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A Shoe Store Saga

Deb Beaupre
 (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Deb Beaupre (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

I was in a sneaker outlet over the holidays. It was quite an experience. The place is huge, with pulsing music and a lot of silver and black. The employees are called “athletes” and they are straight out of central casting: Young and fit with hair that defied gravity. They talk to you as if they are picking you for the team, which makes you feel fantastic. They are cool, and since they are talking to you, it makes you cool, too.

Even the lingo is jocular.

It’s, “Can I grab a zip code?” as opposed to: “Would you like to share your zip code with us today?”

Clever, right?

So, I’m in there shopping with my kid, and the atmosphere of the place strikes me. I can sense the magic, but I can’t quite name it. Being there, you feel energized and ready to do sprints. You see the workout pants and you think, “If I buy those, I will totally dig out my aerobics DVDs and use them every day. I really will.”

You want to get one of everything because you are sure that if you just have it, you will be, if not young, at least fit. Your hair might even get cooler looking. You’ll be doing a Prouty every weekend.

Finally, I recognize it. The feeling I feel in this place — it is just like the vibe I get when I am in Home Depot.

When I walk around Home Depot or LaValley Building Supply — and all those stores like them — after about 10 minutes I start looking at this and that and thinking to myself: “Hey, I can do this. I can fix my (fill in the blank) with that, all the (fill in the blank) room needs is a little (fill in the blank). And look at this! If I get some of this, I can etc.-etc.- etc.”

Stay longer, and I will have myself convinced that I can actually build stuff from scratch despite no talent, knowledge, skill or training. The raw materials are all right in front of me and so is my cart, the how-to books are there, so how hard can it be? Your sane mind is saying, “get real, call a contractor, dummy.” But I am saying, don’t be ridiculous, I can change a dresser into a bathroom vanity, no problem.

The difference is that you can’t hurt yourself, lower the value of your home or make a mess in the garage with an outfit from a sneaker store.

A few Christmases ago, I went into a Nike store looking for shoes as a gift for my son. It had been ages since I needed to take anyone to the shoe store, so suffice it say, all the colors and styles were overwhelming. Sneaks these days come with these platforms under the heels that look like teensy traffic cones, and they are usually in a contrasting vivid color that make the shoes wicked funky.

Two “athletes” approached me, but I knew how to find a pair of stinking sneakers, so I shrugged them off.

In due course, the big day came, on Christmas morning. My son unwrapped the box, impressed that I ventured into brand-name territory for him.

“Alone,” I was quick to add.

Then, silence. They all looked at each other.

“What?” I ask.

“These are football cleats.”

He held them up. Everyone cracked up.

Laughing at me.

On Christmas.

“What?” I hurry to say. “No, these aren’t football cleats, they are just really jazzy sneakers with cool jumping things on the bottoms.”

“No, Mom, they’re called spikes, not jazzy jumping things. And I can’t wear these anywhere. Besides, I don’t even play football, I play soccer. Why didn’t you get someone to help you?”

Seems I got distracted by all the colors and chose cleats instead of actual sneakers. Naturally, that story has become legend in my family. Mom, the idiot.

You see, sneaker places are designed to dazzle us ... and they do.

Back to the recent past.

Because I was there so long, I read all the T-shirts with the kick-ass slogans. I began to start feeling that wearing them, I could possess superhuman powers. Watching all the people who went in and out of there made me think that these places were making sports seem accessible to all regardless of size, fitness level, age, nerdiness (a cool kid talked to me!) or, as in my case, interest/ability.

Those Nike hotties aren’t fat, ugly or old, but they sell to those who are, making the dream accessible to all. And they take cash or credit.

So, I did what all writers do; made notes for this piece on whatever I had handy in my purse.

But, first I bought myself a really cool pair of sneakers with jazzy jumping things on the bottoms.