...quiet, about a lot of things...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In another man's shoes.

My thanks to V-Grrrl for nudging this specific memory to the forefront. She spoke about shoes, red shoes to be specific...which some how led me to thinking of Birkenstock...quite a leap I know...but, I blame my random brain.

I worked in a Birkenstock store in Westwood village, UCLA's hometown (sorta).I was living in an apartment off campus, though I actually went to school in the valley. College rents in Westwood were off the charts high. We lived within walking distance to campus, and for me walking distance to work.

The owner of this store was a woman named Louise, a beautiful ex model/playboy bunny. She owned the store, acting also as the buyer. We carried shoes, jewelry, funky clothes and metaphysical books. Turns out, Louise was a witch, REALLY. Very heavy into crystals, potions and the like. After being hired, I found out that while I was being interviewed for the job, Louise had been in the back, consulting her crystals
and reading my energy. Guess everything was in order, and I got the job, and with it my requisite pr of Birkenstocks. WHATEVER.

It turned out to be a very interesting job, for many reasons. The store itself was the size of a shoebox, and I most always worked my shifts alone. I remember writing long love letters to my then boyfriend, the muse. I was in my period of reading voraciously anything that was not required by college. Poetry, political essays,biographies. Anything but the assigned material. I had a kind of passive aggressive thing going on with college. The point being, my nose was always in a book. The store had a pretty steady flow of customers,but they always trickled in one at a time. When I went to lunch..(oh...memories of Good Earth soup and seven grain rolls...YUMMY) I would just lock up and leave a note. Louise was very cool about stuff like that.

One of the most memorable moments was when a middle eastern man came into the shop. He was replacing this old sandals. He was probably 50ish...with salt and pepper hair, soft almost black eyes and beautifully deep skin. I went up to the shoe loft storeroom and brought down two pairs of sandals for him to try. I knelt down in front of him and took them out of their boxes. I went to slip the first one on his bare foot. Before I could finish he stopped me with stern yet somehow gentle voice.

In a way that was, soothing rather than scolding, he told me that I was not to touch his feet. He said that women in his culture were never to touch a man, especially his feet. He fastened his own sandals,choosing only one pair, and asked if he may keep his old pair in the new box. He spoke to me politely, with much respect and kindness.

As he paid, I apologized to him, offering that I had meant no disrespect. He called me sweet child. He simply explained that I was a flower, not a prostitute. He smiled and left.

I'm ashamed to say, that this was one of my very first cross cultural encounters. It was a very pleasant one. While I do not agree that touching men..or men's feet makes women prostitutes or dirty, I did and still do honor that this was his belief. He enlightened me, without devaluing me, in fact he flattered me, in a very non sexual way.

That little store did have a good energy around it. Almost all came in with a smile...and almost all left happy. As for me, I'm glad I worked there for a bit...and as soon as I could, I trashed my Birkenstocks..the hurt my poor feet...and never did go with my personal vibe or eighties hair do. But I did learn some lessons that stayed with me. So, for a little shoe shop, that quite a feat.

(Oh so shameless and corny..I know, I know!!!!)
posted by wendy at 9:21 AM


I learned a lot of life lessons in the shoe store too.

That may be a topic of whole other post!

1/30/07, 11:25 PM  

Did all great bloggers once work at shoe stores? How interesting. It's a great story. My first job in college was pumping gas and changing tires at the local service station. Had its own set of life lessons, but to this day I don't enjoy the smell of gas.

1/31/07, 6:56 AM  

This IS a great story! I got fired from my first job, in HS. I worked in a little diner as a waitress. I kept re-filling people's tea cups with coffee, and once I dropped a big thing of catsup--it went EVERYWHERE--looked like a massacre. Anyway. I was (and am) kind of ditsy. He said I "wasn't right" for the job. :)

1/31/07, 10:31 AM  

1st jobs...hmmmmm...i had a lot of babysitting gigs...

1/31/07, 3:52 PM  

Such a great story - thanks for telling it here.

2/2/07, 2:18 PM  

I liked reading this story - I could see it all. You've described it so well. And I happen to enjoy puns. Your's foots it with the best. Oops ....

2/7/07, 2:41 AM  

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