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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Foot Lacker

I mentioned a few weeks ago that (at the last humanly-possible minute) I bought some new sneakers. But there’s one part of the experience I glossed over.

You see, buying sneakers — somewhere north of thirty — is different than when I was a kid, or even in my twenties.

(And yes, smartass, I am too “somewhere north of thirty”.

In much the same way that Reykjavik is “somewhere north” of the Sahara. It’s accurate, in its own non-specific, try-to-keep-a-straight-face way.

No, you shut up.)

Anyway, that’s the problem. Back in the day, I could stroll into my friendly neighborhood Foot Locker, make a couple of referee jokes about the staff, and pick out a shoe I liked. I’d haul it over to one of the Locker lackeys, and ask if they had a pair in my size. Very straightforward.

Now, of course, the procedure is slightly different. I still walk in and browse — though I keep the snarky ref jokes to myself. Mostly. And I still pick out a shoe and find an employee to help me. Only now size is not my primary concern. Now I open with another question entirely:

“Remind me to never play poker with a guy wearing a zebra shirt.”

Can I pull these off?

To their credit, the wait staff at these places only rarely bust out laughing, or blurt out “Nooo-wuh-ooooo!” There must be some intense psychological shoe-sales training that goes on in these places. Real emotions-in-check never-show-surprise crisis management stuff. Remind me to never play poker with a guy wearing a zebra shirt.

The fact is, the real answer is mostly “no”. It’s been a while since I’ve gone shoe shopping — as in, years — and there’s apparently been some sort of artistic cultural explosion that’s taken the world of athletic footwear by storm. Because this store had all kinds of shoes that I’d be laughed out of the gym in.

Not everyone, mind you. Younger guys, fitter guys, guys who wear them semi-ironically while they go oxygen cocktail clubbing in SoHo — these people can pull the shoes off. But not me. Not by half.

I’m not just talking about all-black sneaks here, or some cross-trainer with a fancy tread pattern. I was dizzy in that place, trying to figure out how to get away with wearing some of the shoes. One was purple all over, with blue trim. There is no situation in my life where all-purple sneakers are going to help in any way. Not even if I started going to Barney the Dinosaur furry parties could I wear those shoes in public. Not happening.

Another pair — and no lie here, brought specifically to me by the sales guy — had full stretch-mesh sides, in a jungle camo pattern. I just blinked at him. At eighteen, I could have worn that shoe. Maybe at twenty-five. Or maybe if I were stalking giant anacondas in the Amazon basin, and wanted to make sure they couldn’t see my feet coming. But otherwise, put those damned fool shoes back on the rack and bring me something freaking plausible.

And somebody have these salespeople tested for crack. Because this dude is high, if he thinks I’m gonna try wearing those in public.

I’ve decided there should just be another section in the store. They have “Men’s” shoes, and “Women’s”, “Cross-Trainers” and “Basketball” kicks. How about a little space on the back wall for “Washed-Up Sloppy Old Coots Told Not to Wear Sandals on the Treadmill”?

Seriously. You’d only need a few models — six or eight, with muted colors, maybe some low-key throwbacks, no flashy logos or light-up heels or holograms of Obi-Wan goddamned Kenobi flashing out of them with every step. Just basic, boring, ugly-ass shoes for those of us who are still able to hobble into a gym, and haven’t yet thrown out a hip in the process. Like hotcakes, they’d sell.

Of course, I finally found a pair for me, and they’re quite comfortable. A touch too “red-white-and-blue” for my tastes — why so many colors on apparel that gets harder and harder to look down and see, anyway? — but solid, nonetheless. And none too flashy, either. Just simple, painless, age-appropriate shoes. And nobody’s laughing at those.

Well, not until I pull on a pair of dark socks underneath and stretch them up to my kneecaps, of course. Because that’s all the rage with the guys in my age group now. At least that’s one fashion trend I can keep up with.

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