Saturday, November 22, 2008

Death by Fashion

I have attempted to accomplish great things in my life, but the sum of all my accomplishments would not prepare me for the daunting task that was about to befall my fashion challenged inadequacies. Never before was so much asked of me. Never before had I been required to step so far outside of my comfort zone. I reached deep inside of myself to summon up my inner strength. (“The endurance and strength to run three marathons. Check. The courage to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Check. The intellectual prowess to interact with the world’s leading philosophers, theologians, and apologist. Check.”) My psychological resume gave way to the demons of self doubt as I walked up the lonely stairs to the world of high fashion. Panic and stress filled my heart as I foolishly attempted to embark on this impossible fashion mission.

Working for Nike is hard. Nike requires employees to work hard, be fully dedication, committed to excellence and work long hours. One of the great payoffs in working for Nike is that Nike is very generous in giving its employees great stuff. As an employee I receive free pairs of shoes every month, plus an occasional apparel giveaway. This has been a great blessing as many of our friend’s, colleagues and family members have benefited from Nike’s generosity. As many of you know, my facility is closing this week and as a result Nike has increased its giving. Nike owns many brands, and one of the brands is a high end fashion chain called Cole Haan. They offer quality designer shoes, purses, and accessories. Cole Haan’s is expensive! Most of their shoes and purses cost over $300.00. Needless to say, I would never buy anything from Cole Haan. I simply can’t afford it. Last week I received an e-mail announcing a huge Cole Haan give away. As I read through the e-mail the panic set in. We are to receive 16 pairs of woman’s shoes of varying sizes, 6 purses, and 7 pairs of men’s shoes of varying sizes, 15 socks, 5 shoe brushes and 1 accessory item. For most people receiving all this Cole Haan product would be a dream come true, but for me it was a nightmare. My mind reverted back to my last Cole Haan pick in which I had to pick out 3 pairs of woman’s shoes. My wife was so excited about her fashion possibilities. Disappointment crushed my wife’s fashion fantasy and my fragile fashion self esteem as strike three was called when she opened that third box. Who knew that camouflaged 3 inched stilettos were odious to my wife’s taste in shoes? I had disappointed the woman I love and adore. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m simply not a high fashion kind of guy. I prefer comfort and practicality over fashion and style. I gave up trying to impress with dress after cotton diapers. In the late eighties I flirted with fashion by growing an impressive mullet, however years later I have been mocked for being a former slave to style. The very thought of choosing sixteen $300.00 pairs of highly fashionable woman’s designer shoes was absolutely inconceivable to man who once thought he looked cool in a mullet. To make matters worse I only had 35 minutes to achieve the impossible. I have had the great misfortune of going woman’s shoe shopping. The reason why malls contain many shoe stores is that most women need to visit every one of them before they actually buy a pair of shoes. I have learned the hard way that there is something extremely intimate between a lady and her pumps. A woman’s shoes embody a woman’s personality. Finding the perfect shoe at the perfect price can be an all day affair. Don’t ever mess with a lady and her shoes! Many times a woman’s wardrobe is designed around a pair of shoes. They design from the ground up. Having Steve pick 16 pairs of designer shoes is a kin to giving my five year old son $2000.00 and asking him to go grocery shopping for the family. He would return with $2000.00 worth of macaroni and cheese and candy.
When I came home from work I shared my misfortune with my wife. “Can I come with you?” She asked. “Sorry, I have to go alone.” I said. My anxiety level then exploded all over my loving wife as I passionately confessed my complete inadequacy to perform this impossible task. I wasn’t man enough to face such a fashion challenge. I folded in front of my bride like a school girl facing the Boogie man. After Michelle stopped laughing at me, she informed me that she would prepare me by subjecting me to fashion boot camp. The pressure mounted on me as my wife told her friends about the upcoming Cole Haan shoe pick. I thought to myself “great now instead of just disappointing my wife now I will be crushing the fashion dreams of women all over my town.” Michelle and I poured over Cole Haan’s on line catalog. “This is a cute shoe, this is an ugly shoe”. Page by page I worked through the online catalog. Cute purse, ugly purse, cute shoe, ugly shoe. Again and again I reviewed the catalog! It was fashion torture. Every ounce of my manhood was being eroded by the waves of style. Soon I would be hosting Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Finally the day of reckoning had arrived. It was Designer Shoe Day (aka DS Day). As soon as I hit the shoe pick I froze. Panic filled my mind as I tried to reach back to my extensive training. Cute shoe, ugly shoe. “What do I do, where do I start?” Reason slapped me in the face as I settled down and start in size five high heels. I was a well tuned fashion machine. Cute shoe, ugly shoe. The ugly shoes were in abundance as I finally made it to size ten. I took a tally of my designer booty and I was still four shoes short with only five minutes to go. Like a well trained athlete I ran back through the shoe pick line grasping for any pair that might pass the fashion critics critical eye. As time expired I had achieved the impossible. Sixteen pairs of highly fashionable shoes in thirty five minutes. I had searched through hundreds of boxes to find the sixteen. To be honest with you I still can’t tell you what one of the shoes looked like. I was exhausted, stretched to my fashion limits and rejoicing that this awful task was now behind me. The rejoicing quickly subsided as I realized that I still needed to display the fruits of my labor to the woman I love. On the way home I anticipated my wife’s disappointment. Who was I kidding? I would once again achieve another historical fashion catastrophe. As I drove home I became very nervous. When I arrived at home I tried to play it cool by leaving all of the shoes in my car hoping that Michelle would forget that this was DS Day. My wife is far cooler then I, and she didn’t mention the shoe pick at all. Finally I couldn’t handle the tension any longer. I had to know what she thought. The hour of truth had dawned. An hour after I came home I went out to my car and retrieved the two huge boxes that contained all of my fashion fears. I placed them in my hallway expecting Michelle to tear into the boxes. The large boxes sat in my hallway for thirty more minutes until I couldn’t take it any more and I had to ask my wife if she was going to open the boxes. Anticipation, excitement and anxiety filled the room. Michelle opened each box one by one as I eagerly awaited her verdict.
As I said before “there is something extremely intimate between a lady and her pumps, a woman shoes embody her personality. Never mess with a woman and her shoes”. On DS Day I was almost killed by fashion.
I would like to dedicate this blog to Amy E Russell. Amy’s love of the shoe has inspired me to be a better man. I will be spending the next several months in fashion rehab but as soon as I get out, we will shop girlfriend.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Day with Big Brother

