Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Four Moments in My Life When I Asked "What am I DOING with my life?" Number 3 of 4: Oh No! They're All the Same

I promised to follow up the first entry last Friday. I'm a little late. Also, I'm saving the final entry for a future date - an anniversary of sorts. Enjoy my woe.

Date Unknown, 2009: What's Wrong With My Shoes? Am I....? No I Couldn't Be.
I arrived at the parking structure at work about an hour late. This was better than most days during the middle part of '09. Since moving to Long Beach, I simply was unable to get to work on time, no matter how much I planned. The days I woke up on time - traffic got me. The days I overslept - no traffic, just the imability to reverse time. Add to this the fact that I could easily fall into a freakishly coma-like deep sleep in that godforsaken 1st Street apartment. Sure, while I was living there, I felt the walls closing in on me, as the trash can fought the washing machine for that one corner of kitchen real estate and boxes of old cassettes, New Yorkers, and records fought IKEA bags full of mail for living room floor space. (Meaning: The place was too small. I don't have a lot of stuff. But on 1st Street, even a little is a lot.)

BUT I sure could sleep hard in that place. I would sit on the couch with my night cereal as Conan began his hopeful-for-the-future Tonight Show monologue. Next thing I know, my phone alarm is vibrating its fourth alarm of the day and I'm stretching my haunches and hunching my sternum as I rise from the couch and ease into the workday and OH FUCK I'm an hour late and I live 45 minutes away from work.

I decided I would drive to work in the clothes I had fallen asleep in. It was a warm day I think. And I figured I would grab my work clothes and get changed in the parking lot at work. If I remembered correctly, I had my sweet black dress(y) casual shoes in the car. Still, I don't always remember correctly, so I brought an extra pair just in case. I also grabbed a clean dress shirt, a gray T-shirt, and those most awesome of pants I had picked up at Macy's (Are they brown? Yes! Are they black? Yes! Are they gray? That too! Do they match all possible pairs of shoes and socks, and every single shirt one could imagine wearing? Yes, yes, yes! Most importantly do they LOOK good? Yeah.)

Off to my car, wherever the hell it was parked. I've since moved, as you all know - half-block to the east (south), four blocks to the north (west), still in Long Beach (Why? Some day I'll know.) I no longer have to fight the natives (the confident lesbians, the angry hippies, the quiet quiet gay men, and the steadfast others) for parking. In my new place, I have a parking space. Sure, I have to park at a 10-degree (not 15-degree, not 5-degree) angle and my driver's rearview mirror is inches away from the alley's driving space and will likely be amputated one foggy morning, but I don't have to walk.

(Those of you who read even the blog entries that I delete the next day will remember a story about a gang of female hoodlums accosting me in a park. Others have heard of the shadowy figures lurking near the park restrooms. The hoodlums and the lurkers were only there because I had to walk a long way to the apartment, through that park. Now, there is no one that upsets my trek from car to door. No one but God or Mother Nature or whoever pulled down the rain that is currently flooding my beautiful lovely baby, my preassigned parking space.)

This is getting ridiculous, Ali. FINISH the story!

Okay. I go to my car. I drive to work. I park on either the second or fifth floor of the parking garage. I make sure no one can see me as I disrobe in the dimly lit garage. I take off my dowdy clothes. I put on my nice clothes. Everything but my shoes. I put on one shoe. I put on the other shoe.

I get out of my car. I begin walking. Something feels funny. I think something is wrong with my left shoe. Oh no, I think - another good pair gone. It feels like the structure of the shoe has been disrupted. I consider gong back to my car. I have that other pair in the back. Actually, it doesn't feel so bad. I'll walk it off... repetitive motion will return the left shoe to its normal integrity.

I get outside. I wait at the light. As I cross Figueroa, I realize something is amiss. I think to myself: What's wrong with my shoes? Am I....? No I couldn't be...I couldn't be wearing...TWO RIGHT SHOES.

I stop in my tracks and look down and I feel everyone - the students and other USC folk crossing the street, the 20 or so cars at the massive intersection, the 100+children at recess in the science magnet school across the street - looking at the man with two right feet in the middle of the crosswalk. I keep walking but once I get across I stop and confirm the obvious. The "pair" of shoes I had grabbed in haste as I ran out the door actually consisted of the right halves of two nearly-but-not-identical pairs of shoes, the Fast Decision model from Kenneth Cole (pictured; also known as the Lack of Foresight Lazy Man Snooze Button Express) and a seemingly discontinued laceless stretchy slip-on model from Steve Madden.

