Friday, November 20, 2009

Barefoot in America

I was visiting my daughter in the USA during the early part of this month, when the fine town that she had chosen to live was experiencing a heatwave; what might be known as an Indian Summer, if I'm not stepping on any Native American toes by using that expression. You see, I'm from England, where the weather is always foul and the automobiles are tiny. I was having a great time, marveling at the farmland and the generous rate of exchange. So, what with one thing and another, I was putting in a good deal of walking, whether through the aisles of some of the larger commercial establishments over on the Miracle Mile, or up and down the High Street known there as Muskogee Avenue, or borrowing my daughter's enormous car and trailing off into the surrounding countryside for walks to admire the changing and autumnal colours of the trees together with the rich and varied local animal and bird-life. Man, I love those armadillos. They are like small tanks with the digging strength of a Spanish wild boar.
One creature that fails to induce a rush of friendly emotion in my breast is my daughter's dog, Dawg, who is a large and tiresome black puppy that gambols around your feet in an irritating way.
I had nevertheless managed to forget about him one afternoon as I lay out on the deck with a beer and a book. Catch a little sun. My shoes were tossed nonchalantly under my seat.
I was thinking about a visit the day before to one of the town's finest bars where I had caused a small sensation amongst the habitual clientele by sitting on a stool near the door and putting a bright pink 'Breast Cancer Awareness Month' bag with some laundry in it onto the bar while asking in a fruity English voice for a lager and lime. Guaranteed to make friends, experiences like that, once the misunderstandings have been cleared up.
I awoke to find that Dawg had eaten my shoes.
Now, before leaving for America, my wife had packed my suitcase with the usual tea-bags, brightly coloured beads, malaria tablets and alka-seltzer pills, along with the special polar outfits that she thinks are appropriate for all my trips wherever they may be - from Canada to Kansas to the Sahara desert. All this, together with some string-vests, y-fronts, socks and other 'smalls' packed firmly yet lovingly into my case meant that there wasn't any room left for inessentials like, for example, some spare footwear.
That evening passed with some television: me in socks.
The next morning, I borrowed the car to go and buy some shoes. The warm and dry weather had spectacularly changed overnight to a heavy rainstorm and my daughter had got up early to take off for work. I was barefoot in charge of a heavy vehicle, which, and Bless my American friends, is not something you are allowed to do in Spain. Terrorists, you know.
The lady greeter at the big store told me I couldn't come in. No shoes, no shirt, no service.
'No, but I've come to buy some shoes. You have them there over in the back'.
No shoes...
I could sort of understand her concern. Despite my particular emergency, it is true that those sweaty Brit tourists who walk around the supermarkets of Mojacar and Turre during the summer in nothing except their Speedos and flip-flops, showing off their flab and tats, are hardly an advertisement for our country's dubious charms and, although I was wearing a jacket and tie, I was nevertheless decidedly and blatantly unshod.
I drove back to the house to think this through. I threw a cushion at Dawg who began to tear it to shreds and I had an idea. I opened up my case and put on three pairs of socks, one after and over the other – to give my feet some bulk and maybe even keep them dry. Back to the gigantic store, park near the front and... hah! - in through the other entrance.
I ambled over to the shoe isle secure that my footwear would look 'natural', if a trifle European. I had just chosen a likely looking pair of brogues when my nemesis happened by. I must have inadvertently left a damp trail across the store.
'Feet like that', she said, 'you'll need a sixteen'.

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