Lost Blueprint

LOST BLUEPRINT: Serious, slanted, fictional journalism


It's Very Important You Have an ID

by Mandy Meander
Worldwide Traveler

Grammar and $9.99 shoes collide in this episode of "What Happened While Scoping the Heels at the Shoe Store."

The sign outside the shoe store is a long white banner with red lettering and it screams, "ALL SHOES $9.99." In all my travels through all the world, I have never seen a sign more welcoming than one that screams shoe sale.

The storefront is under scaffolding, apparently construction crews are wrestling with a brand new condominium building and thank god since there are never enough of those around. The scoffolding provides much shadow and dark as you enter the store and this seems to cast a somewhat illicit feel to the place. Walking in, I felt as though I was about to commit a crime, or perhaps hang out with people who have already committed a crime. Kinda like going to the back room in a bar where heavy-set men in silk shirts throw $100 dollar bills on rickety wood tables and laugh hysterically at really bad jokes.

There are rows and rows of shoes in this place. They are organzied by size, printed in red lettering, on squares of paper at the top of each shelf: 6, 6 1/2, 7, 7 1/2, 8 . . . shelves of shoes filed up and down rows and wrapped around the walls. At the counter, there are three women with four boxes of shoes. The man behind the counter is punching in numbers on what looks like a cash register but may be an abacus. He is saying, "But what if something happens to you? They will not know who you are without an ID. You always gotta expect the unexpectable."

The women, for their part, are nodding agreeably, looking as though they are hearing only every other word the man is saying, but concentrating very heavily on the boxes of shoes. I can see only one pair--two inch heels, lime green, buckles around the ankles, feathers over the buckles.

"And you're travelling," the man says. He is pudgy, he has a south side Chicago accent, black stubble on his chin, a fat pinky ring and much pomade in his hair. "You never know what could happen when you're travelling. What would you do if you got into some kind of accident and you were so bad off no one could recognize you? You would need an ID. You have to have an ID. You should always have one with you, you know, 'cuz you gotta expect the unexpectable. You never know what can happen."

The women, for their part, do not seem particularly affected by this. They are quite taken with the four pairs of shoes. I cannot blame them, I mean, we are talking about lime green feather buckles here.

"What if someone beat you up so bad and you're in this strange city and they need to identify you and they can't find an ID? Huh? You always gotta have an ID. You always gotta expect the unexpectable." The man is putting the boxes of shoes in a very large plastic bag. The women seem to be oblivious to the fact that they are currently receiving a lesson in scare tactics, paranoia, and four pairs of heels all for the low, low price of $40.

At this point I start to smell the burning of a hot glue gun. The same smell that I remember from girl scouts when I lost interest in my craft project and started staring out the window at the dog in the backyard. I glance around the store. I suddenly realize that every pair of shoes in this place is suspiciously similar--perhaps the heels are shorter on one pair than another, or the color is purple instead of lime green, but they are all very pointy shoes and they all have buckles and they all seem to have dried glue near the big toe on the left shoe. I am starting to hear the theme song from "The Twilight Zone."

". . . and there are criminals all over the place," the man behind the counter is saying, "they don't care if you're from here or not, but since you're not, you should have an ID with you. You never know what could happen. You gotta expect the unexpectable . . ."

The women have taken hold of the plastic bag and are nodding at the man now, though I think it's possible they may be looking past him at the row of nylons hanging in pretty packages on a rack behind his head. I make for the door before they can turn and walk out before me. I do not want to be stuck in hot glue gun shoe store with Mr. Paranoia and his roving band of bad grammar. I am almost to the revolving door when the women turn and walk out ahead of me and the man catches my eye and says, "Anything I can help you with?"

I stop just short of the door and turn towards him. "I expect the unexpectable," I tell him. His smile is satisfied, I think, much like a teacher who has just taught a really important lesson.

I say, "I think the smell of burning glue mixed with the insistence of using words that do not exist makes for an unpleasant shopping experience." He does not seem to know what I mean, given his cocked head and his still smiling smile and his eyebrows crunched into that question mark expression.

I am out the door and milling through the crowds in the Loop quickly and surreptitiously, like a snake, like a spy, like someone who has just narrowly missed the crushing blow of the ultimate hell: bad grammar and poorly-made shoes.


