in a box and were slightly scuffed.

Me scored.

Next, Me found a pair of shoes online for another kid, ordered it in two sizes, determined which one fit right, returned the other, and crossed one more pair off her list.

Yay Me.

Me found one pair of everyday shoes and one pair of Shabbos shoes in a pop-up low-priced shoe store on her block. Me was doing it! She was acquiring the shoes her kids needed with very little time wasted, headache inflicted or money spent.

Me’s list had shrunk down to the last four necessary pairs when the tale unfolded.

Me saw an ad of another seasonal shoe store. The ad had a picture of the shoe she was dreaming of for her girls. It was a wing tip Mary Jane, neat and dainty and very reasonably priced.

Me called up the store. They had plenty of sizes in stock for one of her girls, but only one in her other daughter’s size. Me’s heart started racing. She asked the sales rep if she would put it aside until the next day, but the rep apologized and said she couldn’t do that.

So Me prayed that the pair would stay put, and the next day, as soon as her girls returned from  camp, they all got into the car and hurried over to the shoe store.

There was no traffic.

They found parking right in front of the store.

The store was empty.

The shoes were still there.

Me’s daughter liked them. Both daughters.

The shoes fit. On both girls.

Me paid and left, the entire errand taking under five minutes.

Me was ecstatic. She’d experienced a miracle. She thanked Hashem for the series of Hashgachah pratis, for every step of the process that had gone smoothly. With a great sigh of relief, Me stowed the two shoeboxes in her girls’ closet.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Well, almost.

This is where the first shopper’s tale ends. But the next day, this same shopper walked into another store — a dry-goods store, which is the Swiss Alps compared to children’s shoe stores — and that’s when she encountered Her. The second shopper.

Me didn’t know the second shopper’s backstory, but she knew that there was a backstory, because every shopper has  a backstory.

Me was doing her own thing, selecting Shabbos pants for her boys, when she witnessed Her tale.

Her was standing in a cramped aisle together with a sales rep. Her asked the sales rep if she had a certain brand of tights in a certain color and size.

The sales rep said she did. Her said she would take a dozen. To which the sales rep said, “Just your luck, I have exactly 12 pairs left.”

“If so,” Her said, “give me only ten.”

The sales rep looked bewildered, so Her explained. “I don’t want to take every last pair, in case another customer comes in and wants to buy some.”

The sales rep dismissed her concern. “A new shipment is arriving later today. You can take all twelve, don’t worry.”

But Her refused. “What if a customer comes before the new shipment arrives? No, I never take the last item on the shelf. I’ll come back tomorrow to buy two more pairs.”

Me, who normally has pretty decent manners, openly gaped.

This is where Her tale ends, at least from Me’s limited point of view.

But Me’s story continued. When Me left the store, despite being grateful for her shoe miracle, a new feeling emerged. The feeling didn’t have a clear name, but it encompassed many other Mes and Hers, some of which may have been eyeing a certain beautiful pair of very well priced dainty, wing tip Mary Janes.

I’m sorry, all you shoe shoppers out there. I hope all of you found beautiful shoes for your girls at affordable prices and with the least time wasted and headache inflicted. I still can’t help counting my blessings, and I’m not returning my daughters’ shoes so fast.

At the same time, I can’t help wondering if the woman who bought only ten pairs of tights had been in that shoe store before me, seen those Mary Janes in her daughter’s size, and left the pair behind because it was the last one.

But hey, that’s just Me.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 809)

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