Our schedule here at the Professor Haus is pretty wonky. Mickey works nights so he’s gone from 5-ish to 6-ish three-to-four rotating days per week.
Like I said, wonky.
And I’ve had some trouble regulating my schedule so that I have time to do the things I want to do and spend time with Mickey, which is also a thing I want to do.
But somehow lately (I truly think that me and Molly’s tv watching Twitch sessions have been the key to this), I’ve settled into something that works.
And one of the things that works for me is going out and getting to know my new town in earnest, but also in a way that made me feel comfortable.
What does that mean? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out, but it includes things like wearing a mask and giving myself permission to peace out of a store or situation if the vibes are off… even if I didn’t buy anything.
Well, I was off on one of those days just wandering around Allen Park when I see that I place I’d been idly wondering about was open.
It was a shoe store. Mickey and I had mostly avoided it because we thought for some reason it was a kid’s shoe shop. However, it also had about 50 or more random plants outside of it, so I was curious enough to go in.
Y’all, I’m so glad I did.
At first, I had to adjust my expectations and eyeballs and, well, everything. It didn’t look like any shoe store I’d ever been in.
First off, there were barely any shoes on display. Sure, there were boxes of shoes stacked floor to ceiling.
And the ceiling was littered with newspaper clippings waving in the breeze of a dusty fan like fly paper. Some were about massively long bike treks and others were about a life-saving brain surgery.
Over the next 90 minutes I would learn more details about all of them.
As my eyes adjusted to the newsprint-dimmed light, a voice called out to me from behind stacks of index cards (a system, which I would learn the intricacies of as well), “Can I help you?”
I saw the pocket-sized man the voice was attached to and stumbled over my words, “I dunno! I saw you were open and we just moved here and I’d been curious…”
Then he started talking me through his index card system, which was extremely detailed and went back decades. Some of his customers, he told me, he’d been fitting for their entire lives. All of their important moments.
At one point during our interaction, I met one of those customers, a delivery driver who the shoe guy greeted by first and last name and questions about his family.
He then introduced the delivery man to me, telling me that he fit this kid into his very first pair of shoes. Then to show off, he recited the delivery drivers current shoe size and style preference and got immediate confirmation.
Obviously, his customers were as taken with shoe guy as I was.
I asked him questions about how he landed in the shoe business in Allen Park (he married into it and then fell in love with it) and about all the clippings on the ceiling.
He told me that his favorite time of year is the fall because he fills the streets of downtown Allen Park with hundreds of Jack’O Lanterns for a full month. His favorite moment, he told me, was the first time the school bus drives down the street and seeing their faces delight at the spooky spectacle he magically made appear overnight.
He also told me he has a lot of help from the community, which, after meeting him, I can wholly understand.
As I was getting ready to leave, I asked him about the plants out front.
“Don’t worry”, he said, “Those are my tomatoes and I’ll send you home with some.”
Then he asked if he could fit me with some insoles.
After mulling it over a bit I said yes, because when else would I get this actual expert advice. I mean he told me that the foot doctors come to him when they’re stumped.
So he had me walk with my shoes on and then off. Then he put my feet in the slidey sizey thingies where we discovered my feet are two completely different sizes! Who knew? Not me!
Then he tried three different insoles, and I’m not being hyperbolic when I tell you that each one was better than the last.
Once that was settled, he spent the next ten minutes showing me, as we worked side by side on each of my shoes, the proper way to lace my shoes.
“You’ll never have to untie them,” he told me, “And they’ll always feel tight.”
Godamned if he wasn’t 100% correct.
And, y’all, these insoles are life-changing. I had a weird foot-related breakthrough in therapy the other day where I was reflecting on a day when I accidentally wore my comfortable “house” shoes out to the store one day and I felt so much less overstimulated. That led us on a discussion of possible comfortable shoes to try.
Instead I got these insoles and they have done the trick. I walked all over Pittsburgh and didn’t have that horrible “my feet have stopped moving and now they are moving again” pain that I always felt after high walking days. I’m also so much less overstimulated when we bop around town because I my feet aren’t screaming to my brain about how miserable they are.
On my way out, he looked over his tomato plants and then at me and then back at the plants. He gave me three tomato plants that were specially bred for Rutgers University and very specific instructions on how to plant them, care for them, and harvest their seeds (smear them on a paper towel, write the tomato name on a paper towel, let it dry, put it in a file box).
I followed his instructions to a T and my plants are thriving. I know it’s late in the season, but they got their first blooms this week!
There are at least two more blog entries on this fella and I’ve only gone to see him once.
My feet are miserable when I cut the lawn (when did this become a lawn cutting blog), so I gotta go see what kinda of magic shoe solutions he has for me.
I mean, I gotta give him something to add to my customer card.