Shoe shopping

Farm Forum

Cries of anguish are echoing across this great land of ours, all because of the three little words “back to school.”

At least that’s how it was for me. I saw going to school as a form of unjust punishment, like a prisoner who was serving time for a crime he did not commit. Which really didn’t seem fair because an authentic criminal would at least have fond memories of his crime spree.

There were some — and I don’t mean to generalize, but let’s lump them into a demographic we’ll call “girls” — who felt quite differently about resuming classes. Indeed, many of them actually seem to look forward to school. For me, this made as much sense as eagerly anticipating a root canal.

An exception to this rule would be our youngest son. After he started attending kindergarten, he would come home to regale us with stories about how he and his new buddy had played tag at noon hour or how he and some other new pal had enjoyed a fine game of “find the booger” during recess.

As parents, we saw all this as well and good. But when we asked him what he had learned in school, he informed us that all those annoying academics got in the way of his bustling social life.

I think that one reason people of the female persuasion eagerly long for the restart of school is that it gives them an excuse to shop. Again, not to generalize, I have observed that shopping is an activity that seems highly esteemed by persons who have two X chromosomes.

This fondness for shopping totally baffles me — that is, unless the items being shopped for includes such things as John Deere tractors. Or a combine. I’m quite flexible when it comes to snooping around for big-ticket greenery.

It’s become somewhat axiomatic that persons of the feminine affiliation have a thing for shoes. They need to have shoes that match their purse, shoes that go with their nails, shoes to wear on Tuesdays, shoes for when the wind is blowing out of the south, and on and on.

I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a cute shoe and a cruel shoe. I consider shoes to be nothing more than the things that you must wear to get into a classy restaurant or to keep your feet from running around naked.

My wife and I recently made the mistake of visiting a large shopping center during the height of back-to-school mania. Swarms of moms were pushing overburdened shopping carts down the crowded aisles, their school-aged children in tow. Dads generally brought up the rear, their faces wan and sullen as they mentally tallied what this was costing them.

And in each and every cart was at least one pair of shoes! It was as if the entire population of school kids had gone unshod all summer.

Getting new shoes was a Big Deal when I was a kid. Back then, shoes weren’t purchased as casually as a side of French fries, which seems to be the case these days.

Where are the shoe salesmen from the days of yore? Guys who spent entire careers facing stinky feet as they sat on their tiny stool with that little ramp attached to its front?

No one measures feet when buying shoes nowadays. Gone is that metal gizmo that had a set of sliders to precisely gauge the size and width of your feet. But I’m glad that I missed the era of the Foot-o-scope, a machine that used a powerful beam of X-rays to determine your correct shoe size.

“Mrs. Anderson, your son needs a size 6 D shoe. And his feet are also cooked to a very succulent medium well.”

For the longest time when I was a kid, I didn’t know what my shoe size was. This is because my shoes were referred to a “PT boats” or “schooners” or simply “boats” around our house. I never learned if this was in reference to their size or their smell.

When it became time for me to get new shoes, I was taken to a classy store such as JC Penny’s. A shoe salesman would sit on his miniature chaise and measure my right foot, politely ignoring the tattered stocking and what I have been told is a paint-peeling aroma. The salesman would announce my shoe size with authoritative panache and Dad would tell him to add a notch or two for anticipated growth.

I could see the logic behind this. Dad, like me, didn’t especially enjoy shoe shopping. Although I might have seen things quite differently if my clodhoppers had come in John Deere green.

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