Measure Once, Cut Twice

Six months ago I did something I don’t normally do. That in itself is worth a blog post, because what I don’t normally do I end up doing most of the time, which sounds like something Yogi Berra would say. What I don’t normally do includes things I believe I shouldn’t do but end up doing anyway. Before I get lost down this path and lose myself as well as you, think of St. Paul lamenting that he does not what he wills but what he does not will (Rom 7:15).

The act in question is buying a pair of sneakers that don’t fit. I have no excuse here, since I didn’t order them online but bought them in person at a shoe store in the mall. I tried them on, lied to myself about the fit, and then happily laid down my credit card as if it were the winning hand at a blackjack table in Vegas.

Why did I do this? Why did I spend nearly a hundred bucks on a pair of black sneakers (i.e., walking shoes, tennis shoes, “footwear”) that clearly did not fit me? This is an important question, especially for those who like to talk about the customer “journey” or “experience.”

I did it for three reasons:

First, I liked the way they looked. This, despite the fact that I don’t ride a skateboard. The sneakers are Vans, which they tell me is a cool company. For that reason alone I would have put them back on the shelf, but, again, what I normally do exists only in my mind. Not knowing Vans (I thought it was a surf shop in Santa Cruz), I didn’t care what the label said. I am supported here by the famous Smirnoff-Grey Goose taste test (2005). Guess which vodka came in first.

Second, I wanted the sneakers now. Again, this isn’t something I normally do. In this case, “normally” turns out to be absolutely true. I am accustomed to wait and hardly ever lose my patience. As it turns out, I had been waiting for weeks to buy a new pair of sneakers since I walk a lot. But I decided enough was enough and couldn’t wait for the right size to come in. It was now or never, come hold me tight.

Third, I can’t say I convinced myself that the sneakers fit, because I knew they didn’t. I forced my feet into them à la Cinderella’s stepsisters and decided that I could suffer for a while until such time that the sneakers conformed to the shape of my feet. Never mind that after wearing them for six months I feel as if I have been through a foot binding ritual.

The other day I decided to go for a long walk to a falafel stand famous for its falafel-and-banana-shake combo. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, it turned out to be awful, although I’ll save that for another post. But by then I had had enough with the sneakers. After six months I had worn down the tread and was beginning to think about tossing them into the recycling bin.

Then I got a brilliant idea. It was a hot day, so I took a knife and sliced the outer side of each sneaker, figuring this would give room for my toes and let in fresh air. Then I put on jeans and a light driving coat to hold my wallet, keys, phone, glass case, pens, markers, hand sanitizer, cap, Covid mask (I live in California), notebook for jotting down ideas, business cards, mints, and matches. This is basically the contents of my book bag, which I decided not to take because of the heat.

The result of all this? Heavy sweat, blistered feet (I didn’t wear socks), and my toes hanging out for everyone to see and cross over to the other side of the street as they passed me. I don’t normally worry about what other people think, but when I got lost and wandered through unknown neighborhoods like a rabid dog, I could feel Community Watch following my every move.

Of course, I didn’t measure the sneakers to figure out where the best opening would be. So I ended up having to make several long slices the way you would gut a fish. This was a textbook case of the need to measure twice and cut once. When you do the opposite, you end up doing exactly what I did. You do what you don’t normally do.

You throw out the Vans.

Image credits: Klim Musalimov. Like fiction? Check out the Mercury “trilogy” (The Gringo, Laura Fedora) here. Also, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.” 


  1. Professor I read your blog pretty much every Sunday. This was a great post. I think I’ll go to falafel’s drive in for lunch now!

  2. Aye, Robert…Such a too familiar story of mine, as well. Since I have never enjoyed shopping, especially for clothing, my shopping trips have always been quick, breathless, and without the assistance of shop attendants. When possible, these trips did not include trying on anything!!!
    Since adolescence, I always figured that I could not go wrong if I bought the largest size of anything! Well, I’m sure you have the picture, right???
    Since the advent of storeless shopping for clothing, it has been better, but I am wondering whether I will ever purchase and where clothing and shoes that are not humongous, at least, in this life:)

      1. I have to say, though, that clothing that fits really well is a joy. I still remember a leather jacket I had that fit like my own skin. I wore it till it turned to shreds around me…

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