I was in an airport awhile ago, when I saw a man sitting in one of those shoe shine chairs getting his shoes shined.
I guess I didn’t need to mention that last part; after all, it would be kind of silly to sit in a shoe shine chair and not be getting your shoes shined. That would sort of be like going through the McDonald’s Drive Thru, arriving at the speaker and saying, “Nothing for me, thanks. I’m full. Just driving through, that’s all.”
Anyway, I was watching this business guy in his expensive brown leather shoes, sitting in the big fancy chair reading a newspaper while the shoe shiner worked on his feet, and I couldn’t help wonder why people don’t just take their shoes off and hand them over to the shoe shine person. Doesn’t that make more sense? What’s the deal with keeping your shoes on your feet while their being shined? You wouldn’t go to the dry cleaner’s and ask them to clean your sweater while you were still in it, so why do we expect people to clean our shoes while we’re still wearing them?
It’s not as if we arrived at an automatic car wash, only to be told that we needed to take off our tires before going through. We’re talking shoes, for heaven’s sakes. They’re not that difficult to take off.
Although, when you pause to think about it, humans will go to great lengths to avoid removing shoes. I know I can be out in the garden packing huge rocks, pushing mountains of dirt around in a wheelbarrow or chopping up our winter supply of wood, and then run inside for a quick drink of water and be completely overwhelmed by the sheer energy expenditure required to take off my shoes.
I will try to get around it by doing that giant step thing; rising up high on my tip toes, and then lunging across the kitchen floor; pretending that this is somehow going to counteract the fact that my shoes are covered in mud. I would honestly rather sweep the floor and then get down on my hands and knees to scrub it, then face the tremendous task of taking off my shoes, only to have to put them back on five minutes later.
Sometimes I even try to get my shoes off and then back on again, without having to untie my laces. I have spent two and a half minutes wriggling my foot around, trying to stuff it back inside a laced up shoe, just to avoid the daunting 15 second procedure of pulling on two pieces of string and making a bow.
The success of Velcro shoes tells me I’m not alone. And it gets worse. I actually own a pair of running shoes with the laces painted on. As much as it shames me to admit it, it’s true. The tongue is elastic, so that you can just push your foot inside and you’re good to go. The casual observer might think that I am wearing regular shoes, but it’s all just an illusion.
Even with the slip-ons, there are moments when the idea of bending over and hooking a finger in the back of the shoe to make room for my foot to slide all the way inside is just too much to bear. Sometimes — say if I’m only going outside to snip a few chives for supper — I’ll just settle for having my toes partly stuffed inside, while my heel squashes down the back of the shoe. I’ll actually shuffle across the deck and then risk life and limb trying to duck-walk down the steps with my shoes half-on, all because I don’t want to take the five seconds to bend over and pull on the heel of my shoe.
Hmmm. It would seem I have just answered my own question. Maybe that’s how the whole shoe shining thing got started in the first place; some rich person with a love for gardening hired someone to set up a shoe shining station at his back door, just so he didn’t need to worry about taking off his dirty shoes before he went inside. It could have started that way. Could so have. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash my floor.
Shannon McKinnon is a syndicated humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can visit her online at www.shannonmckinnon.com