Even after my ex-husband and I had been separated for a couple of years I still wore the toe ring from our wedding on my second toe on my left foot. I wore it for nostalgia of a fun day, a forever friendship, and so I didn’t forget I still needed to motivate myself to file the divorce papers. I only wore flip flops to work at all times up until I was a district manager; I am not a fan of shoes, and actually find myself tripping more in boots than sandals.
It was a ridiculously scorching summer day in Sedona, AZ as I climbed up to the top rung of the 4 1/2 foot ladder to put some finishing touches on a hookah display I had spent the afternoon perfecting. I was balancing the glass base of our large three hose hookah when I felt a sudden caressing sensation on my toe ring. I looked down to find a man towering over 6′ tall, with graying hair, in a casual pair of hiking shorts and t-shirt. He was so focused on my toes that he did not notice my staring down at him. What does one say in an awkward situation like this? Options going through my head (someone who has a severe phobic reaction to any man’s touch):
“What are you doing?”
“Ew, stop that!”
But instead I swallowed my initial horror and took a deep breath into my character of customer service with a friendly “hello,” followed by a polite, “how has your day been going?”
He looks up at me only momentarily to shoot me a quick smile, and then returns to his elaborate study of my toe ring, “what is this,” he asks.
“It’s a toe ring.”
“Where does one purchase a ‘toe ring’?”
“I bought mine at Icing, it’s a company owned by Claires.”
“What’s Claires,” not surprised he has not heard of them as they are not quite pitching to his demographic.
“An affordable accessory store located in every mall.”
“I’ve never seen one.”
“I promise, now that you know of it, you will see it everywhere.”
“What’s the name again?”
“Icing or Claires.”
“What is this called again,” still with the fondling.
“A toe ring.”
“I think my daughters will really like these,” his wife is apparently across the store as he says, “Oh, there’s my wife, thank you for the information!” With that he is gone.
I look over to my employee who was a local, “should I be weirded out?”
The employee laughed, “nah, I believe that was completely innocent.” I nodded my head and finished my work.
The next morning I returned to work, again in flip flops. And again I found myself at the top rung of the ladder, attempting some finagling on the mask wall before the crowd poured in over the next couple of hours. It happened again, I began to feel a petting sensation across my toes. I looked down again, and again the thoughts punctured through my head:
“Okay, this is getting really creepy.”
It began to occur to me why maybe working late by myself until 2 in the morning in the store, and then walking to my hotel room alone, just across the parking lot from the store could be a bad idea. ‘Definitely take note to have someone walk me to my room tonight.’
I put on my customer service mode and smile, “Oh good, you’re back!”
“Yes, what did you say was the name of that store again?”
“Do they have any other designs? Or is this it?”
Time to play the husband card, “Yes, many designs. My husband and I picked this one out because our lives are forever intertwined much like this weave pattern.” (or so we thought)
“What other kinds of designs?”
“You can find allot of beach themed, sometimes butterflies and flowers. Some solid bands, some with etchings or studs, it really depends where you are.”
I went back to work, ignoring as he continued to fondle my toes. Finally again, “oh, there’s my wife.” She was across the store and rolling a suitcase, a good sign that they were checking out and headed home so that this would be his bittersweet goodbye to my lovely dainty dust covered toes.