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Despite the Rona, they're gonna buy those shoes, get those hairdos.

What I did for a pair of basketball sneakers is embarrassing to think about even now, 47 years later.

For some inexplicable reason, Rockingham's lone sporting goods store - Currie's - ran out of white canvas hightop Converse when they were all the rage. Using the 1973 version of the internet, I got out the Yellow Pages and, much to my aunt's chagrin when the telephone bill arrived, let my fingers do the walking all over North Carolina until I found a pair.

A sporting goods store in Laurinburg had one pair, size 13, so I ran - literally - downtown to the Rockingham bus station, got a roundtrip ticket on Continental Trailways and rode it over to Scotland County. I then asked around until I found the city's sporting goods store, plunked down my $14 for the shoes and went back to the bus station to wait four hours for the return bus. I guarded that shoe box containing my coveted canvas Cons as though it held - as Bogart said of the Maltese Falcon - "the stuff dreams are made of."

Which it did.

At 15, I did all of that for a pair of basketball shoes and, even though I'm embarrassed by it now, I still feel they were worth the effort.

I'd have done just about anything for those kicks - except die.

Some people in Atlanta apparently have no such qualms.

Video of people jockeying for position and breathing all over each other for the chance to buy the latest Air Jordans at an Atlanta mall is proof that, as Billy Crystal-as-Fernando-Lamas said - "it's better to look good than to feel good."

People in Snohomish, Wash., feel the same way. More than 130 of them were shown on television standing cheek-by-jowl, in various stages of shagginess, lined up to get a haircut after the sheriff said he'd refuse to enforce the governor's stay-your-butt-home order.

A Dallas, Texas hair salon owner chose jail over shuttering her shop temporarily - and has received $500,000 in gofundme donations. (Who knew breaking the law could be so lucrative?)

As someone who on several occasions waited six hours or longer to sit in Jimmy Leak's magical barber chair in Rockingham - no matter what you looked like sitting down, you were guaranteed to feel you looked like Denzel getting up - I know how hard it is to forgo your weekly trim.

I mean, I had the best hightop fade for miles around and would've waited 12 hours to get my hair cut at Jimmy Leak's shop - but I draw the line at dying for the privilege.

Besides, some people - okay, just I - think my now-six-weeks-unshaved beard gives me a distinguished Frederick Douglass profile.*

Georgia's governor, William Tecumseh Kemp, in his attempt to curry favor with the president, gave permission for hair and nail salons, barber shops and certain other hardly essential businesses to open if they observe responsible social distancing.

How, exactly, is anyone besides Edward Scissorhands on a step ladder supposed to style somebody's hair while practicing responsible social distancing?

Not effectively, because Gov. Kemp is now acknowledging that his state's resources are being "stretched thin" as the number of coronavirus cases has not decreased.

Gee, who could've guessed?

After Al-Tony Gilmore, a noted author and scholar, saw the Atlanta crowd clamoring for the Jordans, he wrote "Something is terribly wrong here --- please help me understand. The pandemic is unlike any death threat of the last century, and the recklessness of any group in our global village is a threat to us all.

"Do ya'll think Michael Jordan will say something about this minstrel show of

death and danger?

"I know the answer, but I thought I'd ask anyway. We're so incredibly soft with

celebrities, especially black ones ---across the damned board.

"If your name was branded on this shoe, would you say something?"

I would. I'd be like "Yo, fellas. I 'preciate the support, but my new kicks aren't worth dying over."

The Atlanta store, which shall go unnamed by me, should be ashamed of itself. Not only did it display a galling lack of concern for humanity by possibly exposing people to Covid-19, but it displayed bad business judgment: dead or gravely ill people can't buy shoes when the next overpriced pair of Jordans is released in three months.

The store could have held a lottery for people to get the shoes, handed out tickets like at Subway or the drivers license office or demanded that everyone line up with six feet of distance between them.

Or Nike - like some Hollywood movie studios are doing with new flicks - could have delayed the release of the new kicks until the danger from Covid-19 shows signs of abating.

The ultimate responsibility for exposing one's self and countless others to coronavirus, though, lies with the people who gathered for the shoes or who crowded each other to get a haircut or to get their 'do did.

I hope it was worth it, and I hope that Permanent they sat down for doesn't turn out to be just that - permanent.

*If, of course, you squint through one eye and shut the other one really tight.




Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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