I got fed up with Israeli shoe stores the other day. They’re terrible! Everything’s expensive, with a limited selection of overpriced, weird-brand shoes. I hate buying new shoes at the best of times, but in an Israeli shoestore? Forget about it!
But Naomi Rivka needed a new pair, urgently, because she’s always telling us her feet hurt. There’s nothing visible on the outside, but I suspect they hurt either because she wears Crocs all the time or, occasionally, her terrible pair of Israeli-shoestore model gym shoes. (I blame the Crocs – I loved them at first, but now cannot wear them at ALL).
Happily, there’s a Payless shoe store in Lev HaMifratz, one of the big malls in Haifa, and we happened to be going past it yesterday on our way to get passport photos (finally!) from another mall. In Canada, my attitude was always, if I have to buy retail, give me Payless. I knew the one here was very similar, and carried the same (ie REAL, not Israeli) brands.
I wasn’t disappointed by the selection – but I was stumped, at first, by my Hebrew.
Problem was, I had no idea what size she needed. I wanted to measure her feet. I needed one of those shoe-measuring thingies, a staple of every shoe store, throughout my childhood. You know… THIS thing:
(Did you know that in English, it’s called a “Brannock Device”? Me neither – thanks, Google!)
There were two sales guys talking at the front counter to one customer and I didn’t want to interrupt, but luckily, a sales gal came along when I needed her.
“Efshar limdod et ha…” Is it possible to measure…? I began.
Ugh. Okay, yes, I got 94% in ulpan, which included basic body-part terminology, but still don’t really know how to say foot. I don’t know if there IS a word for it, I think it’s just כף רגל / caf regel, which sort of means “palm of the leg.”
Problem #2 hit me the moment the salesgirl nodded eagerly. The verb למדוד / limdod, “to measure,” also means “to try on.”
“Of course,” she said, “choose whichever size you need and try them on.”
“But which size does she need? I don’t know. Can you measure her leg?” Argh – foot! Foot!
“You can try whatever size she needs.”
Argh. We were going in circles.
Aha! I knew what we needed. Naomi had just been trying to teach me the word for ruler…
“In North America,” I explained slowly, “when I want to buy shoes, in the store, there is a,” turned to Naomi Rivka in English. “How do you say ‘ruler’?”
“סַרְגֵל / sargel.”
That’s when the salesperson’s ears perked up at Naomi Rivka’s yummy little accent. She leaned over a bit. “Do you speak Hebrew?” she asked Naomi Rivka.
“Ktzat,” (a little), Naomi Rivka replied sweetly.
No, no, no, no, no.
Because I knew exactly what she was thinking.
No WAY was she going to speak to my 8-year old instead of directly to me. No WAY was I unable to handle a basic shoe-buying transaction without my kid as an intermediary.
It was the first time this has happened… but certainly not the last.
I could NOT let this happen to me, to turn into the classic, stereotypical Immigrant Mom.
So I didn’t let it. I cleared my throat and take charge, a little. We reached an uneasy truce whereby the salesperson admitted that she’d never heard of having a ruler in the store to measure kids’ feet (huh?!?), but she would let us try on any shoes we wanted. (gee, thanks!)
She peered at Naomi’s feet, clad hugely in Crocs, and suggested Size 3, which was obviously way too big. Then, she offered another pair which was slightly smaller, but way over what I wanted to pay (“yakar miday,” thanks, Ulpan!).
I’d already noticed several pairs of a decent brand in a few kids’ sizes, on sale for ₪50 – THOSE were the shoes I wanted!
I guess, realizing she wasn’t going to get a huge commission, she finally left us on our own while she wandered the quiet store, and I pulled a couple of pairs so we could try them on.
The very best ones were not too flimsy and not too padded, but they were black, and I worried that Naomi Rivka would reject them because they weren’t girly. There was a sparkly pair also for ₪50, but they felt cheap and had a weird lump in the sole.
Happily, Naomi Rivka loved the black pair, even though the salesperson had tried to tell us they were for boys. Until you show me actual physiological differences between boy feet and girl feet, I will continue to believe that feet are feet.
We paid our ₪50 – will I ever stop loving the fact that tax is included in sticker prices?! – and got the heck out of the store, feet and wallet relatively unscathed.
Just wish I could say the same for my ego.