Friday, January 06, 2012
Spain 8: The drama of buying shoes
This is how we buy shoes. In Spain. Which was our main Christmas present to ourselves after the trip itself. It is very hard to shop for SH because when he wants a bottle of wine or a CD, he buys it, and of course we are all aware of the Blue Shirt Situation. He doesn't shop for me because I need more stuff as much as he does, i.e., not at all. We are full of stuff.
Except shoes. Can you ever have enough shoes? I don't think so. Or, you can have enough but need to replace your black boots that are over ten years old and were made in China anyhow. And your black pumps, which you used to wear to work but are now 1. too high for your skinny feet - yes, we lose fat in our feet as we age. I didn't think it was possible to want to retain fat in many places on my body, but my feet are better served with their own Milwaukee Roll and 2. dried out with cracking leather.
So we decided that given our China boycott and the difficulty of finding nice shoes in the US that are not made in China and yet are within our non-Christian Laboutin budget, we would shop for shoes in Madrid.
Rubi helped. She identified a shoe store (Strover) she likes- recommended the shoes - and even showed me possibilities, i.e., the leopard shoes you see above. Those are mine. Those are not professional shoes. They belong to me.
We went to the store on Friday night after the Big Drama of Trying to Find Rubi and Victoria. They had the leopard shoes in my size, but there was a flaw in the only pair available. The clerk called another location to have them hold a pair there for me on Saturday.
Fast forward to Saturday, when SH and I slept until 11:30 a.m., which is something I thought I had left in my college days, but when there are blackout blinds and when one stays out until 1:00 a.m. at Madrid karaoke, and when there are no cats demanding to be fed at the crack of dawn, one can sleep very very late.
I need to check into getting some of those blinds for chez CF.
We woke up. The store was closing at 2:30. It was a metro ride plus one transfer away. Transferring on the metro in Madrid is not always easy. The night before, we had gotten onto the innocently-named Circle Line to go one single stop to transfer to our line. Easy as pie, we thought. Easy.
We got off at Cuatro Caminos and thought, We should jog to the transfer point because it is already 1:14 a.m. and the last train runs at 1:30. Jogging, however, hurt because we had spent two days walking in Toledo, including up the steps to the tower of a very old church built in the days when people were tall and a rise twice the rise one sees today was common. I felt as if I were in a step class from hell with the weird lady at the Y who puts three risers under her bench and does jumping jacks between routines because she JUST CAN'T STOP EXERCISING.
I agree with her that the class could move along just a little bit better, but I will take the chance to gossip with my Y friends rather than do any more work than I am paying the instructor to make me do.
So we jogged lightly despite the pain in our legs - no pain in my feet because for once, I brought ugly shoes on a trip - and it hurt so we had to stop but then we had to start again because we wanted to get to the stop. But every time we jogged up one impossibly long escalator, another appeared. It was like living in an Escher print.
Where was I? Oh, so because of all the hassle getting to the new stop and because we missed the penultimate train by THREE SECONDS and we would have sprinted had we known those three seconds were so important, we were really late getting back to the hotel and we were really tired.
So we slept late.
I had accepted before we went to bed that there was a possibility we might sleep too late to get to the shoe store and that the leopard shoes might never be mine. If that happens, I thought, it was just not meant to be.
But when we woke, I saw that there was time so I started to nag SH to hurry up hurry up there were shoes to be bought! Hurry!
He graciously agreed to wait until after we had picked up the shoes to go to lunch. Of course, neither of us were that hungry after our tapas feast with Rubi and Victoria the night before. We got showered and dressed and got ourselves to the store.
Only there were two Strover stores on the same street.
Just like in Best of Show with the Starbucks.
We stopped at the first. I asked for the shoes they were holding for my Spanish name - remember how in high school Spanish, we all had to pick a name? - and they didn't know what I was talking about.
Didn't matter - they had a pair anyhow.
I tried them on. Yes, still liked them. Bought them.
The store down the street half a block was the one that had men's shoes, which was our next objective. We trotted there and I was distracted immediately by the other women's shoes that I had not even noticed in my quest for the leopard. Boots! Heels! Black suede heels with alligator heels!
And none of them made in China.
I started picking out things to try. SH, too, was looking at shoes, but he has been buying shoes for years without my help so I thought he was fine now.
I handed my samples to the saleslady and waited eagerly. SH kept distracting me with men's shoes.
I tried on my shoes and boots. Oh like.
"Hey!" SH said. "I need your help!"
I looked at him, bewildered. Surely he had bought shoes before and did not need me to tell him how to do so.
"I can't speak Spanish!" he said in exasperation.
You guys know SH is an engineer, right? And a perfectionist. I have no problems looking like an idiot in my attempts to speak a foreign language, but unless SH can speak a perfectly conjugated sentence with the perfect accent, he does not want words to leave his mouth.
I rolled my eyes. All he had to do was show the shoe to the guy and say his American size and the salesman would do the rest.
But SH didn't see it that way. I abandoned my boots and heels and settled in to help The Engineer optimize his shoe decision, which took half an hour. Which was pretty fast considering it takes him almost that long to buy bacon.
Then I turned back to my shoes, chose what I wanted, and voila. It was 2:25. The store was closing in a few minutes. It was Christmas Eve. People wanted to get home. I didn't want to be the one keeping them there on a holiday. I do not remember with fondness the customers who brought all their price checks and maybes to the cash register at midnight when I worked at Macy's.
The salesman ran SH's credit card.
"But we just used it at the other store!" we said.
Salesman ran it again.
Wait! said the saleslady. She pulled out another machine. "Try this one."
SH started to get mad. "I put a travel alert on that card!"
I was getting worried. My new boots and heels, so close and yet so far. And SH, with all the time he had invested in choosing one pair. What if he couldn't have them now?
Besides, the salespeople had spent an hour helping us. I wanted them to get their commissions.
SH turned to me. "What about your card?"
"I left it in the safe at the hotel," I admitted. Why do I need money if I'm with him?
He opened his wallet again.
I never thought I would be so grateful to see all the credit cards. I have only two credit cards and used to be a one-credit card woman. SH got an AmEx for me so I could get miles on his account, but I used to be strictly USAA. SH, however, believes in optimizing mileage and other award programs.
He looked at his AmEx and shook his head. "It will cost an arm and a leg in conversion fees," he said.
He tossed aside two other cards. "Fees too high," he said.
He sighed and took out his debit card. No points for the card, but it is with USAA, which means that we are not going to get screwed on the conversion.
We left the store at 2:40, the shoes clutched to our chests. OK, in bags hanging from our hands.
We went to Cien Montaditos to celebrate with coffee, beer and sandwiches. Then SH wore his shoes that night to Victoria's for our Christmas Eve serrano ham feast with Rubi and he admird them all night long. He loves his new shoes.