Best Foot Forward

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May 10, 2011 by David Gillaspie

Franklin Roosevelt Knew The Drill

A shoe choice is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

They can be too big.

They can be too small.

But they can’t be too big and too small.  Or can they?

A friend my age once had childhood Polio.  To keep his body in proportion, doctors operated on his stricken feet and legs.

Then he had a growth spurt.  Who knew?

One foot grew to a size thirteen, the other to a size seven.  His knees were where they were supposed to be, just a little higher on one side and lower on the other.

He stopped into a shoe store.

“I’d like to look at a size seven and a size thirteen,” he told the salesman, showing a shoe.

“Which one, seven or thirteen?”


“If you’re buying for someone else, maybe you ought to bring them in to try a pair on first.”

“I’m not.  Please bring out one pair of each.”

The salesman left to the backroom.

“These guys think it’s funny,” he said.  “I asked him to bring out two pair of shoes.  He’ll bring one.  Watch.  It’ll be the size thirteen.  I’m tired of explaining why I want two pair of shoes.  I’ve been doing it all my life.  If I want a size seven and a size thirteen, just bring them out.  Why should I have to show my medical records in a shoe store?”

The clerk brought out a pair of size thirteen shoes.

“What’d I tell you?”

“Excuse me?” the clerk said.

“I’d like to see a size seven also, if that’s okay.”

“Sure, right after we see if these fit right.”

“They won’t.”

The clerk pulled up a shoe stool and motioned toward a chair.

“Let’s get started.”

“Thanks, but I’ll do it myself.  Could you bring out the size sevens?  Now?”

The clerk left the floor again.

“Some guy starts yanking on my feet and I get annoyed.  I don’t do that anymore.  Try it on, take it off.  It’s simple.  A good fit is a miracle, but it happens.”

The clerk brought out a pair of shoes similar to the first pair.

“Size seven,” he said.

“But not the same shoe.”


“Not good enough.  I need the same shoe in both sizes.”

“You haven’t seen this shoe yet.”

“It’s not the same so it won’t work.”

“Let’s try one to start.”

“Listen man, I’ll make it easy.  I’ve got a size thirteen foot and a size seven foot, okay?  Two different shoe sizes for the same shoe.  It’s not that complicated.”

“That’s weird.  Two sizes.  Most of the time one foot might be a half-size bigger.  You’re talking almost twice as big.”

“You can’t tell, either.”


“So if you have a size seven, I’d like to see it.”

The salesman went back to the storeroom again.

“Differences are hard to deal with on the best day.  Cultural difference, religious, ethnic.  You can’t force people to understand what they can’t comprehend.  That’s why I’d make a great ambassador.  I deal with differences all the time and keep it calm.  Watch this.”

The clerk came out with four boxes instead of one size seven.

“What I have is…”

“Not what I want.  I came in ready to drop three hundred on two pair of shoes.  I even saw a pair I liked.  If you didn’t have them, but could order them, I’d still buy them, but not know.  See, it’s like I’m America and you’re the rest of the world.  I have all the differences from all countries, and you have the same population.  Why can’t Japan understand us?  Can China?  Korea?  We have so many parts that make up the whole, where other countries have one part.”

“I don’t understand what…”

“I know, I know.  You don’t understand why it matters.  To you, it doesn’t.  To me, it matters a lot.  Finding common ground is hard enough.  Standing on it in comfort shouldn’t be.  Thanks for giving it a shot.”

He walked to the street outside and waited.

“That could have gone better.”

“If it did, I’d have a pair of shoes.  It goes like this most of the time.  I want new shoes, so I have to go through this.  It’s like America.  In spite of the global opinion, you still need good shoes to bestride the globe.”

“Bestride the globe?”

“Look it up.”

By David Gillaspie

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