If Cinderella had been a balding and middle-aged man, we could have been twins. Her life changed when the prince put on the slipper of glass and mine did when I put on the slipper of wool.
I am a footwear guy. Long ago, I developed an appreciation for keeping my feet comfortable and safe. I have hiking boots for hiking and I have hiking boots for walking. I have tennis shoes for walking through dirt and I have tennis shoes for walking on pavement. I have dress shoes to be worn at meetings with people I like and dress shoes for meetings with people I don’t. For these and other reasons, I have more shoes than I probably should have and definitely more shoes than my wife thinks is reasonable.
But the one type of footwear I hold above all others is my house slippers. If you can’t be comfortable walking around the sanctuary of your own home, you have no need to ever imagine Hell. You are already living in it.
Just before Christmas, I noticed that my old house slippers had hit the wall of their usefulness. Though still comfortable and structurally sound (generally), they had gotten to the point of holding such a level of toxic effluvia as to render them uncomfortable for bystanders. In a word or two — they stunk. No amount of washing could change the fact. The stink of time had gotten into the slipper DNA.
Around that time, while taking care of some shopping for the grandchildren, we fell upon some possible replacements at a discount retailer. Slippers are one of those items that if you buy second-hand or inherit from someone else (a loved one or otherwise) the experience can go horribly awry. So, slippers, by their nature, scream to be bought new even by the thriftiest. Kind of like chewing gum.
The store was busy and our patience meters were running low. I was looking at a nice pair of slip-ons and my wife said “get’em and let’s get out of here.”
“They’re twenty bucks!” I complained.
“It’s Christmas. The season of giving. Give yourself a gift. Besides, if we don’t get out of here soon I’m going to kill someone.”
Knowing my wife to be the gentlest of souls, I decided not to tempt her by being that “someone”, tossed the slippers into the cart, and moved on. Before the end of the day, I would regret my slipper flippancy.
Even though I had chosen the right size (according to the box), the slippers never fit like I wanted, but instead, kept creeping toward my toes with every step. They would fall off every chance they could. If I ever made it up the stairs without one falling off and without getting a foot cramp from curling my toes in a feeble attempt to hold them on with my feet, I felt like it was a good day to play the lottery.
Eventually, my wife noticed that I avoided wearing them. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was convinced they were like the ring of power from Lord of the Rings, always trying to find their way back to the evil master that created them. They cost twenty bucks! I couldn’t admit it had been for nothing. Instead, I just acted like I forgot to put them on.
Until yesterday, when my wife and I were making our thrift store rounds to find furniture to repurpose, I thought I would just have to accept being one of those slipperless people you hear about in fairy tales.
We were at Goodwill, meandering around the furniture section, but finding nothing that met our needs (cheap, unique, and in need of some TLC). I decided to check out the men’s shoes to see if there were any treasures to be had. I had picked up a brand new pair of Timberlands a month or so prior and was hoping for an encore.
Shopping footwear at a thrift store doesn’t usually take long. Once you’ve narrowed down the choices to the ones in your size that you aren’t afraid will give you hepatitis, you only have one or two pairs to try on. But on this day I saw woolen gold sitting there on the end cap like they were waiting for me. Slippers. Weird slippers. Looking brand new.
I checked the inside. My size. I checked the condition. No wear spots. I played the hero and checked the smell. Like…like…nothing. Perfection.
I kicked my boot off and slipped on a slipper. They had velcro that allowed for an adjusted fit. I walked around, pretended I was climbing stairs, gave them every chance to run back to Sauron. But they didn’t go anywhere. They loved me and I loved them. Bliss.
One catch. There was no price tag. The only thing that could get in the way of me and the best slippers on the world was an unknowable. Some places won’t even make a sale if there is no price tag. I couldn’t remember if Goodwill was one of those places. I asked a clerk for some help.
“I’ll have to ask a manager,” he said, taking the slippers.
NO! Why can’t you just make a totally irresponsible executive decision and tell me they are one dollar?!
“Okay, I’ll wait,” I said courteously and waited for my slippers to return. How high was I willing to go on them? They were priceless as far as my feet were concerned.
A few moments later, the manager came back with a smile. “Here you go,” he said and handed me my prize. I flipped them over and looked at the barcoded tag that now adorned one sole.
$7.99!!!!! WHAT THE HELL? That’s how much my brand new Timberlands were that I found the month before. This is Goodwill, for pete’s sake! These are slippers! That price is a travesty!
“Thanks,” I said and carried them away. All I had to do was convince my wife that I needed them because the one’s we bought before were evil. But she’s reasonable. She gets the importance of slippers.
So now my life is back on track. My original dismay at the $7.99 purchase price for my slippers was tempered when I googled them and found out they retail for about fifty bucks! Another great find! Not only did I get a great deal, but now I can walk around the house secure in the knowledge that my slippers will stay on, keep my feet warm, and will always fit the way I want them to.
Of course, now I have a pair of other slippers that are a month old and hardly used. If anyone wants to torture themselves with them, I’ll send them to you for the price of postage. This deal is only good for a short time (let’s say a week) because I can’t let them go to waste. My ethics won’t let me donate them to another thrift store (I’d never intentionally put another human through what I had to go through), so if I don’t get any volunteers to take them, I’m going to cut them up and use them for patches and bookshelf shims.
Even the detestable things in life can still have a use.