“Do You Want Me To Corkskrew That?”

So, as you may or may not know, I decided to extend my stay in Washington to include a few days in Edmonds with Rachel. I wanted to be able to hang out with her before she leaves on the 2nd of next month for Italy. She is going to be there for a year, maybe a little less. She is going to be working on organic farms around the country…. needless to say she has a lot of obscure things on her packing list for this adventure that you need to go out and buy. One day we decided to go to REI to try to find her a pair of shoes for the trip, and we were helped out by an extremely enthusiastic fellow named Ken. We wrote a blog about it on our joint myspace sight ( List Lovers) that evening. I wanted to copy and paste the story just because it was too good. It is written from Rach’s point of view since she was the customer. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

“Do you want me to corkscrew that??”

I think I’ve found love.

So, the Turtledoves are back together again. Gigi is visiting me up in Edmonds and helped me go shoe shopping today for some work shoes for my organic farming trip in Italy…this is where the magic started…

We go into REI at the Alderwood Mall and head up to the shoe section where we are approached by an eager employee named Ken who goes by KD. He asks if we need any help and I tell him I’m looking for a cross trainer or something to work on a farm in but also hike a little and maybe also walk around the cities…He says, “Oh, so you need an everything shoe. Well, I don’t quite have enough information to adequately advise you [after I had just given him plenty of information], but maybe we can dive a little further and I can better assist you…”

It is important to know that Ken speaks very well. He enunciates everything very clearly and pronounces every word and syllable well, like he’s talking to a deaf person almost, but not necessarily uncomfortably loudly. He also uses unnecessary words and phrases; he speaks by the book. He does not speak casually as you or I, but he sounds like something you would read. And his voice and projection are very clear, precise, deliberate, and almost like a radio voice or a voiceover voice. This guy sounds automated. His intonations are very precise and make him sound like he’s a voice giving you pre-recorded directions.

So he proceeds to show me one shoe, no options, just the most expensive shoe in the store. His version of the “everything” shoe. Now, the main feature, or focus really that he has as a standard for any shoe to buy for hiking, is a stable sole. There are three main focal points to his sale: the solid lip, the mocassin-like toe space to promote natural foot-spreading, and of course the shoe must withstand the Corkscrew test (which may or may not be under copyright by Ken himself). The way that he shows this last one is to twist the shoe like he’s wringing out laundry. It’s supposed to display the durability and stability of the sole.

After treating us to many a corkscrew, he then shows us “the bottom of a normal shoe,” in comparison to the Everything shoe.
“Most soles come together at a 90 degree angle, but this shoe, however, is contoured to properly assist with your natural step pattern. Let me demonstrate…”

He then takes the “regular shoe” (a rather thick hiking boot) and slams it in a heel-to-toe motion, articulating each section and using sound effects to exaggerate the clunky-ness of the shoe, complete with the ending painful sound of “aahhhh.” I said, “It makes that sound every step,” and he replied, “Oh yes, you cannot be very sneaky.” He then goes onto the Everything shoe and shows how it rolls gently and silently (because he didn’t slam it down on the bench). Ring ’em up, ring ’em up, Sir, you’ve sold me!

Then I mention that I also need a Maryjane-like shoe, something more casual and sandal-like to walk around the city. He says, “If Italy is anything like Peru, there’s a lot of cobblestone roads, and let me tell you, you do not want to be walking around cobblestone roads in shoes that do not have a substantial sole. I know from experience. I would love to recommend you these Keens that I am wearing on my feet right now, but I cannot safely recommend them to you because their soles are not sturdy enough to withstand cobblestone. Not to get philosophical on you, but I always say: Happy feet, happy souls. And if your feet aren’t happy, you cannot take one more step.” He then proceeded to corkscrew every maryjane-style shoe, leaving us only with a handful of undesirable options: a platform strappy atrocity with a clunky heel that would probably break my ankle on cobblestone; a clog; and a soccer-Mom style heel that I wouldn’t be caught dead in. These were the only options that he was not able to successfully corkscrew and therefore could safely recommend with his expert seal of approval. After looking at our bleak options, we tried to corkscrew some of the cuter options ourselves, only to be interrupted by Ken McStronghands and his corkscrew of fury with a slightly-condescending, “Do you want me to corkscrew that??”

