If I Buy It, Will They Make More?

My favorite shoes are sitting in the closet these days. I won't be wearing them much until next spring, to prevent damage from moisture and mud. These shoes have to last a long time because I'll never find another pair exactly like them.

I blew it by committing my brand loyalty to a product that was discontinued - a pattern that shows up in my life with irritating regularity. But I love the darn shoes anyway. Their rugged appearance suggests a wilderness adventure, but the lightweight construction makes them comfortable to wear. They're mock hiking boots. And they're perfect for me because I'm a mock hiker.

Unfortunately, they were made by a large athletic shoe company that is constantly redesigning every item to preserve its reputation as a trendsetting firm. One day, without warning, the boots were gone from the display rack at my local department store.

I was dismayed, but not surprised. The same thing happened a couple of years ago when I became emotionally attached to an excellent cleanser called S.O.S. Kitchen Safe. It came in a pink plastic bottle, and it was merciless on grease and sticky counter tops.

S.O.S. Kitchen Safe was not widely available, however, so I called the 800 number on the bottle to find out why. I was told that it was only being test-marketed in my area. This information should have sent up a forest of red flags, but my enthusiasm for the grime-fighting liquid blinded me to the possibility that it would fail during the testing stage. Which, of course, is exactly what happened. The pink bottles vanished, and one final toll-free call confirmed by worst fears. I'm still stumped as to why S.O.S. Kitchen Safe didn't catch on, but it's not a subject I can talk about without having people worry I'm turning into a crackpot.

Friends have suggested I stockpile favorite items in case the manufacturer halts production. But where were they with their advice when Dromedary Chocolate Pudding Cake and Macleans Toothpaste disappeared? And where am I supposed to put everything? Not to mention what supermarket employees will think of me:

Clerk: Sir, do you need help in selecting a proper shampoo?

Me: No, thanks. I'm just calculating how many years I plan to be alive and wondering whether I will lose my hair.

Howard Hughes drifted into just such an obsessive lifestyle in his later years. I'll be better off following a different road. And once in a while, I may even wear my favorite boots.

* Jeffrey Shaffer is the author of "I'm Right Here Fish-Cake" and "It Came With The House," collections of humorous essays. He lives in Portland, Ore.

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