TOMS Shoes

I bought a pair of TOMS shoes: you know, the shoes sold in those TV commercials by that really cute, earthy-crunchy guy with long, wavy, light brown hair (whose name is actually Blake Mycoskie) who gives a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of TOMS shoes you buy. Oh, and he lives on a sailboat. I’m not kidding. He really does live on a sailboat. As if he isn’t a dreamboat enough as it is, the guy goes sailing around the world helping kids.

Let’s talk about Blake here for a moment. He has the whole good-looking, outdoorsy, good-guy thing going on. I bet he doesn’t even NEED deodorant. He’s like the perfect guy; the perfect guy who would fall in love with me if I were 30 years younger, beautiful, unmarried, tall, thin, and had waist-length, wavy light brown hair, and a perpetual tan. But, I’m Jewish.

I had heard great things about TOMS shoes from several friends who own them, like they’re really comfortable and not that expensive; and then there’s that whole donation thing. I was on www.amazon.com ordering a pair of super-cute Asics gym shoes to replace the super-cute ones I had worn out. On a whim I decided to pop a pair of TOMS shoes into my virtual shopping cart because I needed shoes that were a little nicer than gym shoes and a little less glam than 5-inch-heeled gladiator peep-toes.

As I waited for my package to arrive I began to notice how many women were wearing TOMS shoes out and about and how good they looked on each of them. But, as it turned out, I didn’t think they looked so good on me. The shoes looked pretty groovy online and in person when they arrived. They had kind of a Native American vibe and color-scheme that just spoke to me. And, while they fit really well, they were “classic flats” and after looking at them on my feet, which are accustomed to wearing anything but something “classic”, I thought they made my feet look old and boring.

It’s hard enough to fight the signs of aging on my face without developing additional worry lines because these shoes made my feet look old. But then the other shoe dropped. I realized I had more to worry about than worry lines and old-looking feet. That donation thing of TOMS is as virtuously lofty as a pair of 6-inch Wedgies. As I said before, for every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, TOMS will donate a new pair of shoes to a child in need. In a feeling of sudden and complete panic I wondered, “If I return the shoes will TOMS still give a new pair of shoes to a child in need?”

Or, worse, would Blake give a pair of nice, new shoes to a child in some remote, lifeless wasteland only to rip them out of his or her tiny, little hands simply because Leslie Korengold of north-suburban Illinois returned the shoes she bought because she thought they made her feet look old?

Normally, if I don’t like a pair of shoes I buy online for whatever reason, I just return them. But, TOMS shoes come packaged in a way that makes you feel like the amoeba that eats the pond scum left by the pond scum if you return them.

First, there’s the box. The top of the box reads “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.” The bottom of the 80% recycled post-consumer-waste box printed with soy ink says, “You don’t have to throw this box away! Reuse it, reinvent it, get creative, it’s your box now. Keep TOMS in here, travel photos, souvenirs, old love letters –whatever you want!”

Inside the box are the shoes, of course, which have several tags on them. One tag has the word “Sustainable” and three little symbols on it that I think mean “vegan”, “recyclable,” and “leaf.”

The back of the tag reads, “TOMS sustainable shoes are vegan friendly,” which I think is really nice because most people are not very friendly to vegans. If you say you’re a vegan people tend to look at you as if you eat the amoeba that eats the amoeba that eats the pond scum left by the pond scum.

The tag continues, “The uppers are made of either pesticide-free cotton, or a unique twill featuring hemp (isn’t that a fancy word for ‘weed’?), and recycled plastic bottles”. (Oh, come on, Adorable Sailing Dude, you’re killing me!). “The durable outsoles utilize recycled rubber, and the cushioned footbed has a canvas cover for comfort and breathability.”

The second tag talks about the One for One thing again and goes on to say, “Join us: Supporters of the One for One movement are uploading their stories and pictures right now at www.TOMS.com/wall.” I doubt very highly that Tom wants a photo of me on his wall returning his sustainable, breathable, weed shoes.

But that’s not all! There’s a sticker in the box; one side says “TOMS”, and the other side says, “5 Ways To Get Involved, 1. Put this sticker on your laptop, notebook, car, or wherever people will see it. 2. Host a “Style Your Sole” party with friends and family.  3. Screen the TOMS documentary, “For Tomorrow: The TOMS Shoes Story”. 4. Go barefoot on (TOMS’ annual event to raise awareness of the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child’s life) One Day Without Shoes. 5. Stay connected and share your TOMS story. Follow us on (the logos for) Facebook and Twitter, and a logo I’m not familiar with, but it probably refers to weed.

But wait! There’s more! Inside the box there’s also a flag. (Are you kidding me?) The tag on the flag, which I’m sure is made from recycled and filtered feline feces that has been spun into sustainable, edible cotton, suggests “Show it. Share it. Raise it. Fly it. This is your flag. You are now part of the One for One movement. Keep it. Give it. Hang it. And post it all at: www.TOMS.com/wall.” The recycled and filtered feline feces sustainable edible cotton flag reads, again, “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.”

