the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The 99 Cent Shoelaces

Welcome, readers.  Today is another example of a post gone wrong.

To set up the story, we need to go back in time, back to a brisk morning many years ago in Queens, New York, when Neilochka was born.  After a few months of baby shoes, Neil’s mother bought him a pair of baby sneakers, and he was smitten with the smell and feel of this canvas footwear.  For years and years, whenever you looked at his feet, he was wearing a pair of sneakers… or nothing at all.

The year is now 2007.  For the last year and half, Neil has been wearing a size eleven New Balance 713.  He has been wearing these sneakers practically every single day.  They’re not the best sneakers, but he has grown attached to them. 

On Tuesday, Sophia and Neil are flying to New York to spend some time with Neil’s mother, Elaine, a good-natured woman with gray hair, known for her hearty laugh and her excellent brisket.   Sophia and Neil will be in New York for 2 1/2 weeks.  Whenever they travel to New York in the winter, there is always a bit of tension before they go.  Neil wants to know why Sophia needs to take so much luggage.  Sophia gets worried about being cold in the street, but hot in the over-heated New York stores and subways.  Remember, they are both wimpy Californians.  It is an “effort” for them to walk a block to the supermarket, especially if there is a forecast for a drizzle. Scary!

As Neil and Sophia packed their gloves and hats and scarfs and turtlenecks, Sophia looked at Neil’s New Balance 713s and said, “Those sneakers look like shit.”

“No, they don’t.” Neil said in protest.  “They’re just a little lived-in.”

“The white shoelaces are all black, and they are shredded.”

That was true.

“Simple.” said Neil “I’ll go to the 99 Cent Only Store and buy some new shoelaces.”

Of he went to the 99 Cent Store.  He could have gone to Macy’s or Target, like Sophia told him to, or countless other stores, but as a man who loves a bargain, why pay more than 99 cents for white shoelaces?

Neil quickly found the shoelaces in aisle five of the 99 cent store, next to the polyester dress socks.  There were two displays of “Athletic” shoelaces.   One display consisted of packages of white athletic shoelaces.  The other, of the same “Coachman” brand,  was identical, except for the addition of a special “bonus pack.”  Along with the pair of white shoelaces, this package included ONE wrapped black shoelace.

I’ve already mentioned that Neil liked a bargain.  Why would he buy the first package, when he could get the “bonus pack” for free?

As he drove home, he started to chuckle.  Something struck him as very very funny about these black shoelaces.  He laughed as hard as he did when he found the typo in the New Yorker.  When Sophia met him at the door, he was still laughing.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“I have a great blog post for today.  Look at this.” he said.  He opened the 99 Cent Store bag and showed her the shoelace package.  “They give you a pair of white shoelaces, and then they throw in an extra bonus of a black shoelace.  But think about it.  What the hell are you supposed to do with ONE black shoelace?  Just tie one shoe?  Ha Ha Ha!”


Neil explained how he went back and bought another package of the shoelaces, just so he could have a pair of black shoelaces.  Still laughing, he ran upstairs and hunched over the keyboard, pounding out his latest humor masterpiece, wondering how many women will fantasize about having sex with him after they read his latest hilarious post about the bizarre package with one black shoelace.

Sophia entered.

“Whatever it is, not now.” Neil said.  “I’m in the groove.”

“Maybe you should ungroove for a second because I opened the package — and you were wrong.   It isn’t a pair of white shoelaces and one black shoelace.  It is two pairs of very poor quality white shoelaces and one pair of equally bad black shoelaces.  There are TWO black shoelaces, not one.  You’re such a dumbbell”.

“Oh.”  he said, Neil’s spirit falling like a weight.  “So that means my whole blog post is dead.”

“Well,  you could lie.”

“Lie?  On a blog?  Never?  Would Dooce lie?  Of course not!”

“Well then, I guess you need to come up with something else.”

Neil struggled for a while, but couldn’t come up with anything quite as good as the hilarious tale of the single black shoelace.  He procrastinated and found some busywork.  Neil even decided to lace up his New Balance 713s with the new white shoelaces.   As you can see, not only were the 99 cent shoelaces of poor quality, but Neil screwed up in another way — they were shoelaces for CHILDREN, and barely laced half of the sneaker.


Neil didn’t really find this turn of events very funny.  In fact, he thought it was quite sad.  Since he bought two packages of the shoelaces, he now had six pairs of useless shoelaces, four pairs of white and two pairs of black ones.  Still, a blog post is a blog post, and this is what he was stuck with. 


