(Note: I am almost ashamed that I wrote more than 2,000 words about this. But the entire time it was happening, I thought, “This is so going on the blog!” And I snapped a shot of the shoes for you. It is to the left.)
All this week, I teased myself. Each morning as I went to work. Each evening as I came hoome from the gym. I stared longingly at a banner outside my favorite little shoe store that proclaimed “Tent Sale This Saturday.”
Each day, I’d tell myself I couldn’t go unless I got up early and went to the gum, or unless I cleaned my entire apartment top to bottom first. I teased myself with guesses of what types of shoes the tent sale would bring and how low-priced they would be, but telling myself that I wouldn’t go. Not me. No.
So Saturday morning I got up to run an errand and turned left out of my apartment complex instead of right, just to see what time the tent madness started, I told myself.
It was about 9:40 and I could see salesgirls bringing boxes and boxes of shoes out. They were stacking hundreds of little cardboard boxes on three tables beneath a red and white tent and they had several boxes of purses to one side.
And then there was the sign: “All Shoes, $9.99.”
I almost wrecked the car. I knew that they store’s nicer, pricier ($150 and up) shoes wouldn’t be under that tent. But I’d seen some very cute shoes in there in the $40 to $70 range, and I was willing to bet some of those shoes might be on sale.
And as I quickly pulled into the parking lot, I noticed the women already swarming around the tent. There had to be 30 or 40 already. There was no way they’d all fit underneath the tent with the shoes and the tables and the purses.
It was in this moment that I began to worry.
I finally found a parking spot behind another store and let my espadrilles carry me to Mecca for the Moment. I glanced around at the other women around the tent. Some of them had been there for quite awhile. I smiled uncomfortably and listened to them talk smack about each other and the shoes. Some of the women were actually in their pajamas!
A man, obviously the owner of the store, supervised the brewing storm, sipping a coffee and looking as if he was unsure of what he had gotten himself into, even though this is apparently a twice-yearly event.
“We will read the rules at five to 10,” he said. “By my watch.”
Rules? It was in this moment that I REALLY began to worry.
See, I like shoes. I like shoes a lot. But I like shopping for them and trying them on and prancing around a carpeted store in them. I like to roll up the cuffs of my jeans as I model them in a mirror. I am deliberative. I like the process of shoe shopping (almost) as much as I actually like the shoes themselves.
So, the prospect of fighting a growing crowd of women for a pair of $9.99 shoes on a Saturday morning did not fit in with my idea of fun. I notoriously avoid confrontation unless I am drunk, and I had left my flask at home.
But it was almost time for the sale to start and I was already there and I have been needing a new pair of kitten heels for work, so I circled the outside of the tent and eyed the shoes, like the other women. Some of the shoes looked pretty ugly, but there were some cute finds there.
And then my cell phone rang. It was my mom.
“S, we totally just thought of you. There is a tent sale at [Name of Shoe Store]. It’s a big tent, I just drove by and I think the shoes are like 10 bucks,” she said.
I giggled uncomfortably. “Mom, I cannot talk right now. I, um, am about to have to fight someone for a pumps in my size. I’m at a shoe sale.”
“You have got to be kidding me, S. I just passed that shoe sale and told your sister that if you would have known about it, you would be out there,” she said.
“Well, I do know about it and I am out here,” I said. “And I am a little scared. I’ve never been to one of these before and the women look like they might get violent.”
“YOU are worried about other women at a shoe sale!” My mom did not believe me.
I turned away from the women and whispered sternly into the phone, “Mom, I just heard a woman say she was going to ‘Go New Orleans’ on someone’s ass when the sale started.”
“What does that mean?” Mom asked, concerned.
“I don’t know, but I don’t think it is good,” I said, timidly. “I may be out of my league, Mom. I am worried. But I should go before the sale starts.”
As I hung up, the crowd was moving in tighter around the tent. The Owner hissed, “Do NOT touch the shoes. If you touch the shoes, you will be disqualified, ladies.”
Disqualified! “I am so totally screwed,” I thought.
Most of the boxes were closed, but some were open and I slid in place by some ballet-styled faux suede shoes with a bow and small kitten heels. I liked the plum color and the round toe and they would be very suitable for work.
As the tension mounted, I focused only on these shoes, which I soon learned was a bad strategy. I have verbally fought with a woman for a bargain before. (A small, yet classic-looking $75 Kenneth Cole Reaction purse on super mega sale for $15, which I SO saw first and had in my possession when she cattily remarked that she had been looking at it first. And yes, I got the purse.) But I was not about to get into a fistfight over cheap shoes. I am a pacifist. And I already have a reputation for having a Thing for Shoes. I would NEVER live it down if I got a black eye over a pair of slingbacks. Ever. (Kind of like how I tripped outside of a bar in college and got a bloody knee and my family still teases me about “falling off of a bar stool.”)
The harried Owner stated the rules to a restless crowd (that would invariably break them all). They were simple:
- You could buy as much as you could carry.
- You could try shoes on outside, but if you wanted to walk in them, you had to go inside on the carpet.
- You could not hoard boxes of shoes in stacks around the tent.
- Please do not knock over old ladies or trample children.
