Great Deal or Tiny Torture Device?

Who doesn’t love a good sale? Better yet, who doesn’t love stumbling across a much-desired item for less than half of its original price?

Such was the case for me last Friday while out doing a little retail therapy. I have been looking—actively looking—for a certain type of brown sandals for over a month now. They’re simple and I saw them everywhere this summer so I figured they wouldn’t be hard to find. More wrong I could not have been.

I made sure to check the shoe department everywhere I went, but no dice. Although, up until 2 weeks ago, I had kept my search somewhat casual. So last weekend, I decided it was time to ratchet it up a notch now that the fall fashions are appearing and the summer sales are in full swing. Still nothing.

So I gave up and bought a cream-colored pair instead. They are cute… just not exactly what I wanted. Then this past Friday while shopping for something else entirely… there they were. The brown sandals. The EXACT brown sandals that I have been coveting for at least 6 weeks now. And they were on clearance. And they were my size. And they were P E R F E C T.

When I returned home, Lee was curious to see what I had purchased, so I showed him. But when I got around to pulling the shoes out of the bag, he just looked at them and said: “Those look like the most uncomfortable shoes in the world. They look like a form of torture.” I told him he had no idea what he was talking about. These sandals were absolutely comfortable and just my size.

That is, until I wore them to work for the very first time.

Let it be known that it is never a good sign if your new shoes are hurting you while on the drive TO work. Also a bad sign might be that the very thought of them on your feet conjures up crazy imaginings of Chinese foot binding. I’m not joking. Poor, little Chinese girls were all I could think about on the drive to work.

I guess strutting around in front of a shoe mirror for 2 seconds in the store because they look exactly like the thing you’ve been searching high and low for … AND they are just your size … AND they are on clearance … doesn’t mean jack to your toes… or your heels… or your ankles.

The harmless-looking, vile offenders. Cute aren't they?

Crazy for Shoes

Three years ago, while living in New Mexico, I was gainfully employed as a graphic designer, but I needed to land a part-time job to earn some extra cash. I set out on my journey to find this part-time job and fortunately found one fairly quickly at a brand new Kohls store that was just getting ready to open. I was thrilled to have gotten an offer so soon after starting my quest for cash. I filled out the paperwork and agreed to jump through all of their corporate hoops in order to start getting that additional paycheck. These “hoops” included a criminal background check (no problem), employment history check (ditto), reference check (call them up!)… and a drug test.

Here is where I should probably mention that like many other “chemically-unbalanced” Americans, I was under the influence of some prescription medication that helped me to feel a little happier… A little less like sitting in a corner and crying… and rocking… and talking to myself… A little less like setting my hair on fire… A little less like ripping everyone’s head off or crashing my Wal-Mart cart into their cars… A little more… shall we say… balanced 🙂

One would think that this medication, being prescribed by a local and reputable doctor, should not and would not pose a problem on a drug screen. But just to be on the safe side, I took my prescription with me to the facility on the appointed day that I was to—eh-hem—produce the sample. I told the girl behind the counter (who looked like she should be drug-tested herself) about my “situation” and showed her the prescription. She made a photocopy of it and recommended that I inform the store management to cover all my bases. OK. Not a problem. I called management as she suggested. Surely this would be OK. I cannot be the ONLY one out of 150 new employees taking legally-prescribed, mood-altering medication. And besides, who can argue with the virtues of honesty and openness?

However, much to my surprise, management asked me to provide them with medical and pharmaceutical records for the past 18 months! 18 MONTHS!?!?! I was beginning to wonder if that task alone was even worth the $7.35 an hour I was going to be making?!?! But I complied. The records were obtained and presented and then I waited.

And I waited…

And I waited…

Bear in mind that other people I knew and had met along this journey toward part-time-minimum-wage-retail-imprisonment (I mean employment) were already getting calls about scheduling their training and orientation, etc. And yet I waited. While I waited I began questioning the ethics of what the management team was actually doing. Were they even allowed to peer that deeply into my medical life story? And so, while I waited some more… I conducted some independent research on EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) regulations and compliance.

I won’t bore you with what I found there… but suffice it to say that if they did NOT hire me over this prescription-drug-laced urine sample and my “questionable” medical history… I actually had a real case on my hands. And believe me I was considering it… I would have made A LOT more than $7.35 an hour and then I wouldn’t even NEED the damn part-time job. I had the name, address and phone number for the nearest EEOC office—located in El Paso, TX—in hand when I finally got the call that they were ready to schedule my orientation and training.

Lucky for them. <cue Law and Order scene change music>

I attended my orientation at Kohls. It lasted 4 hours. More paperwork. Laughable sexual harassment videos. Stupid Get-to-Know-Your-Team-Member games… Then I found out what I’d really been anxious to know: the department I’d be working in! They passed out work schedules to everyone with their name and the name of their department in the top left corner in big, bold letters. I was so excited! Would it be Misses Apparel? Accessories? Maybe Lingerie? Or Bed & Bath? I was imagining the possibilities when I got my paper and it simply read: Shoes.