Anxiety impatience and boredom fuel the silent rage within my mind as I wait for my turn. It has been one and a half hours since I walked into the Social Insecurity Office on the third floor of an office building in the heart of down town Salem. The cage of my boredom is amazingly out of place in comparison to the beautiful bright office building lobby that I walked through early in the morning. As I stepped through the threshold of this Government office and I take a random number from a red contraption that should belong in a super market deli, I felt as though I was transported to a third world holding cell. I was greeted at the door by a police officer who checked me for weapons. The genius who decorated this room was obviously designed challenged and unable to connect to his inner feng shui. My smiling disposition was instantly extinguished by the blank stares of the multitudes that pitied my poor decision to join their ranks. Within moments my heart, mind, and attitude would be one with theirs. The flaw in my logic punished my self esteem with the mantra of my lack of intelligence. I ignorantly assumed that replacing a simple social security card would be a simple task for the most powerful nation on the face of the planet. I would simply walk in, confess my sin of losing my card and walk out minutes later with a piece of paper that contained my birth name and the one number that gave me purpose and meaning to my nation. I found a seat in the middle of the room and I realized that I had just become the peanut butter in a huge P and J bitterness sandwich. The seats were arranged as if we all sat on a huge airplane. Everyone faced to the front of the room eyes fixed to the back of some unknown person who filled the seat in front of us. Children dispersed throughout the room cried in protest to being subjected to an unbearable act of endurance and I wanted to join them. Their poor parents fail at attempts to comfort their protest and bring awkward silence to us grumbling adults. I came into this wilderness unprepared and unaware. Nothing to read, nothing to listen to, nothing to watch and nothing to do. To my right was the object of all our objectives, four windows and an audience with a government employee with a bad attitude. Directly in front of us was a score board that read “Now Serving Number”. Below the scoreboard displayed four columns which displayed our ticket numbers. Each ticket started with one of four letters. There was the A’s, D’s. S’s and my number group, the W’s.
These numbers were a contributing factor to much of my anxiety. Einstein himself wouldn’t be able to make any sense to their random sequence. Despite the fact they rarely changed, each letter group was clicked off in a bizarre order. The A’s, D’s S’s and W’s didn’t flow in an alphabetic or numeric order. It was impossible to figure out the duration of your prison sentence. The second reason was that the letter system caused letter envy. I strangely found myself loathing the A’s, D’s, and S’s. Their letters sequence was obviously favored by the United States Government. I felt disenfranchised and the cruel victim of letter prejudice. My self righteous sense of equality and fairness was being violated with every random sequence letter group that was “now being served”. The thing that got under my nerves faster then a splinter under a fingernail was the fact that the Social Security Office wasn’t competent enough to keep all of their service windows open. Two out of the four windows remained closed during my time in purgatory. When one opened, another would close. I estimate that their was over one hundred people waiting in that small room and the best the Government could offer was 50% of their production capacity. Anyone wishing for the Government to nationalize health care needs to spend some time in the Social Security Office. If the Social Security Office had to compete with private business they would be bankrupt in a week. Customer service is a foreign concept. I don’t mean to criticize the employees who have the difficult challenge of working in these offices. I think I would be jaded and hardened by dealing with people like me who have been marinating and incubating in their impatient rage for long periods of time. Two and half hours after I entered the door I was awarded my hard earned turn with Big Brother. Two minutes later I was finished. “I deserved more then two minutes” I thought as I passed the Security Guard. I should have asked for more then just a social security card. I should have asked to give the Social Security Office some good advice.
So if Big Brother is listening (and I know you are) here are some suggestions that will improve your image, will increase your effectiveness and productivity. Number one, people have value and worth. Their time is just as important as yours. Treat people with respect and dignity. Instead of a Security Guard replace him with a Help Desk person who loves serving people. The Help Desk can help people fill out forms so that Big Brother can process things faster. Open up a small coffee shop and news stand. You will make a lot of money. Make a room for children and their parents. Everyone will thank you. Tell people often how long of wait they can expect. Give them a beeper so they can walk around outside. Open all of your windows, remove the glass and place the counter in a space where the whole room can’t hear everyone’s business. People value their privacy, please respect it. Invite an Interior Decorator to arrange the room in an astatically friendly feng shui way.
Please let me know if you have any other helpful advise (be good now) for our Government.