Monday, Nov. 13, 2006
Dear Diary:

Reason #4,521 why I should probably get my gender double checked with a chromosome test: I hate shopping for footwear.

How much do I hate shopping for footwear? It has been five, count 'em, five years since I bought myself a new pair of winter boots.

The problem here is that I'm built to scale. I'm nearly 5'10" inches tall, which makes me taller than average, and so my feet are larger than average. The final kiss of death is that I also have wide feet. They're not freakishly wide, but they're wide enough that the standard woman's shoe pinches.

I have clung to my last pair of winter boots tenaciously. It took me months of hard shopping to find them—comfortable, extremely sturdy, super warm and for five long years they have kept my feet completely dry. Oh, and the sole is made of some wonderfully grippy stuff (shut up grippy is too a word.) No matter what sort of ice, sleet or slush the justly dreaded Quebec winter throws at me, I stride along.

Oh, and the other great thing? I pronate hard when I walk, which is runner speak for saying that I tend to wear down the outside edges of my heels quickly. The soles of these boots, despite five years of me walking at least half a mile a day in them during the winter (and many days far more than that) have not worn an iota.

I have seriously considered building a shrine to these boots.

But alas, nothing lasts forever, and I have worn the lining of these boots to shreds. The toes have been scuffed so many times that polish just won't bring them back. This fall even I had to admit that it was time to retire them to be used as winter work boots and to buy some new boots.

You can well imagine my horror.

Oh, I tried to be upbeat. I began my quest in the nearest small town to me which has all of three shoe stores. Every store I walked into I told them what I wanted: comfort, sturdiness, warmth, a tough sole that grips icy surfaces well, and the sort of excellent construction that guarantees dry feet.

Trendiness doesn't interest me. It also doesn't bother me if I have to buy my boot in the guy's section of the shoe store.

Despite all that, no luck.

So I went to the nearest largish city, a metropolis of 45,000 souls and endless shoe stores. Endless shoe stores. I tried on boots. Endless boots. Nothing. The thing is, when you're trying things on ... and trying things on ... and nothing fits, you begin to feel like some sort of outlandish freak.

I found the last pair of boots in Montreal at a somewhat upscale shoe store, so the spousal unit and I drove in to the city on the weekend. Before subjecting myself to the horror of footwear shopping, I softened the blow by indulging myself with all sorts of ethnic goodies at a huge middle eastern grocery store.

Sadly, a woman can only spend so much time buying exotic eggplant pickles, quince jams, savoury curry pastes and fabulous cheeses. Sadly.

It's one thing to shop in the boonies, but it's a whole other thing to shop in Montreal, a city of fashionistas. In my normal habitat I feel strong, centered, confident. After five minutes on Ste. Catherine St. I feel like Calamity Jane on "Deadwood", only less chic. As an added bonus, on Saturday it was pouring rain, so I got fairly bedraggled, which only added to my sense that even the bag ladies were rolling their eyes at my lack of couth.

After five stores with no success, the spousal unit and I ended up in the very same upscale store where I got my last pair of boots. The saleswoman who served me was young, sleek and beautiful. That exquisite hair cut of hers, artfully accented with at least three tones of subtle streaks, probably cost her more than I earn in a week.

She took one look at my feet and told me the women's section was hopeless. We turned to the guy's section and There They Were.

Cue heavenly choir.

Cue beam of celestial light.

The. Perfect. Boots.

I caressed them. She confirmed what I already knew. Superb construction. A sole that would stay flexible and grip even if the temperature dropped to -40. The lining was actual fleece—a piece of sheared sheepskin. Not some sort of acrylic, not wool glued to a lining, real honest to goodness fleece.

Not a trendy boot, but reasonably attractive.

As I tried them on I told her about the endless hours I'd spent looking for boots, how discouraging it had all been. Why I thought this lovely young woman would give a rat's behind about the ramblings of a middle-aged woman I don't know, but I rattled on as I laced the front of the boots and then stood up in them.

Nirvana.

It was as if someone had traced my foot and built a boot expressly for me.

I asked her what they cost.

$330. With the various sales taxes, these boots would come close to $375.

The spousal unit and I are not particularly well off people and now that we're making vehicle payments we have to budget. While those boots were worth every nickle of that price, I don't have $375 worth of nickels for a pair of winter boots.

Reluctantly, I took the boots off and started to lace up my sneakers, resigned to the notion that I would have to compromise, find something adequate because something perfect was out of my reach. Not exactly one of life's big tragedies, in the scale of things. I thanked her for her time and explained that the boots were beyond my budget.

As I gathered my things up, I was already mentally reviewing the other boots I'd tried on that day, trying to figure out what would be my best bet.

"I have an employee discount. Thirty per cent," she said. "I'll give it to you. Can you afford that?"

I had paid $250 for the last pair of boots, so I had budgeted that much for the new pair. With the salesperson's random, senseless act of kindness, yes, I could afford the boots. It took a second for that to register, because I'd already kissed them off as an impossibility.

I wanted to hug her until her brains squeezed out her ears, but I figured that might be inappropriate. Instead, I thanked her profusely enough that she probably regretted her kindness. On the drive home I cradled the shoe box like an infant.

Of course, now that I actually have a good pair of winter boots Mother Nature has decided to make this week unseasonably balmy, with temperatures in the high 50's. The new boots and the old boots sit on my front porch, waiting.

Yes I know they are practically identical.


And yes, I realize that the two pairs of boots are practically identical. Shut up. It doesn't mean I'm the most boring person on the planet, it means ... it means ... I'm consistent. Yeah, that's it, consistent.

Nothing wrong with that, eh?

--Marn

Because there was interest, editted to add the web site of De Luca, the company that made both my pairs of boots. The site is in French only because this is a Quebec company, but they may sell boots in the U.S. The little flash program about how the boots are made explains why they are so winterlicious.

Mileage on the Marnometer: 694.68 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck
Oh, man, but I am having a hard time building back stamina. Ouch.


Goal for 2006: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers



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