  1. Ash

    Neil Neil Neil. At least you have a blogpost (and six pairs of useless shoelaces). 🙂

  2. OMSH

    I’m not laughing at you Neil, I’m laughing with you.

    That’s all.

  3. Jody

    Buying kid’s laces is just as funny as thinking you only had one black lace. I suppose the “C” under Coachman is suppose to indicate child or children. However, didn’t your Mom ever teach you to always measure your laces before you bought a new pair because you had to make sure you had the correct length. Me I don’t buy new laces anymore, I just go ahead and get the whole package – a new pair of shoes!

  4. Rattling the Kettle


    A cheaper (and slightly theft-y) alternative would be to go to the shoe store, buy a new pair of NB713’s, go out to your car, remove the laces, then go back to the store and return the shoes, sans laces.

  5. cruisin-mom

    maybe your mother will buy you a new pair of shoes

  6. mckay

    lol…i just went through this with mckid and his shoes laces. on the very first of of wearing old shoes with new laces, he promptly stepped in some jelly/glue substance and got both laces stuck to the bottom of his shoe. within 9 hours of being put on the shoes, they came home covered in sticky, smelly black asphalt. they are currently soaking in bleach.

    kudos to you for being able to write a funny post about not much of anything. very seinfeld.

  7. pam

    Neil, Neil, Neil. Listen.

    I barely get dressed and leave the house these days. Most of my time is spent in flannel garden gnome jammies and socks at the keyboard. And I live in the Pacific Northwest, where grunge may have gone out of style in the press, but is still very much alive on the streets, side by side with that Brady Bunch/70s Porn Star look. I’m saying this: I am no arbiter of fashion.

    But even I know this:

    When you go to NY in the winter time, you need a good pair of sturdy black shoes. They are stylish, will keep your feet dry and happy, and most importantly, will not embarrass the refined Sophia.

    You don’t need new sneakers, though you may need new shoelaces. You need new SHOES.

    Zappos. Stat.

  8. Finn

    Were I you, and I could still wear the shoes with the short laces (meaning they’re not flapping around like flip flops), I’d go with them. Start a new trend. Make it look like you did it on purpose. Then erase this post and all traces of it and write a new about this new trend you’re starting.

    Soon all the kids will be doing it!

  9. Bre

    See, this is where not wearing sneakers comes in handy!

  10. Caron

    What you have now is the potential for altered art. Turning trash to treasure… weave them together and make a coaster, or, ooh, macrame! Even more simple – rename it minimalist christmas garland and you have a gift for a christian friend.

  11. Otir

    Isn’t there any faithful newyorker mummy here to let you know that it is 21°F, that it has been pouring with sleet, ice and crispy snow since last night and that it’s gonna kill your sneakers? Well, I did it, I guess.

  12. 180/360

    HAHA! See- you were able to make a great post after all. Even as a cheapskate, how much could a new pair of laces possibly cost! $1.25? Have fun in NY. It’s freezing here. I can’t wait to get back to the warmth of the desert.

    PS. Thanks for the Blog Crush shout out! xoxo

  13. psychomom

    Neil, You need a new pair of sneakers. Admit it! But it might be time for those ‘senior sneakers’, those ones with velcro.

  14. teahouseblossom single pair of shoelaces? I’m guessing these were the rejects from the factory, which is why they ended up in the 99 cent store..

    I’m glad you went back for the second pair. You saved some kid in China from a beating.

  15. Dagny

    Hmmm. My first thought was, “He’ll end up buying shoelaces that are too short,” because I have done that before. Now I look for length on the packaging.

  16. wendy

    All the cool kids have two different colored laces on each shoe…Like black with white bow…..other foot, white with black bow…


  17. Juliness

    Well, you could tie two of the white shoelaces together and lace up your shoes that way.

  18. brettdl

    Neil, weren’t you wearing those same shoes when we met in 2002?

  19. Guilty Secret

    In my opinion, that made for one of your funniest posts yet.

    You are a ‘dumbbell,’ albeit a loveable one 😉

  20. Vadiay

    too much giggling to fantasize properly.. promise to try harder next time…

  21. Brianna

    What are you talking about??? This post had me literally laughing out loud. It was the perfect story.

  22. margaret

    fellow cheap soul, tie the shoe laces together and you’ll have a pair and a black spare

  23. Steven

    Well, with respect, if you look on the back of the package you would know that it is for shoes with 5 or 6 eyelets- a kid’s size. Now the 45″ bonus pack can actually fit an adult size pair of shoes.(7 or 8 eyelets) – you probably wanted the 54″ ones, but what do I know. Measures the shoelaces before you buy, uh, look before you leap.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial