Recently I had my car inspected at a local gas station. The owner/manager looked like he should be manning an espresso machine, not examining automobiles. He had a perfectly trimmed little beard and fancy glasses. He was tan, maybe sixty years old, wearing expensive, twenty-something jeans.
He was also sporting a pair of bright orange leather loafers.
-I like your shoes, I said.
He leaned in, poised to tell me a secret.
-They cost $1,800.
He shrugged and gave me a look: What a crazy world; he didn't set the price.
-Real Italian leather, he adds, absolved of guilt. The best in the world.
As he finished the inspection I watched his shoes. The orange really was perfect, neither too bright, nor too dull, and the leather looked comfortable. Soft and marbled. What did he mean when he said "real" Italian leather? Are there orange cows in Italy? I wondered. No, of course not, but I pictured them anyway, and decided that there should be, even if they'd clash a little, color-wise, with the rest of the Italian field palette.
The garage was hot and it was hot outside. Wasn't he hot in those shoes? I decided my feet would be sweating.
Plus the floor was spattered with grease and dirt and grime. It really wasn't a place for expensive orange shoes.
He put the inspection sticker on my windshield. This month's color was orange. Maybe he matched his shoes to the color of the month.
-Hey, the sticker matches your shoes.
-Huh? Oh, right.
He gave me the keys and I started to leave.
-You know, I only tell you the price because you asked.
Did I ask?