One More Problem Solved

PhD McGee
Conspiracy Theorist

Alert Lost Blueprint reader Peter Tapper has written the following letter:

Dear Mr. McGee,
I occupy cubicle #43 on the ninth floor of a 30-story office building. I have noticed a disturbing trend at work lately; namely, that nothing works as it is supposed to. To wit:

  • Why does the vending machine regularly eat my money without dispensing a can of pop?
  • Why does the bathroom door always stick when I really need to go?
  • Why does the water fountain only spout water when I'm sticking my eye into it to see why it's not working?
  • Why does my computer freeze every 6-7 minutes, but free up whenever I threaten to throw it out the window?
  • Why is the bag of Doritos I paid for last week still dangling insouciantly from its shelf in the snack machine?

Am I working in the Bermuda triangle of office buildings? Please dispatch help.

Sincerely yours,
Peter Tapper

Well, Mr. Tapper, I have dispatched help, though you probably did not know it as I am as stealthy as I am intelligent. Last week, I entered your office under the protection of what is known in the sleuthing world as a "disguise." Yes, that seemingly mild mannered, six-foot tall chicken with the Chicago White Sox t-shirt and the basket of muffins was indeed me. There is no need to thank me, I am just doing my duty. And here is what I found out:
1. Never go into the women's bathroom dressed in a chicken suit. Apparently, women have a problem with large poultry
2. Your vending machines do not work because the slot is too small for a hand to slip through (or, in my case, a chicken's claw to slip through)
3. Walking around a quiet office yelling, "Muffins for the world!" will get you a quick date with security
4. Your computer freezes up because of, duh, the government
5. I did not have a chance to check out the water fountain, but will do so right after my arraignment


Meeting the Queen of Mediocrity

by Paint Thompson
Guest Blogger

Today we are sitting with the queen of mediocrity, Vivian van Vivigem. Perhaps you know Vivian from such brilliant defeats as Girl #3 in the hardly seen film, "Justice Has A Way of Blowing," or as Nurse in the film, "I'll Kill You After I Gouge Out Your Eyeballs." Unknown as much for her acting as her painting, interpretive dancing, and creative use of balloon animals at parties, Vivian has recently turned her talents to sports. It's quite possible you've seen her at the Montrose Avenue tennis courts getting nailed by flying green balls, or at the Welles Park pool sinking stunningly in the deep end.

Paint Thompson: Vivian, explain your latest adventure.

Vivian van Vivigem: It's referred to as cycling, but really it's just bike racing.

PT: Tell us how you got started.

VVV: I stole a bike. Then I had to get on it when the owner started chasing me. That's when it occurred to me that there was a whole culture I had yet to break into with my astounding mediocrity.

PT: Tell us your philosophy of mediocrity and how you've come to be so good at being so average.

VVV: You can't just be mediocre, you've got to want it. You have to practice. When I was acting, could I have gotten one of those lead roles? Yes, certainly. But you've got to stop yourself. You have to recognize that going-for-it spirit and squash it. You have to train for it.

PT: So, how does this philosophy apply to your newest adventure?

VVV: It doesn't. Cycling is difficult and I suck at it, so I actually have to try hard to reach mediocre. It's been quite an eye-opening experience for me. Whereas I usually set a goal and stop when I've reached the half-way mark, now I am actually pushing myself to reach the goal.

PT: Sure, but, what if you push too hard and end up on the other side of mediocrity, heading for good?

VVV: Huh. Good question. I am known as a goal achiever . . .

PT: . . . and passing up mediocre and heading towards good would certainly upset many of your fans who have come to depend upon your consistent averageness.

VVV: Yeah, well, they're losers. The more interesting issue, I think, is what does one do when one is inadvertently good at something? Suppose I race this weekend and I win. What does that say about who I am and my place in the world?

PT: It says you're a winner.

VVV: It also says the other racers are losers. My fear is that I get too good, you know, become the best, and then what will I have? No more Queen of Mediocrity, I can tell you that. Think of the terrible loss in sponsorship dollars.

PT: Perhaps you should quit.

VVV: Perhaps.