We get it, Blake: You’re a really good person and I’m not. But, I can’t live with myself knowing that somewhere in the world that you’ve sailed to, for Pete’s sake, there’s a child in need who received a brand new pair of shoes only to have them pried off of his or her tiny, little feet just because I refused to wear shoes solely because they made my feet look old.

I had to know the answer to this question. But I wasn’t going to call TOMS to ask. I searched www.toms.com/ to find out what would happen to the orphan with the new shoes if I returned mine because I apparently have vanity issues about my feet. Even though I didn’t think anyone would ask such a ridiculous question, I clicked on the link for Frequently Asked Questions. I just had to see if anyone else was as nutty as I was worrying that the action she took by returning the shoes would cause an equal and opposite reaction of new shoes being callously stripped away from a child in need making me feel like a heel.

And there it was. Someone had asked the question. In response to the question, “If I return my shoes does TOMS take a pair away from a child?” TOMS replied, “TOMS accepts exchanges and returns within 60 days from the date of purchase. This is how we evaluate how many pairs of shoes are final sales and can be counted towards our giving program. Once shoes are given to a child, they are their shoes. We would never take back a given pair.”

Oh, thank God! I felt so much better, but less about the fact that TOMS wouldn’t take away a pair of shoes given to a child. I felt better because a lot of other people must have wondered what would happen if they returned a pair of TOMS shoes for it to become a “Frequently Asked Question”.

Feeling relieved that by returning the shoes I wasn’t contributing to Global Warming, causing another stock market crash, or disrupting the space-time continuum, I printed out the return shipping label. I placed the weed shoes with their tags, sticker, and flag back into the recycled box and set it aside until I had time to take it to the post office to return them to www.amazon.com.

Today, just for the heck of it, I tried the TOMS weed shoes on one more time. To my surprise, I actually liked them! They didn’t make my feet look old; my feet are old. The colors clashed with my excessively white legs, but that’s nothing a little Sally Hansen’s Airbrush leg makeup in “Deep Glow” can’t fix. (Girls, if you don’t have Sally Hansen’s leg makeup, go get it now.)

So, I will wear the shoes, fly the flag, put the sticker on my laptop, and store stuff in my 80% recycled post-consumer-waste box printed with soy ink. And, I signed up for e mail updates about TOMS One Day Without Shoes 2013 (www.toms.com/onedaywithoutshoes) so I can participate. I feel good knowing that I am a part of the One for One movement. And while 80% of me likes the shoes, the other 20% is trying to accept the fact that I have old feet.

Read more about TOMS shoes on the blog: blog.toms.com/.

Richard’s Day Off

It was 7:00 on a recent cold, snowy Friday morning and Richard had taken the day off to unwind and pack before he and I were to leave the following Monday for a week’s vacation in hot, un-snowy Florida. I watched our dogs, Phoebe and Ava, frolic in the snow through the window of the sunroom. All was calm, all was bright.

Phoebe trotted off to the left side of the yard towards the garden while Ava started to amble toward the wooded area in the back.

And that’s when I noticed something that looked like Phoebe walking toward Ava. But, as far as I knew, Phoebe was still licking snow off the plants in the garden. The Phoebe-colored thing was just strolling along next to the fence when Ava saw it and began barking. The Phoebe-colored thing lunged at Ava just as the real Phoebe-colored thing (Phoebe) hurdled her short self over the bushes by the garden to help Ava. I couldn’t tell what the thing was, but whatever it was wasn’t nice — at all.

So, Richard’s day off began with me screaming, “Richard! Oh my God! There’s something attacking the dogs!” Richard was downstairs in his office watching Fox News, therefore, ignoring me. So, I screamed a few more times until my voice was able to break the spell that Fox & Friends had on him.

Always ready with a sarcastic remark, but, more important, in an emergency, Richard leapt to his feet and ran outside. He immediately ran back inside. “It’s a raccoon! They’re vicious animals!” As if out of mid-air he assembled hiking boots, safety goggles, and leather gloves.

Because I’d only ever seen raccoons looking cute up in a tree, I had recently asked Richard how he knew raccoons were such vicious animals. He said, “Because I’m 50 years old and I have a (insert name of male-appendage-of-your-choice here, please.) That’s the same reason he gives to Veronica and me when explaining why he doesn’t let us drive his BMW. Lucas, on the other hand, has his very own memorized seat setting in it.

I looked outside and saw a tumbleweed of blood and fur rolling across the snow. It never occurred to me that the dogs could get hurt. I’ve seen them “catch and release” many small animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, and mice. The fact that the aforementioned animals were always dead upon “release” made me feel confident that Ava and Phoebe could “catch” the raccoon.