Now you might be saying, "Come on dude, it's not that bad. A lot of shoes look like that. Honest mistake. But you don't know WHY I had on two right shoes. I know why. It's a long story, one not being told in its entirety here. There weren't one or two circumstances that needed to happen. They ALL had to happen. Bullet point time:
  • I had to wake up so late that I couldn't waste any time putting on my clothes before I left the apartment.
  • I had to be in such a hurry that I just grabbed two black shoes that upon close inspection are clearly different. (I always double-checked my similar black shoes. Except that day.)
  • The two right shoes had to be close together and far away from all other shoes (This is the part I wish not to discuss.)
You might ask: What about the shoes you wore in the car before changing? Why not put those on? I suppose my very ragged black Adidas Sambas would have been better than bare feet. But somehow wearing such casual shoes with mid-week business wear seemed far worse to me than exposing my two right shoes. Still, I had an out. I had a pardon from the governor of clothing malfunctions. I had my Skechers back in the car. Interestingly, my Skechers were a perfect mathematical average of the K. Cole and S. Madden shoes - still black, laceless, and likely out of fashion. They had the patterned stretchy core of the former and the slightly flatter shine of the latter. (Did you see those internal rhymes there?) No matter (ha!). I just had to slip those Skechers on my feet and I was on my way. Plus, they were 1,200 times more comfortable if a little ragged from overuse.

They were just barely on the acceptable side of "professional" before they got overused, what with their chunky soles and pseudo-mystical-surf-y raised logo. Used and scuffed, they were now barely unacceptable for work but they sure beat wearing two right shoes.

I arrived at my car. I looked in the back seat for my emergency Skechers. I found one of them on the floor - the right Skecher. The other one wasn't around. It's got to be under the seat. Nope, no shoe under either seat... no shoe in the trunk of the CR-V. No shoe on the ski rack or in the spare tire sleeve. Nothing. Nope, now I had THREE nearly identical shoes, all of them RIGHT shoes. I also had a meeting in five minutes.

I made the decision that still haunts me. I decided that, of the three shoes, the two that looked the closest were the Madden (currently correctly placed on my right foot) and the Skecher. I put Skechy on my left foot. But I could feel the shoe practically begging to not be humiliated. I switched the two shoes, letting Madden bear the small portion of the shame that wouldn't be oozing out of my physical self. That was better. (Funny, I thought the kind-of-metrosexual Steve Madden shoe would be the whiny one and the working class Skecher would be resilient. Other way around. And am I really assigning human traits to shoes?)

I strode fake-confidently to my meeting, all the way on the other side of campus. I pretended to limp so people would be able to imagine a better reason for the two different shoes. I hoped they didn't get close enough to see two different shoes of the same foot. I made it to the meeting and I worked that entire day with two right shoes, avoiding crowds (lunch at 2 instead of noon) and choosing the emptiest paths. I made it home by 7:00. It took me 10 seconds in my bedroom to find all three left shoes.

(Note: The mystery of why the right Skecher was in the car and the left one was still at home has never been solved.)

I wrote in the last paragraph that "I made the decision that still haunts me," the decision being which, of all the possible combinations of right shoes, made the most sense, aesthetically and physically? I don't regret the decision. I regret that it had come to this: A man with a Ph.D. and a full head of hair... a poet with an office full of charts, graphs, and statistical assumptions... had to make a decision on a college campus populated by students half his age and experience... a decision that came down to: Which two right shoes should I wear and which one goes where? I should not have to ask OR answer that question. I should simply have a pair of shoes, one right and one left and both identical in brand, style, and model.

So, to sum things up and to end this sad tale of shoe woe: Two right shoes. No, make that three right shoes. Fake limping so as to draw attention away from my feet. This strategy may backfire. Oh what am I saying? No one cares. No one is looking my way. I'm stuck going through this alone. No commiseration with others who've made the same mistake. Picture me arriving at home, parking my car too far from my door... Picture me walking. The solo sundown silhouette of a man, wondering What am I doing with my life?

1 comment:

Jason said...

What the heck? That was hilarious! But I have to ask, what shoes were you wearing on the way to work, and why didn't you wear those?