Then we get a break as he JUMPS on the next customer as we look at other shoes. After a bit the other sales guy asks if we need assistance and I get some shoes in my size. When I’m trying to untie one to get my foot in, we realize that it has some sort of tie job executed with army-like stealth, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We sit dumbfounded, unsure of how to proceed, when his fellow employee (who has probably seen this situation many times) comes over and asks if we need assistance. Yes. “Um, I don’t know how to untie these shoes, there’s some sort of knot situation going on…” He kneels down, leans in a bit and tells us confidentially, gesturing to Ken, “Between you and me, that guy over there loves to tie these shoes in crazy knots, he has his own special technique, but everyone else hates it.” We decide to seize this golden opportunity, after a few conspiratory giggles, to coax Ken into sharing his shoe-tying secrets.

I get up and approach him with “You really seem to be an expert on this stuff, so I was wondering if you had any special strategies for shoe-tying…I have a pair of shoes that have round laces like these and they always come undone even though I double-knot it…” (luckily I have a four-year degree in acting so am quick on my feet and just noticed as I was saying it that these shoes did indeed have round laces).

“Oh, well, you just double-knot it…”

Oh no, I’m losing him. “I’ve tried double-knotting, it still comes undone…”

“But…” he dramatically pulls a stool over, sits on it, and tells me to put my foot up. “I like to lace my shoes with a certain method. I like to twist the laces like this, with constant tension, you have to keep it taut. Some people pull the laces and then let go, which completely undos everything they just did. What’s the point? Just for kicks, let’s try a triple-twist situation up here at the toe, see if it works for you. You have got to play around with these things…This may seem tight, but remember, I’m lacing you up as if you are heading out for your hike in two minutes. [It did feel rather tight, like I couldn’t move my foot if it was in quicksand and I needed to lose the shoe or I’d die.] Now follow me.” He walks over to the simulated rock testing grounds (who designed REI?) and breaks out a flamboyant, dramatic jump, explaining only after that I need to make sure my feet don’t move around when I’m jumping on a downhill decline. He then makes me do the jump. Afterwards, his focus was not so much on how it felt but on his knot-tying skills. “Okay, so, do you feel the difference?? [He didn’t wait for the answer.] How ’bout the one I tied???!” I just gave him what he wanted, complimented his abilities and expertise, and we moved on.

At this point a young lady walks up and he goes to her. We overhear his loud, enunciated conversation where he’s telling her about his experience in Peru:

“To make a long story short, I got attacked. Broke my clavicle. Fortunately, I had a great doctor in Lima, he did his residency in Chicago…” What?! What the hell does Chicago have to do with anything? It’s the most unnecessary thing he’s said all evening.

After hearing this, we knew we needed more. We sat and plotted how else to engage him in conversation, get him back over in our camp. We decided that blister care was the way to go. I set over with this ridiculous question about advise for blister care where you put vaseline on your foot, but then it gets all over your sock and doesn’t wash out…Ken looks on in horror at such a thought and says,
“No. I could not advise you to ever use vaseline as blister prevention. No. What you do is whenever you are hiking, you must pay close attention to your feet at all times. Constantly focus on your feet and be sure to notice if there are any hot spots. Once a hot spot starts to form–if it even gets warm–stop walking and remove your shoe immediately. You are going to break out something called Moleskin. It comes in big sheets. You can also find it pre-cut, but you want to get the big sheets. Take out your Swiss Army pocket knife, use the scissors to cut a piece much larger than the affected area, and stick it on there. You can then resume your hike.
Now, that is just blister prevention. In the unfortunate event that you do get a blister, you are going to want to get something called Second Skin. The best way I can describe this is plastic-gel-plastic [using hand gestures to simulate layers]. You will again take out your scissors and cut a large strip from the sheet, apply it to the blister and be sure that the ends do not roll back, you do not want that. Follow me, follow me.”

He takes us over to the ledge (we were on the second floor) and he points down to a rack and says, “Right there, do you see the blue box? Right down there. That is the Moleskin. And right next to it, to the left, the translucent box with the green trim and the yellow writing? That is the Second Skin. You are going to want both of those in your pack.”

We thanked him and started to leave–this had all taken a while and we were hungry–when he turned back and asked “Are you a member of REI?” “Oh, uh, yes, I am” [not completely true, but while I enjoyed this guy I was ready to move on], “Right on.”

And that was the end of Ken. But walking away, Gina and I decided that we wished we had asked when he was getting off because we’d like to go out and have a beer with him. He was a Chu-Chu Charlie and a Class Act. Ken was a good time and we’d really like to hear some more of his stories, preferably more about his two-year adventure in Peru…and the doctor in Lima who did his residency in Chicago…

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~ by soartsyithurts on August 21, 2008.

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