Richard came running back in and grabbed the heavy wooden dowel we use to keep one of the sliding doors closed in the sunroom because Phoebe can open it. I found this out a few years ago when I was gardening. I watched as she used her paws and snout to slide the door open so she could do a few laps in the pool. If only she knew how to close it.  

Richard instructed me to get the dogs’ leashes and come outside. I retrieved the leashes, put on my pink Isaac Mizrahi snow boots and ran outside. Richard and Phoebe had subdued the raccoon enough so that I could wrangle Ava into her leash. Getting Phoebe to release the thing was going to prove to be harder because she tends to be very goal-oriented, and, let’s just say, her “goal” was only disoriented. Using the dowel, Richard held the raccoon at bay while I managed to get her leash on and drag both dogs back into the house. Richard stayed behind. He had no choice but to put the mangled raccoon out of its misery.

The dogs were wet from the snow and covered with blood and fur. I cleaned them up with warm, damp towels so I could see where the blood was coming from.

Ava had small scratches above one eye and near her nose. Phoebe sustained a nasty gash across her nose, a pierced ear, and gouges way too close for comfort near both eyes. Richard walked in just as I was giving each of them “Composure Calming” chewies.  Ava gets the chewies on a daily basis for her general anxiety. She has issues. Richard looked at the package and said, “Can I have one?”

I called our vet who told me to bring them right in. We brought the dogs to Dr. Ben’s office and the first thing he did was ask Richard if he had been bitten or scratched. “No,” he said, “but if I need rabies shots, I’m getting them at the Bellagio hotel in Vegas.”

Neither dog needed stitches but Dr. Ben prescribed antibiotics. He also told us not to worry about rabies because bats are the real rabies carriers in Illinois. Besides, they were up-to-date on their rabies shots. He also advised us to call the animal warden in case the city wanted to test the raccoon anyway, and said he’d fill out any forms that might be necessary.

We came home and Ava and Phoebe slept for about two days straight. But there was still a dead raccoon in our backyard. We roused the dogs for walks, and let them out in the dog run, but we couldn’t let them out in backyard while the raccoon was still there.

When I left to go to work at the park district around noon, Richard called the animal warden. He later texted me that no one answered so he had left a message and then used a shovel to put the raccoon “on ice” in the wheelbarrow by the side of the house until it could be picked up. He said in his text, “The dogs and I are visiting the somber battlefield. It’s like Gettysburg.”

When I got home from work Richard said he had left another message for the animal warden who still hadn’t returned his call. “I know what’s going to happen,” he said, “they’re going to do an autopsy on that thing and they’re going to say that the dogs didn’t kill it. They’re going to say that it died from blunt trauma to the head. I’m going to be thrown in jail, and the dogs are going to be sitting at my desk, going through my mail.”

The animal warden still hadn’t called back by Saturday so Richard called the police, knowing that even though he was being a good citizen, his life as a free man was at stake. He was somewhat relieved to reach the chief of police who he happened to know because they had worked on various city council commissions together. He explained the whole thing and even confessed to being the actual “killer.” The police chief told him there wouldn’t be an investigation into the death of the raccoon and that he’d call the animal warden himself.

Ten minutes later, the obviously harried animal warden arrived and apologized for not retuning any of Richard’s calls, “It’s my first week on the job,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m coming or going.” I wondered if it would be his last week after seeing why we had called. 

As I peeked out from a window upstairs I saw Richard take the shovel and try to get the raccoon out of the wheelbarrow. But it had become, as he put it, “a raccoon-sicle” and was frozen to the inside of wheelbarrow. He and the animal warden worked to dig it out, even pulling on its tail, something I really wish I hadn’t seen, and finally popped the thing out. Then I saw Richard drop it into a Hefty bag before the animal warden heaved it up and over into the back of his paddy wagon.

I think the whole thing was very Darwinian because no raccoon in its right mind would want to tangle with 140 pounds of dog mutt on purpose. If it had a good old working raccoon brain it would have said to itself, “Holy crap! Enemy! Enemy! Must climb tree!” or whatever raccoon self-talk sounds like. The dogs had been in the yard for a few minutes before the raccoon even appeared. It could have easily climbed the wooden fence or found some way out of our yard. It just shouldn’t have been there in broad daylight in the first place. That’s what happens when you disobey raccoon curfew.

The ordeal was over. The raccoon had been removed, and the dogs were resting comfortably.
When Veronica and Lucas got home later, I told them what had happened and they promised to take extra special care of the dogs while we were away. As we were packing I said to Richard,  “I’ll bet you’re looking forward to our trip.” Richard looked at me and said, “If my day off yesterday is any indication of how our vacation is going to go, then I’d have to say no.'”

But, we had a great trip. We flew in, rented a convertible (fun!), and then drove across the southern part of the state from Ft. Myers to Key Biscayne to visit family and friends.

The only tell-“tail”reminder of Richard’s day off was the occasional dream during which his legs appeared to be running and he made what could only be described as growling sounds. I’ll get more Composure.