I’m terrible at buying things. I always screw it up.
Let’s start with my blisters. I failed to buy the same pair of shoes this week three times. I went to Macy’s after my stalwart pair of black boots I’d had for three years burst a hole in the bottom during a rainstorm. I slogged my way up to the shoe department and threw down for a size 10 pair of waterproof Timberlands. I wear a size 10 shoe…normally. But, as I later found out, Timberland shoes run big. But I ran out the door, late to some appointment, assuming the shoes (though a bit loose) would be fine. By that night, I had blisters on both feet from them rubbing against the heel, my feet jostling in the enormous shoes.
I went back to Macy’s, furious with myself, after using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to tidy up the shoes to the point where they almost looked brand new. I was terrified they would be rejected. But no problem! The clerk took them back and brought me a size 9.5. I thanked him and insisted I didn’t need to go any lower. We all know that shoe size correlates directly to the size of other anatomy, and I wasn’t going to sell myself short. I brought my personal insoles with me, though they didn’t quite fit in the 9.5 shoes. Oh well, I thought, running out the door late to make an improv show, I’ll figure that part out later. I was just relieved to have made the exchange on used shoes.
I left my insoles at Macy’s. They were custom orthodics and they cost $400 and were necessary for me to wear any other pair of shoes I own. Because I had removed those shoes’ insoles. I had had these insoles for six years. I returned again to Macy’s two days later, desperate to find them. The shoe department hadn’t seen them, so they sent me to Lost & Found. I went to an underground part of the store that they called The Vault. I imagined the lost diamonds of the wealthy were kept there. But no one had seen my insoles. Damn it!
Then, I went back up to the shoe department, because, you guessed it, the shoes I’d exchanged for were still too big. So I decided to take my time and suck up my pride. I tried on a size 9, still too big. I tried on an 8.5, maybe just a tad too big. I tried on an 8 to be safe, and my left foot crunched. I went with an 8.5, then went immediately to CVS and bought two separate pairs of heel liners (after dropping the first pair in a puddle) and made an appointment to get new custom orthotics for the rest of my shoes. The damage: $400 and counting between shoes and new insoles.
I am cursed when it comes to shopping. I accept this fact that I will always screw things up. I know I have luck in other areas. Providence smiles on me usually when I need a parking spot or an out-of-town Grindr hook-up.
The worst of all was when I bought my first car. I had cashed in a small inheritance my mother left me when she died. It was from a CD in a bank, which meant it wasn’t supposed to be cashed. But I needed a car to survive my hour-drive job commute in Chicago winter from the city to the suburbs. I decided I’d get a Honda Accord, because I am a tall man and needed a big car to fit my ego inside.
I bought the car from a dealership in the far outskirts of Libertyville, Illinois. My friend had driven me there and dropped me off, so I didn’t have much of a choice whether or not I’d buy the car. It was a 2009 Hondel Accord XL, fully loaded, and I loved the idea of it. It had seat warmers and a sunroof and a Dolby Digital speaker system.
As I celebrated my victory driving home, blasting Lady Gaga’s newish album The Fame Monster (it was 2010) on the surround sound, I felt a sharp twinge in my right hip. “I must have tweaked it doing yoga or something,” I thought.
I got home and tried to pull into my apartment’s garage. My new car wouldn’t fit. I hadn’t thought to measure the size of the car vs. the width of the garage door. The car was an inch too big. I tried nonetheless and scraped the right side of the car. I am not good at taking no for an answer.
I barely got the car out of the garage in the morning. It would be street parking from that point onward. I drove to work and by the time I got there I had shooting pains all up the right side of my body, from toe to hip. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. I adjusted the car seat this way and that to no avail. By the end of a week driving in that monster, I could barely walk on my right leg. I went to the chiropractor and discovered that, yes, the car was aggravating my right hip sciatic nerve and that I had major first world problems. I went home and navigated to www.carcomplaints.com and saw that this particular model, this particular year of Honda Accord XL, had thousands of complaints about the front car seats being so uncomfortable that Honda changed the make of them the following year.
I was furious with myself. I did some deep internet research and found a man in Elgin, Illinois who said he was aware of the problem and could fix it. I drove two hours to find his house which doubled as his place of work. His plan: to raise the angle of the driver’s seat by putting quarters underneath the seat bolts in the baxk. He would charge me $500 for the operation. The quarters were free.
I dawdled in the nearby Dairy Queen, downing a Blizzard. If this didn’t work, I didn’t know what I would do.
It didn’t work that well. Maybe there was a 10% reduction in unending nerve pain from sitting in those seats longer than five minutes. So I went back to the mystery mechanic and he put in an extra eight quarters. It didn’t make a difference.
A week later, I was too depressed at work to work. My boss told me to go home if I couldn’t focus. I drove the car home and saw a Prius dealership on the way. I pulled in, curious. The dealership showed me a standard, no-frills 2008 Prius. I loved it. It was an appropriately mid-size car, and my hip felt fine in it on the very long test drive I insisted on taking. I wasn’t seriously going to buy it though and throw away all I’d paid on the Honda, right? So, I low-balled the dealership to the point where they gave me the car for less than I paid for the Honda. I drove them nuts to the point where they didn’t even thoroughly inspect my Honda to notice the scratch from the garage I’d barely buffed out or the quarters under the seats. Incredible. I still lost major money to taxes, but I solved the problem and drove away in that Prius filled with joy.
For the next six months that is, after which I decided to move to New York City. I had no use for a car in NYC. So, I had to sell my precious Prius for a fraction of what I paid for it, and I didn’t even manage to pay off all the loans. A friend took it off my hands, and I believe she is very happy with it.
I am sure there is a moral takeaway here. I can’t just blame a witch’s curse.
But God help me if I ever want to buy a house.