Yes, shoes. I almost laughed out loud when I read that at the top of my work schedule. The people around me all had sophisticated, multi-syllabic department names on the tops of their papers like: Junior Menswear, Intimate Apparel & Sleepwear OR Jewelry & Accessories… but on my paper it just read: SHOES. And ladies, I love shoes as much as the next gal, but let me be clear: We’re not talking Prada, Gucci or Manolo Blahnik here… we’re talking affordable-practical-department-store-shoes-for-the-whole-entire-family type deal. Needless to say, I was deflated and disappointed.

Wait a minute! I see what’s happening here!

Sure, sure, Kohl’s Department Store… AVOID a potential EEOC lawsuit and go ahead and HIRE the psycho drug user… but let’s put her in SHOES. She can’t really do much damage there. It’s literally stacks upon stacks of numerically-arranged pieces of leather and rubber, held together by synthetic glues and gels wrapped in paper and encased in cardboard. I’m sure we’ll ALL be MUCH safer that way. The worst thing she can do is wing some Sketchers at someone’s head. If she comes in strung-out, hung-over, or wound-up, she should still be able to eek out the phrase: “Ma’am, can I show you something more like a wedge in, say… a size 7?”

Accessories and Apparel are too “out front.” Housewares is obviously too dangerous, for all the knives and glass that are around. The Bed & Bath Shop is out because she might figure out a way to hang herself with the sheets and towels… And Home Decor is a no go because perhaps she would set fire to the whole damn place by lighting an obscene amount of scented candles… no, no, no… Let’s put her in SHOES.

So for several months, I stood amidst towers and towers and stacks and stacks of shoe boxes for 6 hours at a time… for $7.35 an hour… occasionally fetching a different size from the stockroom and once assisting in the investigation of a shoplifting incident. At least I didn’t have to touch anyone’s feet. And I never felt like ripping a customer’s head off… well, almost never. Maaaaybe once or twice… 3 times MAX. But that was the great thing about the prescription medication… I may not have been working in a cool or glamourous department—but then again—I was probably too medicated to care.

Hmmm… That’s New…

I went shoe shopping at lunch the other day. I am in need of new black pumps, as my mother is calling for her very-cool pair of Nine Wests back. And even though possession IS 9/10ths of the law… this weekend she successfully guilted me into returning them.

I find a cute pair… not as cute as the Nine Wests… but definitely doable. However, while hiking up my pant legs to check out how awesome these shoes will make my calves look, I noticed something peculiar. Something that wasn’t there the LAST time I checked out my calves beneath cruel retail lighting. There was a small purple vein, about an inch long, snaking it’s way across my calf muscle. The vein was faint and probably not noticeable to anyone but me… but it was NEW! And while gently running my finger over it I actually uttered aloud: “Hmmm… That’s new.”

Now, I have OTHER purple veins on my legs. Not many, but a couple that are remnants from an unfortunate horseback riding incident that took place when I was 19. But I know exactly what both of them look like and where they’re located. In other words, I have taken full account of these blemishes… and made my peace with them. But this one… THIS one, does not have an “unfortunate horseback riding incident” on which to lay the blame. THIS one, showed up unannounced and unwelcome.

I suppose that eventually, I’ll make peace with it as well. After all, what other choice do I have? I am not exactly one of the “Real Housewives of Carroll County” who has her plastic surgeon on speed dial and then disappears for a few days away at “The Spa” and has magically done away with any and all imperfections.

Given the fact that I am indeed, NOT one of these women… this newest dermatological development really got me thinking about some of the other “new” things that I have noticed recently…

  • Last weekend, in a photo taken at a Pirates / Cubs game, I noticed that the skin around my eyes wasn’t nearly as taut as I remember it. It was softer and a little droopier and, well… let’s be honest… it was the beginning of Chick’s Feet (Crow’s Feet’s hideous, younger cousin). UGH.
  • Another photo that was short-listed as a potential profile pic was swiftly rejected when I became aware of the fact that someone had maliciously drawn lines across my neck.
  • LAST week… Feet tossed over the back of the couch, sporting a pair of boxer shorts… I was disturbed to find that when I moved my legs down from the back cushion… the skin did not initially want to go along. It protested by forming a bunch of teensy little wrinkles. Instead of snapping back like it used to… it reluctantly slid back into place… eventually.
  • By 5:00 I no longer appear “rested” like I do first thing in the morning. Rather, I look as though I’ve contracted a healthy case of swine flu.
  • The right side of my neck and shoulder now stiffen at the slightest hint of stress…
  • AND I suffer from some type of unspeakable digestive disturbance if I eat anything after 10 pm.

The French philosopher Voltaire once said: “If we do not find anything pleasant, at least we shall find something new.”

How comforting.

I’ll try to remember that the next time I look in the mirror, squint my eyes to look more closely and say to myself: “Hmmm… That’s New.”