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.