If the shoe fits ... I wear it

But what does UPS Bob think?

Lying in bed staring at the ceiling I wonder, what does the UPS man know?

What I mean is, what does the UPS man know about me? Surely our guy Bob, UPS Bob as we refer to him, surely by now he has figured out that I have a, let’s see how shall I put this, a rather intense interest in shoes.

Daily, weekly, monthly, UPS Bob delivers boxes to my house from online purveyors of shoes — Zappos, Shoes.com, Amazon.com. You name it, if there is an online site that sells shoes, I have tapped it. Now in my defense I’d like to point out that I have size 11 feet. That somehow I got my father’s feet instead of my mother’s. And that luckily for me I also got some of my father’s height. My 5-foot-8-inch stature diminishes the dimensions of my feet, however, there is no escaping the bottom line — my feet are clown-like!

Women’s size 11 shoes are not easy to find in many shoe stores, and asking for them always makes me feel like some kind of freak. Often when looking for sneakers I just give up, head over to the men’s section and pretend I’m looking at sneakers for my son. So, to avoid doing the Bozo-feet-walk-of-shame, I buy shoes online, and I buy a lot of them.

But back to UPS Bob, and not just my UPS Bob, but all the UPS Bob’s out there, what do they know about us? About our shopping habits? About our obsessions and compulsions? Obviously these noble men and women in brown deliver zillions of packages and probably learn bits and pieces about family likes and dislikes. What patterns has UPS Bob discovered about me? Can he tell that certain times of the year are more difficult for me than others? Can he tell that I cope with loss by buying shoes?

Imelda Marcos has nothing on me. By now, I have enough footwear to outfit an army of drag queens. And to my joy and astonishment, Zappos now has an upgrade called VIP Zappos. Apparently I have bought so many shoes from them over the years that they have upgraded me to VIP status! Now if I order shoes on a Monday, I will have them by Wednesday. My fix comes that quickly. Zappos is my dealer, UPS Bob their mule, and the shoes, well clearly the shoes are my heroin.

Does UPS Bob feel pity for me? Amusement? Who else does he deliver box upon box upon box to? Are there other fetishists out there? People who can’t stop ordering from Chefs catalog? Heavy iron skillets in all shapes and sizes arriving day after day, and month after month. Sometimes my life feels like a scene out of Disney’s “Fantasia,” the one with Mickey Mouse and the mops and buckets multiplying and marching maniacally out of control.

Does buying shoes afford me some sense of control? Does it fill a void, quiet the chaos? The copious consumption of carbohydrates is my other go-to coping mechanism, but too many of those starches can lead to health issues and leave conspicuous crumb trails on the couch cushions in the TV room.

Theoretically, shoes are not unhealthy, but really, how many pairs does one need? A friend who often visits noticed all the Zappos boxes piled up in our mudroom. Some were empty as their contents were “keepers,” while others were repackaged and cued up for return. Turning to me she asked if she was going to have to initiate some kind of intervention with me over shoes. “Ha, ha, ha,” I replied too loudly, some of these boxes were actually shoes for my husband and kids — a junkie’s bald-faced lie.

As I continue my contemplation, I realize it might not just be UPS Bob who’s on to me. Suddenly, the friendly faces of the people at the UPS counter at Staples flash before my eyes. What might they be thinking? What do they presume to know about me as I return box after box after box? Do they sigh and think, “poor woman?”

Easing the distress of being outed to both UPS Bob and certain Staples employees, has been the delightful discovery I made recently of yet another shoe merchant, TOMS. Tom, bless his heart, has a program where for every pair of shoes you buy, his company then donates another pair of shoes to those in need. I will now be helping people all over the world when I buy shoes from Tom, and as I am writing this there are actually two pairs of TOMS shoes heading my way. I can almost feel them on my feet. My long slender toes wiggling guilt free in my size 11, vegan-friendly, TOMS shoes. Will UPS Bob notice that I am trying to be more socially conscious regarding my shoe shopping habits? Will he judge me less? Like me more?

I would be so curious to know what UPS Bob knows about me that I don’t know about myself. Does he wonder, what’s with the shoes? Does he care? Clearly this has been a lot to consider just prior to going to sleep. And as I roll over to turn off the light I wonder if I might also find a way to turn off this footwear fixation. Is it as hopeless as trying to stop loved ones from dying or getting sick? Might UPS Bob have some answers? Could UPS Bob be my savior?

Nancy Smith lives in Ashfield and has three grown kids, two fat Labs and one wonderful husband.

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