My daughter Spencer talked me into doing a triathlon sprint this summer. Actually, first she talked me into running with her, then by degrees she introduced the topic of a triathlon. I now realize my daughter would make a pretty good living as a dope-pusher.
Spencer took me to the store to get some new running shoe because the ones I had were no more suited for running than a reasonably comfortable pair of lace-up cinder-blocks. Nor could they be called "tennis shoes" unless one played the most desultory and lackluster style of tennis imaginable, one in which the ball is never allowed to bounce, but must roll back and forth under the net. Neither can they be called "sneakers" unless one is sneaking up on an especially lethargic and hearing-impaired sloth.)
At the store, I had to remove my shoes and socks and stand on a pair of footprints on a plastic pad. The salesman showed me a computer screen where we examined an infrared three-D image of my feet that showed how I distributed my weight. (The screen saver on this computer, I should mention, was a likable dalmatian, who, in addition to the regulation black spots, also had blue, green, and pink ones. His name, I was to learn, is Shoe Dog.) Having determined that I put most of my weight on my feet, the salesman conducted me to the second test, where I ran barefoot on a treadmill with my jeans rolled up my calves, making me feel like Huck Finn if Huck Finn ever got on a treadmill.
Back at the computer screen, Shoe Dog was wearing an apron and chef's hat, sitting before a large stockpot, with the caption, "Let's add a few more ingredients." The salesman analyzed keyed in more information, and the next thing we saw was Shoe Dog running in circles the way Zoe does when we're about to go for a walk. "Shoe Dog is excited," the salesman explained in a perfectly serious voice, "because we're about to pick out your new shoes."
I will cut the story short to say the shoes I ended up with are indeed a marvel; as soon as I put them on, they seemed to whisper to my feet, "Let's go!" But the chief joy of the outing was getting to meet Shoe Dog and the salesman's solemn assurance that Shoe Dog was excited just thinking about my getting some new shoes.
When I was a kid, there was a brand of shoes called Red Goose. For all I know, they still exist, but I haven't seen them in ages. When a kid got a new pair of Red Goose shoes, he also got to turn a crank on an over-sized gumball machine and pull out a big red plastic egg, inside of which was a prize. (The quality of the prize was better than something from a Cracker Jack box, but not much.)
Red Goose had the rather creepy slogan, "Half the fun of having feet is Red Goose shoes." But no matter. Shoe Dog has it all over Red Goose. If only every purchase could be accompanied by a happy dog chasing its tail, excited at the prospect of my getting something new:
"BP Dog's excited you're buying gasoline!"
"Birdseye Dog's excited you're getting frozen peas!"
(Originally posted 2012)