As he said that last one, I had to laugh about how ridiculous this was. I have been in crowds before. I have rushed a football field with thousands of others after a big win and I have fought through literally hundreds of thousands of people and cop cars and camera crews and Girls Gone Wild and Female Impersonators and Snoop Dogg on Bourbon Street after Endymion
(a popular night parade the Saturday before New Orleans Mardi Gras).
And maybe I didn’t worry about being crushed then because I was drunk and a few years younger. But on Saturday morning with women eyeing cheap shoes, I couldn’t help but hope that my inhaler and health insurance card were in my purse, just in case.
“You know how they say that you need to know when to get the hell out of dodge?” The Owner said, nervously. “I think I need to know what my escape route is going to be.” He surveyed the ring of women looking for an opening through which to escape the tent.
“It is 10,” someone in the crowd yelled.
“Not by my watch,” The Owner teased.
He quickly realized that this was NOT a joking matter and relented.
“Ok … and … GO!”
The women lurched forward and the tables and tipped and I am not exaggerating when I say that SHOES and BOXES flew. People were grabbing boxes, tossing shoes to their friends and squealing.
I grabbed what I thought was my size in the plum shoes and tried to snake my way through the tables like many other timid women. I actually wanted to LOOK at shoes, but Shoe Hogs were pulling everything in a size off of the tables and stockpiling the boxes outside of the tent. (In clear violation of the rules, but it was pretty clear that The Owner was not willing to get a black eye over shoes either.)
I was pissed. I turned to the woman next to me, who had also just come to the sale for fun and maybe a cheap pair of sandals. “This is ridiculous,” I griped as I motioned to the Shoe Hogs and their stacks of 15 and 20 boxes. “They have no intention of buying ALL of those shoes.”
She nodded in agreement.
I grabbed a pair of deep plum velvet pumps with pink piping and a peekaboo toe and retreated out of the tent. Neither of my two pairs fit, and I was pissed. I glared at the Shoe Hogs, women who you would never normally see actually shopping INSIDE of the store.
I returned the small shoes to the table and noticed a pair of turquoise and green satin sandals with a bow and a ribbon ankle strap on the ground. Unlisted by Kenneth Cole. I don’t actually remember much about Unlisted shoes, except for the fact that I wore some to prom my senior year of high school. They’re not terribly pricey normally, but they were kind of cute and I’ve always wanted shoes with ribbons you tie around your ankles. They just look so feminine and wonderful and remind me of pointe shoes from ballet class.
Also, shoes should NEVER be on the ground. Ever.
I slid the shoe on one of my feet and it fit. So I smiled and figured I wouldn’t leave the sale without at least one pair of shoes, which made me feel a little better.
A hovered around the Shoe Hogs for a bit, giving them the evil eye and waiting for their castoffs. And I ended up scoring the cute plum shoes with the kitten heel and the bow that I’d originally wanted. They were a bit too big, but nothing a shoe insert couldn’t fix.
So, I gave up on the Tent Sale and went inside to check out the not-bizarrely-low-priced shoes. I almost cried over a pair of brown strappies with coral colored stones on the straps for a mere $175. But I did find a cute pair of brown wedges with a slingback and a bow (it was a theme on Saturday, apparently) that were slightly on sale because they were from fall/winter and not spring. Not $9.99, but still a bargain.
I gathered up my boxes and joined the line of women with my treasures. I smiled with glee that I was getting three pairs of shoes for just less than $65, which is probably less than what I’d spend on one pair sometimes.
The wait was about 15 minutes because some of the Shoe Hogs had literally 10 boxes of shoes and arms full of purses, so I was chatting with other women in line and admiring their shoes.
“I like those green and blue ones,” a woman around my age said.
“Yeah, I don’t actually have anything that matches them right now, but I figure I can come up with something between now and April or May when it is actually appropriate to wear them,” I said.
We laughed and she motioned to a pair of hot pink sandals that she said had the same thought about.
I felt a sense of relaxation because the cutthroat competition was over. Cute, new shoes always make me giddy.
“What about those?” an older women said, motioning to the plum kitten heels I was holding. “Do you have anything to go with those?”
“Um, well, I probably do,” I stammered. “Actually, I’m sure I do. Black pants or whatever. For work.”
“Oh. Because I really wanted those,” she said forcefully. “I really like those a lot and it looks like we wear the same size.”
I couldn’t believe it. All of these women in front of me had between six and 12 boxes of $9.99 shoes and someone was trying to talk ME out of one of my two pairs! The one pair of shoes I’d actually fought for and THIS WOMAN was trying to get me to give them to her moments before I paid for them!
The cutthroat competition clearly was not over. And I may not have been one of the Shoe Hogs and I may not have had the primal instinct to rumble for a pair of shoes, but I am a woman who loves her shoes and NO ONE can mess with that.
So I smiled a bitchy grin and said, “I had my eye on these from the beginning. They will match. And if they don’t, I’ll buy something new. They are mine.”
I gloated a bit, plopped the shoes on the counter and cheerily swung my bags like an excited five year old as I left the store.
I might have not won the war, but I felt like I won a battle.
Update: As shown below, The green and blue shoes make me feel sexy. Please ignore the fact that I need a pedicure BADLY.