The Sole Man


Bought a pair of shoes once. Doc Martens. Lovely they were. Then after five days the sole of one came away from the upper, under the arch. Less than happy, I popped them into a bag and walked up to the shop from where I bought them in pursuit of a replacement pair or at least a refund.

The shop wasn’t one of those swish, poncy, boutique affairs, full of little girls selling slingbacks to old ladies, but more of an emporium: a functional, no-frills sort of place which sold what my old man would call “working” shoes and clothes. No women were anywhere to be seen. I was one of the few therein not wearing overalls.

There was a bloke who I presumed to be the guvnor arranging a display of shoelaces as I approached the counter.
“Hello mate,” says I to Mr Shopkeeper “I bought these shoes here last week and, look, this one’s split at the seam,”
The bloke took my shoe in his hands, holding it at the heel and toe. He looked at it for a second, noticing the split down the side, then flexed it, looked at me inquisitively before returning his attention to my right size 9. He turned the shoe over, then flexed it again while studying the sole. Then he looked up at me again to deliver his verdict.

“You’ve been bending your feet”
” ‘scuse me?” I spluttered.
“You’ve been bending your feet when you walk” he repeated, without a glint of irony.
“Well how do you walk around, then?” I demanded to know. I walked round in a circle, lifting my knees as if I were wearing flippers. Demonstration over, I returned to meet the shoe expert eye-to-eye.

“You got any that can cope with a spot of foot-bending, then?” I enquired. But he was not playing my game. He again picked up my purchase and continued his flexing routine.
“I can have a go at mending it.” he offered ” I reckon a hot knife should do it.”
Have a go with a hot knife ???” I retorted, incredulously “These are brand new, mate. They cost me 30 quid. Each !”

He clearly didn’t get it. We argued the toss over whether the fault lay with the manufacturer or some physical deformity that I had been, up to then, blissfully unaware of. I wasn’t in the mood.
“You know the phrase ‘the customer’s always right’ ? Well I’m him ! ”

I could tell he was doing me the biggest of favours when he opened the till to refund my money. I half-thought he might offer me the money back on just one, as only one shoe had split. We hurrumphed at each other as I left the establishment, £60 back in my wallet but two shoes worse off.

The shop is, amazingly, still in business and by all accounts thriving. I walk past it every now and then, remembering not to bend my feet as I do so.

.

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