published Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Kennedy: My sad shoehorn problem

Old age is getting to me. Sometimes, 56 feels more like 96.

Here's an example. Last Sunday I was in the middle of the tax-free holiday frenzy at Northgate Mall. My job was to track down some red Nike sneakers for my 7-year-old son.

Simple job, right? Piece of cake.

So my son and I were in a store where they sell athletics shoes and, miraculously, they had his target pair in stock. Happy day.

A helpful shoe clerk helped us retrieve a pair of red, size 2 Nikes. I was beginning to think we might actually accomplish our mission.

I dropped to my knees to help my son try on the shoes. (When you're 56, the mere act of dropping to your knees and making it back to your feet is like climbing Mt. Everest.) This was after I had already measured his foot with one of those foot-measuring devices that looks like a tiny, chrome Rose Bowl. "When did shoe stores all become self-service?" I thought to myself as the clerk stood nearby, smiling and holding the empty shoe box.

"How do they fit?" the clerk chirped.

"We'll soon find out," I said, biting my lower lip and trying to pound a sneaker onto my son's left foot with my fist. Exasperated, I finally dropped my weary arms and looked up at the clerk.

"Sorry to trouble you," I said, "but could you please let me borrow a shoehorn?"

"A what?" he asked cheerfully.

"A shoehorn," I repeated slowly. "You know, a shoehorn. One of those things that guides the heel of your foot into a shoe."

He looked at me as if I'd asked him for a French horn.

"Oh, I guess I've heard of those shoehorn things, but I've never really seen one," he said, smiling. "I'm pretty sure we don't have one. At least, I've never seen one around here before."

"OK, well, I'm having trouble getting this tennis shoe on my son's foot," I said, still wrestling with the Nike.

The clerk's brow furrowed.

I realized that I had further bedeviled him by calling the Nike's "tennis shoes," an archaic term he probably associates with old guys like me dressed in white-leather walking shoes and Member's Only jackets.

"Forget it," I said, finally getting my son's shoes on his feet. "We'll take these," I said, eager to put an end my agony.

A few minutes later, as we were entering Steak 'n Shake on Hixson Pike, I noticed a Buick sedan that I've been lusting after parked by the front door. I took a few steps toward the car to get a better look. Sitting in the front seats were a couple of grannies in their 80s, who smiled and gave me a little wave.

"OK, I'm officially old," I thought to myself as I walked away with my shoulders slumped. "A Buick is my answer to a mid-life crisis."

Later, at home, I tried to tell the shoe-store story to my wife, who is 13 years my junior.

"So I asked the salesman for a shoehorn," I explained.

"A what?" she injected.

Oh, forget it.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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