The shoe market was big. Really big, really. Enormous, perhaps? There were so many shoemakers making so many shoes made over so many lasts to so many distributors who delivered the shoes to so many sellers that one could easily mistake the system for chaos. Still, most shoes ended up neatly paired and sold to happy new owners by the end of a day. Most of them.
One day, a shoe was placed on a counter next to other shoes that looked quite similar. They clearly were parts of the same series, covered with the same leather on the outside, died to the same colors, and the patterns and markings made it clear they were a family. On the inside, however, some of the shoes stood out. The exceptional quality of the inside materials were noticed only by those trained to know the differences and appreciate that such leather qualities, such silk threads and such seam-work could make some feet very happy. Some of these remarkable shoes were spotted for what they were, and were held for special customers who paid dearly for shoes that would fit them perfectly. But quite a few of these shoes somehow got mixed up with the ordinary shoes, ending up in the back of the marked, being sorted by unskilled people and thrown rather haphazardly into different piles.
One Right Shoe was picked up from its pile and placed on a shelf next to other right shoes of similar appearance by a person who classed it as a walking shoe. But another person came by, tried it on, found that it pinched, and spotted that this shoe had the characteristic soft heel of a good running shoe. So the Right Shoe was moved to the running shoe shelf, where it stood out a bit as slightly less streamlined than the others, until someone tried it on, found that it pinched, and claimed that the permeable exterior clearly indicated that this was no running shoe, but a summer shoe.
The Right Shoe moved to the summer shoe shelf, where it looked downright huge next to the others. It took a long time before a person wanted to try it on, only to find that it pinched, and say that it was too padded to be a summer shoe, this shoe clearly was meant for football.
And so it went. From one foot to another, each and every person trying it on complaining about the pinching, and how the shoe evidently was not very well fitted for their use. None of them even noticed the exquisite handiwork of the shoes, and not one of them came anywhere near the idea that this shoe might be the best all-rounder in the entire shoe marked.
The Right Shoe eventually wound its way to a pile near the back door, next to the reject pile where all the shoes that were useless due to manufacturing errors were stored on their way to destruction. This landscape of singulars was not much frequented by anyone, so it must have been by pure accident that a customer found her way there one afternoon. Perhaps due to luck, perhaps desperation, for her feet were particular enough to make shoe-shopping an exercise in patience and persistence. They were not especially large, nor especially small. One could not see that the feet were especially wide or especially narrow, nor if their arches were higher or lower than anyone else’s feet. If the heels were bigger or smaller than those that fit the more generally used lasts, it was not visible to the naked eye. Yet, there must have been a compilation of traits that made these feet especially hard to shop for, for here this woman stood, in her stockings, without the aid of any professionals, trying on shoe after shoe in quiet hopelessness.
The Right Shoe looked a bit worse for the wear by now. The colours were faded, the exterior leather was buckled and wrinkled, and there were a few little scratches here and there. The brand name was still visible on the insoles, though, and when the buyer saw the brand, she hopped in excitement. This was one of the rare shoes made over a last that fitted her feet!
She turned the shoe over to check its size, and was discouraged to find it two sizes too large. But she could not bring herself to just drop it back down on the floor next to the rejects. This customer knew the value of the shoe, and wanted it to be made available to someone with feet like hers, only larger. So she took she shoe along and managed to find a salesperson that was just interested enough to see that perhaps there might be other shoes in those piles back there that ought to be fished out.
It took a lot of time and effort, but once the salesperson learned which characteristics to look for, he made find after find. He crafted a little corner of the marked into a shelf for the extraordinary, but deceptively normal-looking shoes, and taught himself how to recognize the customers that would not only want, but truly appreciate such handiwork, and he soon earned more than he ever had in his whole life.
And one day, a customer walked in, looking for a new pair of all-round shoes, and he knew exactly which shoe to hold out for her to try on. The Right Shoe fit her like Cinderella’s glass shoe had, only a lot more comfortably, and at last there was not a single complaint about pinching, just a highly satisfied sigh as the foot moved on the floor. She asked for the Left Shoe, to try the pair on.
And that’s when the salesperson realized that the Left Shoe had been left out of the story…