I love Frankenwords – new words that are created by mashing together parts of existing ones. I love it even more when I am present at the birth of one of these little monsters, such as this one:
Shoebris, noun (shoe + hubris) - Extreme pride in one’s ability to repair shoes.
Here’s how it happened:
Recently, I bought two pairs of boots, both of which were so slick on the bottoms that they were like wearing stiletto buttered banana peels.
“You’re going to need non-skid soles,” the salesman said as I bear-hugged the full-length mirror, feet churning for traction on the marble floor. He recommended a shoe repair store in Beverly Hills, just a few blocks away.
The air in the store had the tang of shoe polish mixed with the yeasty scent of leather. Behind the wooden counter were rows of shoes with tags tucked into them. I was fascinated by the variety of footwear on display – the formal, the utilitarian, the hammered, the flamboyant, the sexually ambiguous.
As I scanned the rows, a startlingly petite elderly woman appeared behind the counter. She wore an outfit that appeared to be made entirely of lightweight black sweaters, including the slacks. Her wispy, silver/blonde hair was held in a small clip.
She did not smile.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Hi.” I began to pull the first pair of boots from their box. “I just bought these and –”
“You will need the rubber.”
“I’m sorry?” I said, looking up from the boot.
“For not slipping.” She reached below the counter and pulled out a thin piece of textured rubber, slapping it on the wood like a butcher discarding inferior bologna.
“Yes,” I said, staring at the flap and trying to place her accent. It was vaguely Eastern European, but as my knowledge of that part of the world is based entirely on spy movies, I categorized it as “James Bondian.”
She watched me pull the other pair of boots from their box. Without breaking eye contact, her hand whipped out of sight and – slap! – another piece of rubber landed on the counter, this one a perfect match for the camel color of the boot’s sole.
“This will do, yes?” She cocked her eyebrow, daring me to reject the flap.
“Um, sure.” Didn’t she ever blink? I began tucking the boots back into the layers of tissue as she observed me, her eyeballs no doubt parching with the passing seconds.
She reached for a pad of thick yellow tickets and a ballpoint pen. “Name?”
“Anna…” I began.
I gave her the number. “Don’t you want my last name?” I wasn’t signing over the deed to my vacation home in Gstaad, but they hadn’t exactly been giving those boots away, either.
She looked up from the pad. She said nothing, but seemed to be considering my question. Finally, she replied. “I will take first letter of last name.”
After writing an elaborate L on the ticket, she placed the pen on the counter. The she folded her hands across the ticket and studied my face without speaking.
What was this? Was there some element of the transaction I had overlooked? I ran through the process in my mind again to be sure, but it seemed pretty straightforward to me: retail tradition dictated she needed to give me that yellow ticket and then I needed to leave.
She cocked her head five degrees to the left, eyes narrowing. “You are living in Beverly Hills?” She hit the first syllable hard. BEVerlyhills.
“No, um, I live in Santa Monica.”
“Pffft.” She looked away, then back again. “Where you take shoes in Santa Monica?” She said the town’s name with the same inflection that often accompanied the word “gonorrhea.”
“Ah, you know, I don’t remember. I guess I don’t have a regular place.”
She named several shoe repair stores, none of which were familiar to me. At which point I realized that I was being interviewed. Interviewed as a potential boot-leaver. And I don’t know what this says about me, but I very much wanted the job.
“I have a confession to make,” I said with an ingratiating laugh that came out like bronchitis. “I probably don’t give my shoes the attention they deserve.”
Tell me something I don’t know, her expression telegraphed. She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. “You must understand that Excelsior is the best at repairing shoes.” She paused, then seemed to remember something. “And by best I do not mean BEVerlyhills. I mean WHOLEcountry.”
“Of course!” I said. “That is what the shoe salesman said, too.” I eyed the ticket under her fingers. Had I passed the oral test?
“You tell this Santa Monica person the name Excelsior, he will know my store.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I’m never going back there again!” I considered spitting on the floor for emphasis.
She tore the ticket from the stiff little pad. “Anna L.,” she said and held it out to me. “It was pleasure meeting you.” I took it and smiled. “You will be exceptionally pleased with the work,” she said and folded her hands on the counter once more. “No doubt.”
“None at all!” I said and tucked the ticket out of sight in my inside purse pocket. “Thank you very much!” I waved goodbye and within seconds was back on the Beverly Hills sidewalk, an odd sense of triumph bubbling in my chest.
I was in, I thought. In at Excelsior!
[Note: the name of the store has been changed to protect myself...and my boots, which won’t be ready until Saturday.]
Just a Reminder...
I'll be signing (and reading from) The CHICKtionary this Monday, December 12 at 7:00 pm at the Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. (I'll be the one who's bloated from all those honey roasted nuts on the plane.)
I'll also be on Jane Pratt's Jane Radio on Sirius on Monday at Noon (EST). The show is run several times during the week, so there are multiple opportunities to catch it!