Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Life's Little Annoyances

"I started to get mad," said young Joey on the six o'clock news. It was 1999 and I was furiously hunting for a job.Thinking I was going to an interview, my dad had driven me to some seedy part of what we country folks call Pittsburgh. People that live there call it by some other name, but we referred to a wide swath of Allegheny County as "Pittsburgh."

I was decked out in my business suit with crisp resumes inside my briefcase.

Inside the office building, I was greeted by a room full of people. It was not a job interview. This was an employment opportunity. Or so they said. My mind nearly shut down from skepticism, but since I'd traveled almost an hour, I stuck around to figure out what's going on.

In the midst of a PowerPoint presentation, I felt the first jolt of anger. The "opportunity" I was being presented in a room full of job seekers was nothing more than a pyramid scheme. To make things worse, the very cheerful presenter made us respond out loud to awful cheerleader prompts. "Do you want to make money?" Everyone shouted, "YES WE DO!" Except me. I was fuming.

I stayed long enough to ask one question, "if this isn't a pyramid scheme, why does it look like a triangle when you draw it on the chalkboard?"

I wasn't given an answer, but after that they were kind enough to walk me to the door.

As soon as I got home I called Channel 4 Action News to alert the public to this company and their scam. People were writing checks to get started on their way to being billionaires. I couldn't let it go.

Later in the week, I was interviewed on the campus of Robert Morris College. I sat up straight and gave my very coherent testimony which included the announcement, "I started to get mad." My voice squeaked horribly at the end. I know this because I watched myself squeak those words that evening and again every fifteen minutes on the following Saturday morning news cast. "I started to get mad." That was all they showed of me. I looked like an idiot. Not as much of an idiot as some of the people that lost money at their interview. The news did point out that I was smart enough not to buy into it.

Within a week, the attorney general shut down the "program." To this day, I can't say anything aggravates me without a loved one bringing up my "I started to get mad" performance. But I can't help it. And lately, I've been getting a bit mad. Starting to anyway. This time, it's about my shoes.

About two years ago I bought a pair of Skechers GoWalk loafers at an outlet store. Julia was getting new sneakers and they had a buy one, get one 50% off deal. You pretty much have to buy a second pair when they have that deal. Also, I rarely spend money on my wardrobe. I used to fear getting picked up by What Not To Wear when I went out in public. Thankfully, I'm safe since that show has gone off the air.

So these GoWalk shoes had a special pattern on the sole that was supposed to stimulate the bottom of my feet and deliver impulses to my brain and somehow make me better at walking. Or prettier. It was supposed to do something. I remember reading about it on the box.

As it turns out, the only thing the special sole did was collect rocks. The roads around my house have been treated with Pennsylvania's cheap-o solution: tar and chip. It does nothing to improve the road surface, ensures your car will never be clean, and provides billions of small rocks that eagerly clamber into the the sole of Skechers GoWalk shoes.

It was annoying. I pondered writing a letter to Skechers, but it was too much effort. The shoes were comfortable, except for the five extra pounds of rocks collected by those special divots. Eventually, I walked so much the lumpy bits got worn down to nubs and many of the rock collectors were eliminated. Problem solved.

This Mother's Day, I went to the Prime Outlets at Grove City and had myself a shoe shopping party. I needed new tennis shoes and I was in a rare mood. I actually felt okay spending the amount of money shoes actually cost. This hardly ever happens. In Famous Footwear, I put my tootsies into these new Skechers Flex Appeal shoes with memory foam insoles. It was like walking on a cloud.

But they were Skechers and I had problems with those GoWalk shoes. I turned them over and inspected the sole. I consulted with Tim. We didn't think there was any room for a rock collection. We thought I would be safe. I bought a pair and wore them home from the store like a little kid.

The tar and chip is now a few years old. The tar is mostly gone, but oh, the chips! The chips last forever. And wouldn't you know, these new Skechers flex so well they open up and gobble little stones. Each step becomes a grating grind of tiny rock on other tiny rocks. It makes my teeth hurt which lends some credence to the ability of shoes to affect one's head.

I tweet now and it's quick and easy to give praise or lodge a complaint with a company. If you buy a pair of GoWalk shoes today you'll find the sole is different. They probably won't pick up little pebbles. Someone complained or the Skechers' people realized their shoes had that flaw.

So I tweeted that I wished the shoes didn't pick up so many rocks along with a picture of the bottom of my shoe.

I wasn't mad about it. It was just an FYI kind of thing. Maybe next time they could make the super comfy memory foam shoe without this major flaw. But then Skechers wrote back.

"toothpick? ;)" they said. With a wink even!

And that's when I started to get mad. To quote my least favorite President, "you fool me two times, there ain't gonna be no more foolin'." This will be my last pair of Skechers. I'm not going to call the local news (learned my lesson there), but perhaps I will have helped them make a small change. Maybe now they'll include a complimentary toothpick with your shoe purchase. You'll need it.