So I finally found a pair of goggles that work. The water stays on the outside of each goggle, leaving each of my eyeballs dry and happy. This means I will be able to swim, which means I will get the aerobic exercise I need, which means I will live forever (if my Amazon.com short doesn’t kill me first).

"What kind are these?" I asked the friend who let me try them.

"Nike," he said, which a sharper man might have deduced from the NIKE logo.

He actually offered to give them to me — he had another pair — but I would have been embarrassed to take his goggles, and I would then have had no excuse not to swim laps the next morning … let’s not rush in to physical fitness … so I said I would just pick up a pair of my own.

A week or two later, I found myself in midtown Manhattan, passing Nike Town on East Fifty-Seventh Street. Nike Town occupies an entire five-story building. It is the mother of all Nike stores, with a huge atrium and what would appear to be room for 80 different boutiques, 16 per floor. And yet it’s all Nike. Nike, Nike, Nike.

"Where would I find swimming goggles?" I asked the Nike Town crier in the atrium.

"We don’t carry goggles," he said, helpfully.

"No, no," I explained. "I’ve seen them. I’ve worn them. They’re great: Nike goggles."

I made zeroes out of the thumb and forefinger of each of my hands and placed them over my eyes — the international symbol for Nike goggles.

"I know," said the Nike guy. "We don’t carry them. Why don’t you try Sports Authority on Sixth Avenue?"

"What do you mean you don’t carry them?" I marveled, gesturing with my arms now outstretched at the extraordinary scale of this giant store.

He smiled at the irony but held firm: no Nike goggles at this store.

At Sports Authority I found only Speedo goggles, of which I bought two pair, but which I assume will leak and so haven’t tried them, because let us not, after all, begin an exercise regimen without an appropriate consultation with our doctor.

There will come a time, I have decided as a result of this experience, when Nike Town will be mainly for show, like a giant 3-D billboard, whereas actual Nike product will mostly be bought by clicking on the Internet and delivered the next morning by UPS, FedEx or priority mail. You will log on to Amazon.com, survey the tabs across the top — right now they are just BOOKS and MUSIC, but can SOFTWARE and EYEWEAR (for replacement contact lenses, mainly) and INSURANCE be far behind? — pause briefly to ponder whether Nike goggles would be under the SPORTS or EYEWEAR and decide simply to search on (category) Goggles and (brand) Nike, just as now you might search on the title and author of a book. A moment later, there would be a photo of the goggles my pal let me try and … click … in the morning the goggles would arrive by Federal Express.

Which is one of the reasons I am long Federal Express, and also a reason I am wavering in my resolve to stay short Amazon.com.

And yet I have noticed through the years, based on a series of mostly disastrous shorts, that it is when I finally "get it" — when I finally see why U.S. Surgical (which seemed overpriced at 20 and which I shorted at 60 but which is now 140) actually might blow Johnson & Johnson out of the water and revolutionize surgery throughout the world — that I cover my short, at the top, only to see Johnson & Johnson offer a little healthy competition, after all, and the stock fall back to 20.

"Trees don’t grow to the sky," is a very old saw on Wall Street. But of course a handful do (Berkshire Hathaway comes to mind) and even shorting a relatively few shares of such a tree can wind up clear-cutting your entire forest. So one is never quite sure, with a U.S. Surgical or an Amazon.com, which kind of tree this will be.

But here’s the point: Does anyone know where I can get a pair of Nike goggles?

Coming Monday: The Physics of Coffee

 

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