I bought a new pair of running shoes last week. It was a new year and I had survived my annual ten kilometer trial, the one time in the year when I run alongside more than two other people. I had a suspicion that this transaction was overdue because I was suffering more than I was accustomed: my back, my knee, my overall comportment. The voices in my head argued for a day or two about whether or not a piece of equipment would make any real difference, or if I was simply wearing down. Arguments for: Continued workouts without any sort of professional consultation on a body approaching fifty with one knee already reconstructed. Arguments against: My father and I went for a run on his sixty-first birthday in the hills of Northern California. I must have at least eleven years left on these legs, right?
So I went to the Sporting Goods store where I began the ritual anew. I looked at the high end shoes. I looked at the Clearance Table. I looked at the fancy new "toe shoes," the ones that look like someone poured acrylic plastic over your bare feet. I thought about the two guys who I knew that swore by them. I thought about the injuries they had both incurred during their "break-in" period. I tried to imagine a world where all of these various combinations of foam and gel could possibly keep me from feeling tired when I came home from a three mile run around my neighborhood.
That's when Devon showed up. "What're you looking for?"
I didn't let the fact that I was standing in front of a thirty foot wide display of running shoes diminish my enthusiastic answer: "Running shoes." I decided to flavor it a little, just to see if I got a more complete response. "Something I can run in a few days a week, and not wear out in a couple months."
Devon walked down the wall, patting certain models, extolling their random virtues without going too far past the fine print on the display tags that I had already read. I thanked him for his time, and went back to my search. I tried on a few pair. They felt remarkably similar, but I made a show of checking where my toe ended up and how snug they were on my heel. When I had made my selection, I needed Devon's help to secure the left shoe which was being used as a display model. He smiled, "We usually use your size for display," and off he went to disconnect my new left shoe from the plastic plate to which it had been tethered. When he returned, he handed me the shoe and his card, "Can you give this to them when they ring you up?"
Of course I could. It was only then that it occurred to me that I have been running since before Devon was born, and while it was comforting to have his mild assistance in my shopping experience, I can't say that he made a vast impact on my choice. It was another pair of running shoes. Not the best. Not the worst. They fit, and when I tried them out the next morning it was like running on a cloud. A big, asphalt and concrete covered cloud.