I have huge feet, not an asset for a woman, but if they were any smaller I swear I’d fall down all the time.
My feet are similar in design to a Cornish Pasty, or Calzone if you happen to be American. One of the many advantages of being the owner of these huge plates of meat, is that shoes are cheap. They’re sold at the back of the average shoe shop in a heap of discards. As long as I can find two that match, I have a bargain.
In the deep mid-Winter of California, I choose to clad my feet in bootees. My favourite pair are red, jolly and softly comfortable in a supple kind of way. I chose to ignore my mother’s sage advice, “you should have a proper pair of driving shoes so that you don’t scuff your good ones.” I knew better. Shoes are cheap and plentiful. Shoes are generally optional in California anyway. Now I pay for such cavalier attitudes.
I drive around trying not to look at the scuffed toes of my no longer perfect boots, when I spot a little strip mall, bakery, phone shop, tobacco store, liquour store, ice-cream parlour, hair salon, florist, dry cleaners and shoe repair shop! I immediately recognize the familiar, yet long forgotten opportunity. A shoe repair shop! I didn’t think they existed anymore in our throw away society.
I pull into the only space in the lot and leap from the car. Salvation! Is it open? Yes it is. I stride in, confident of shoe redemption and the avoidance of boot camp, empty handed with my bag on my shoulder.
“Hello there!” I beam flashing my American teeth, a sure sign that I am safe and sane.
“Hi!” I wait at the counter. I continue to beam. I await service. I determine, that I’ve skipped a step somehow. Maybe I have to make my request first? I make my request.
“I was wondering if you’d be able to fix my boots please?”
“Boots?” Have I used the wrong word? What is the right word in America for foot coverings?
“These ones.” I point to my boot clad feet. He leans over the top of the counter and peers down at my feet. “Those ones?” he asks with an incredulous tone that I am unable to interpret.
“But they’re not dirty?”
“Should they be? I mean…..isn’t it better if they’re ….clean…..or cleanish?” He looks at me. He looks at me with an unfathomable look. He grins an unimaginable grin.
“You’re kidding me right?” Right? Is this a trick question? I dither searching for clues, hidden ones, very well hidden ones.
“Am I on candid camera?”
“I don’t know? Am I?” We stare at each other, a game of chess, who will make the first move?
“Are you gonna take em off then?” It sounds like a tease, slightly suggestive. A dare?
“O.k.” I unzip my zips.
“D’ya wanna receipt?”
“Yes please.” I stand in my stockinged feet on the carpet in the strangest shop on the planet, clutching my boots on the counter. He looks at my boots. He looks at my socks. “What are ha gonna wear home?”
“Aren’t you going to fix them whilst I wait?”
He rests his hands on the counter, palm side down. He leans forward and looks me right in the eye, “I think ya wanna be next door lady.”
“I do? Why do I want to be next door?”
“That’s the shoe repair shop. This is the dry cleaners.”