Deck the Halls with Boughs of Flip-flops

I'm starting to think that, in spite of the moldy adage we've all heard a million times, it might not be such a bad idea to carry coals to Newcastle. Of course I first have to use Google to find out where Newcastle is. I'm also starting to think that selling ice to the Eskimos might be a good thing to do too. I'm sure I'd make a fortune, and it's not because I'm a good salesman. Quite the contrary, I'd actually have trouble selling a hamburger to Louis Anderson after a three-day fast. The truth is, I'm discovering it can be very hard to find the things you need, when you need them. Especially where you need them the most.

Case in point--I'm in Florida in September where the temperature is in the upper 80's, the beaches are crowded, and I can't find a pair of simple men's flip-flops. You know, the footwear 80 percent of the people under the age of 45 are walking around in and 99.9 percent of those under 25 are wearing. Where they bought them is beyond me, because I've been running all over town trying to find a new pair and it feels like I'd be just as successful looking for an alligator in the kitchen sink. Probably more so.

The problem seems to be: A) there are too many chain stores, and B) chain stores assume that people in Minnesota, Vermont, and sunny, warm, flip-flop weather-filled Florida all want the same things at the same time. That's why I may have to come back here in November when the stores break out the scarves, mittens, and snow shovels. "Oh look, Target is having a sale. Lets stop and pick up a snow blower on the way to the beach." Ah, the stories I'd be able to tell my grandchildren one day. "Please Grandpa, tell us again about the time you bought a windshield ice scraper for your car in Fort Lauderdale!"

It's like going to Maine and not being able to buy a lobster, or finding out there are no more wings in Buffalo. It's like grocery shopping in Wisconsin and having everyone tell you, "I'm sorry, we're out of cheese, but we expect to get some in about eight months." It's morally, ethically, and theologically wrong. If god wanted me to wear shoes right now he'd turn the thermostat down and shut off the Atlantic wave machine. I've spent most of my life in shoe weather, and trust me, this isn't shoe weather.

"But flip-flops are seasonal items," you're probably thinking, and I can't blame you since it's a nice respite from thinking about how lame the Democratic presidential candidates are, how accurately Madonna's literary career is paralleling her movie career, and how there isn't a single new idea in the entire new fall TV lineup, in spite of what those incessant promotional commercials would like to brainwash us into believing. True, flip-flops are seasonal in most places, but I'm in Florida. If the stores had any sense they'd round up all the leftovers from northern back rooms and warehouses and ship them here. You know, to a place where people want, need, and are looking for them.

Unfortunately the people who run stores don't think that way. They think far in advance. Or shall I say, they try to make us think far in advance. Flip-flops are off the shelves now to make room for winter items. This is fine, except that when it does get cold and you desperately need a coat you'll never find one because that will be in January and by then they'll have pulled the coats off the racks and put out the bathing suits. Need gloves? How about a nice halter top instead? Sorry you'll freeze since we don't have any ski caps left, would you like some water skis instead?

What the merchandisers need to do is set aside a few of the SpongeBob NoPants Hunks of Saturday Morning Cartoons calendars and look at the current page once in a while. Like every day. Hey, it's not even October and I saw them putting up Christmas tree displays in Wal-Mart. It's true. Yes, both the part about them putting out the Christmas decorations and the fact that I was in Wal-Mart. Hey, I was searching for the Holy Grail of footwear. You remember, those mythological flip-flops? And no, they didn't have them either.

Maybe the answer is to start my own chain of stores, called Off Season. When other stores pull their merchandise from the shelf, I'll buy it. That way you'll be able to purchase bathing suits in the summer when you're ready to go to the beach, and sweaters in the middle of winter when you're freezing and the stores are pushing shorts and tank tops. You'll be able to buy lawn chairs and coolers in August when every other store is hawking Halloween candy, and windshield scrapers for that February snow storm when the stores have sunscreen, can coolers, and barbecue grills on display. You'll also find flip-flops. Lots and lots of flip-flops. All year round. Maybe I should change the name of the store to Heaven on Earth.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com

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