Word is trickling out. Colleagues are starting to sidle up to my desk and peer into the gloom of the knee hole, at which point they burst out laughing.
What they see are my bare feet, one low-heeled tan shoe and a similarly low-heeled burgundy shoe. The burgundy shoe has a bow.
There is a nearly identical pair at home in my closet.
This is the folly of the Yuppie Mother. That I would eventually show up at work with mismatched shoes was clear to me the day I came back to work after a six-month maternity leave. I used to think 9 a.m. was the crack of dawn; suddenly, the 6:30 risings for diapering, feeding and digesting the newspaper turned my mornings into a videocassette player on fast-forward--with a lot of snow.
In the four months since I returned to work, I've prided myself on my ability to do two or more things at once. For instance, I can brush my teeth while I search a drawer for a pair of panty hose. I can get through half of the paper while blow-drying my hair. While washing out nipples and bottles, I can push the baby back and forth in her walker with my left foot, at the same time I'm listening to Metro Traffic on the radio and watching Jane Pauley (my Yuppie Mother role model) across the family room on TV.
How It Started
This morning, however, I'd just finished a series of two-handed efforts including buttoning my cuffs and putting on my earrings when complication in the form of the baby reared its--I should say her--fuzzy little head.
I was headed for the bedroom closet in search of the tan shoes when my husband, who works nights and has his own version of video snow, dumped Maggie on the floor and mumbled, "I'll be right back." Here was a simple task: putting on my shoes while diverting Maggie from the Kleenex and hair balls in the wastebasket. I poked around in the closet with each foot until I encountered a shoe and, duly shod, I scooped the baby up in time to deposit her in her daddy's arms. Planting a brisk, Jane Pauley-like kiss on each of their foreheads, I was out the door.
Now, more than once I've pulled onto the 605 Freeway and cautiously peeked down at my feet, knowing that the odds against matching shoes were mounting. Lately, though, I've been getting blase, and I was all the way to the East L.A. Interchange when the awful realization struck. By then I was 20 miles from home and well beyond the point of being able to do something about it. Embarrassed, I slipped off the burgundy shoe and hid my left foot under the clutch pedal.
I didn't start feeling really self-conscious until I walked into the Times Building (many of the derelicts around the parking lot don't have matching shoes, either). Rather than treat the crowd waiting for the elevator to the sight of my feet, I headed to the stairs, where I clumped unevenly to the third floor.
Making Up Excuses
I didn't encounter anyone on the stairs, and I was feeling a little more confident as I headed down the long, open hall toward the newsroom. Catching sight of a fellow editor, though, I slipped into a restroom, where I stood on one foot and attempted to concoct a plausible lie: I broke a heel. I stubbed a toe last night and I can't wear my shoe. My left shoe? Oh, I dropped it off at the shoe repair across the street.
None of these would work if, as I hoped, my husband would later be able to drop off the matching tan shoe when he came to work. No, I'd have to go for stealth. Shaking, and avoiding all eye contact, I hurried on to my desk and thrust off both shoes.
Here I was relatively safe, as long as I didn't have to go anywhere. My one barefoot foray to my mailbox prompted a "Hey, McCargar, this is a business office," from another editor--he was teasing, of course, but in my hypersensitive state I blushed deeply.
So here I am, trapped at my desk. I've passed up a lunch date so I don't have to go out in public. I've called my husband, who thinks it's hilarious and promises to bring along the tan shoe. All I have to do is wait four hours.
The Invariable Snickers
Meanwhile, friends in whom I have confided invariably snicker and then tell me a story about the time they came in with their shirt buttoned the wrong way, or with a sweater on inside out, or earrings that didn't match. These are problems that can be rectified, I point out.
But wait! "That's perfect, " a colleague howls after I reach under my desk and pull out my burgundy and tan shoes. "This is what happens to Yuppie Mothers! Write it up and sell it to Other Views. You can take what they pay you and buy a pair of shoes to keep in your desk."
A spare pair in the desk--now we're getting somewhere. That's a tip I should pass along to Jane.