...until they go shoe shopping in Spain. Because, at least in some stores, it's a contact sport requiring aggression. Fabulous. Two of my least-honed skills.
I went into a shoe store a couple weeks ago, shuffling around until I found the perfect pair of boots. Unlike in your local WalMart, where all the shoes are arranged on the shelf, in their boxes, by size, here you must pick up the shoe from the display, then find a salesperson willing to bring you the size you need. I grabbed my boot and walked around the cramped little store one time, looking for someone who appeared remotely sales-y. They were all ringing up purchases behind the counters.
Ah! But there was a stray lady who had just disappeared into the massive back room, the room with the boxes and sizes and organization and loveliness. I waited for her to come back from her current shoe search. And waited.
Also, I waited.
A woman and her daughter brushed past me to one of the cashiers, the one at the very end of the counter. They began asking about sizes, and she told them that, yes, she could help them, just a moment. She was rummaging through a bag.
Still no sign of the back-room lady.
Eventually, the mother and daughter scooted away. Aha! Now was the moment to snatch their saleswoman. I looked down at the back of her head, willing her to look up at me. Come on, come on, can't you feel me looking at you? Come on... Seconds later, there it was. She turned her head upward. Eye contact! Eye contact! I started to speak. "Es posible--"
"Un momento." She held up a hand, then disappeared. And that was the last I ever saw of her. Not that I waited much longer to find out.
In the States, I hate trying stuff on in stores where the employees have to unlock the dressing rooms for you. I hate when they knock on the door and ask how you're doing, and I hate when they offer to bring you something in a bigger size, and I hate handing back a pile of clothes and telling them that none of it fit, but thanks anyway. I like finding my own shoes and not answering questions and not feeling the pressure of someone I don't even know hovering nearby, waiting for me to admit that I can't squish my legs into a pair of jeans.
The grass is always greener. Oh, Spanish salespeople, can't you see that I'm floundering when the largest size you offer is a 41? (That's roughly a women's 9.) Are you laughing at my new fuzzy, purple slippers because my heels hang just a sliver over the back? Will anyone offer to help me?
Juliana and I made a second shoe-shopping attempt on Tuesday night, wandered Calle Mayor for a few hours, slipping into every little shoe shop we found. But the prices were too big and the boots were too small. At least the salespeople were kinder. They asked if we needed help right away. Juliana would explain that we were looking for a size 43, 44 maybe? And their eyes would get wide, and they'd offer to look for something in the back, or--more often--they'd shake their heads and apologize, saying that the store had nothing bigger than 41.
You know what this means, don't you? It means that multiple trips to Scandinavia are completely warranted this year.