Friday, February 17, 2012

"There's No Business Like Shoe Business"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

If the shoe fits, wear it. Then wear the other one because otherwise you would have to hop around on one foot and you’d end up spraining an ankle. That’s why I was reluctant to hop to it recently when my wife, Sue, a world-class bargain hunter, took me out to buy shoes.

“We’re going to the Bass outlet,” she told me.

“That’s my favorite ale!” I exclaimed.

“We’re not going drinking,” Sue said.

“Then you mean we’re going fishing?” I asked.

Sue rolled her eyes. “We’re going shoe shopping,” she said.

If you were to make a list of my least favorite things to do, shoe shopping would rank right up there with spraining an ankle and making a list of my least favorite things to do.

My aversion to footwear goes back to when I was a teenager and worked in a clothing store. I liked almost every aspect of the job, especially putting goofy notes in shirt pockets and joking around with the tailors. But I hated waiting on customers who wanted to buy shoes. It didn’t help that I could seldom find their size. And if I did, I’d forget to take out the paper balls that were stuffed inside the shoes.

I don’t think I ever sold a pair. After much sole-searching, I decided to pursue a different career path.

To me, shoes are things you put on your feet to prevent frostbite in the winter and athlete’s foot in the summer, although if I didn’t wear them, it would be a boon to the gas mask industry.

Most of the time, I wear sneakers. And even they have become annoying to shop for because you have to decide whether you want walking shoes, running shoes, hiking shoes, practically everything except what sneakers are supposed to be: relaxing shoes.

Sue, on the other hand (or, rather, the other foot), loves shoes. She’ll never rival Imelda Marcos, but she has a lot more than I do.

Currently, I have three pairs, including the black dress shoes I bought last year for the wedding of my younger daughter, who would have killed me if I’d shown up wearing sneakers.

Sue’s mission in taking me shoe shopping was to replace the clodhoppers that had served as my black casual pair for the past five or six years. She also wanted to return the nice brown pair she bought for me last year (but which I had never worn) because they were identical to the brown pair I had been wearing since I got the black clodhoppers.

I perused the store’s brown shoes and saw a pair I liked. I looked at the price tag. It said: $140. I had the same reaction I’d have if I took a whiff of my own shoes: I almost fainted.

“They’re on sale,” Sue pointed out.

Indeed, the price had been slashed to $25. Same with the black casuals I liked, which had been priced at $110. I tried on both pairs, initially forgetting, of course, to take out the paper balls. The shoes fit like gloves.

“Maybe I should wear them on my hands,” I said to Sue. She rolled her eyes again and led me to the checkout counter, where she not only returned my brown shoes but produced coupons that helped make this the deal of the century: two pairs of shoes, originally totaling $250, for $1.45.

That’s right: one dollar and 45 cents!

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It didn’t.

“Not a bad deal,” Sue, Queen of the Bargain Hunters, said as we walked out.

“Now that,” I replied, “is what I call getting a shopping excursion off on the right foot.”

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Stand and Deliver, Then Run"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

In my 36 years in journalism, I have never believed that you shouldn’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story. But I do believe that the bare facts can make for the best stories.

That was reinforced recently when a couple of appliance deliverymen told me about the many customers who have answered the door in the nude.

Because I am modest, and didn’t want to get into legal trouble, in which case I would have to wear court briefs, I was fully clothed when Armando and Julio came over to deliver a new microwave.

“People may think our job is boring,” Armando said after he and Julio had removed the old microwave and installed the new one in the kitchen. “But that’s not always the case.”

Like the time they encountered a huge snake while delivering a refrigerator.

“We brought it to a house that was close to the water,” Armando recalled. “The lady was very excited about her new refrigerator. But first we had to go down to the basement to remove the old one. This basement had two doors leading outside. We started to move the old refrigerator when a big snake came out from behind it. This thing had to be 6 feet long.

“Julio and I ran toward one door,” Armando continued. “The snake must have been scared, too, because it actually jumped toward the other door. The lady screamed, ran upstairs and went out the front door. She was in the yard, on the phone with her husband, saying she wasn’t going back in the house until the snake was gone.”

The snake got out, the woman got her refrigerator, and Armando and Julio got a good story.

But the naked truth is that the really good stories involve not snakes, which shed their skin, but humans, who expose theirs by shedding their clothes.

“The first time it happened,” Armando remembered, “a naked woman opened the door. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to look down, so I just kept making eye contact.”

“Did she know you were coming over to make a delivery?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Armando. “She got a call saying we would be there in about half an hour. You got a call, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. “As soon as I hung up, I put some clothes on.”

“Some people are strange,” Armando said. “They know we’re coming over and they don’t bother getting dressed.”

Armando estimated that he and his partner -- sometimes Julio, sometimes another guy -- have encountered nude customers 10 times.

“And not all of them have been women,” he said. “Three have been men. I definitely didn’t look down then.”

The first naked woman went into the other room to watch TV while Armando and his partner did their work, after which she paid them and they left.

“It was strictly business,” Armando said. “But there was this one woman -- she was beautiful -- who answered the door dressed very professionally, in a business suit, when we came over to deliver a refrigerator. It wouldn’t fit into the kitchen, so she had to get another one. We went back three or four days later and this time her husband wasn’t home. Right after we got there, she changed into this hot outfit, with tight shorts and a very tight top. She wanted me to go into the bedroom to smoke weed with her and maybe do something else. I said, ‘I can’t do that, we’re not allowed, and besides, I’m happily married, but thank you anyway.’ You see some crazy things on this job.”

Julio, who also is happily married, didn’t have much to say, so I asked him if he liked his job.

“Yes,” he said. “Except if there are snakes.”

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima