Basketball shoes leave owner mired in knee-deep confusion


February 19, 1994|By ROB KASPER

I am a straight-laced, low-tech kind of guy. When the brave new world of technology presents me with new and varied options, I pretend they are not there.

The kids and their college-age sitter have programmed our kitchen telephone. They phone friends by hitting two buttons. I call by staring at the printed number in the telephone book, while slowly punching the seven digits on the telephone dial.

When I accidentally hit the "menu" button on the television's remote control device, I take a deep breath and try to remain calm. As the screen starts offering various options on its "sentry filter, light filter, video filter and sleep timer," I try to figure out a way to make these worrisome choices go away. Usually turning the set off, waiting a minute, and turning the set back on gets me back to the level of timid, old world technology -- a TV picture clearly showing guys throwing a ball -- that I am comfortable with.

But the other night I sank to a new depth of low-tech Neanderthalism when I had to read a manual before I could lace up my shoes.

That's right, lace the shoes. I had bought a new pair of basketball shoes. They were made in a faraway country and sold at half price, in a store that was going out of business.

Teen-agers tell you, your basketball shoes say a lot about who you are. And, at first, these shoes appeared to be my kind of footgear. As I mentioned before, but it needs repeating, these shoes were cheap. They were also uncomplicated. They did not have any fancy breathing techniques, no swallowing or releasing air. They did not have any parts that floated or made daring

movements. They were not the constant companions of any star. These shoes and I had a lot in common.

But these shoes did have a complicated lacing system, at least by my standards.

Instead of just moving up the shoe eyelets like a mule train crisscrossing a mountain, these laces wanted to take random side trips.

In the past, when basketball shoes presented alternative lacing options, I have looked the other way.

But these shoes forced me to deal with new shoestring options, right there at eyelet No. 4.

There were actually two openings at stop No. 4, eyelet 4-A, and eyelet 4-B. Right below the eyelets was a piece of plastic that I had not paid much attention to when I bought these bargain shoes. The plastic had several holes in it, and a trademark insignia. It looked like one of those geometric figures in the college entrance exams. It reminded me of either a rhombus from high school, ormaybe part of a Romulan space ship from "Star Trek." Whatever it was, it made my palms sweat.

I tried my usual approach to technology, running away from it. But that wouldn't work. If the Romulan part was not strapped down, it would flap. This meant that when I huffed down the basketball court, a piece of plastic would be sticking out from the shoe, looking like one of those cars that drive down the street with their gas cap covers flapping in the wind. It would look stupid.

If I skipped over the Romulan part, there would also be a gap in the laces. In sneaker proportions, the resulting canyon would be about the size of the chasms Evel Knievel used to attempt to jump on his motorcycle.

So I tried to bring the Romulan on board, by stringing the laces through it. I did something wrong. The shoestrings ended up looking like downed power lines. There was no tension.

That is when I got out the shoestring instruction manual.

It was not a very big publication, just a couple of pages. The type was small, very small. So small that I couldn't read it.

That is when I had to ask the kids to help me read the fine print. The kids thought it was funny that the old man couldn't figure out how to lace his shoes.

After several tries, I did figure it out. The laces went in eyelet 4-A, through the Romulan (not its real name) and back through eyelet 4-B.

. Later, up near the ankle, there was another in-out-and-through-a-loop maneuver that had to be pulled off. But my experience with the Romulan and my familiarity with the shoestring manual language made this procedure relatively easy.

The manual informed me that when the laces were in place I had a "shoe-lacing system."

But when I put this system on my feet, my feet hurt. The shoes were too tight.

I'm not sure what lesson I learned from this adventure. None of the possible morals is comforting:

nTC Don't buy shoes on sale. Don't buy shoes that come with instruction manuals.

Or, if you are too old to read the fine print, you're too old for the shoes.

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