Oh, the stories shoes tell

I recently spent time in an airport, waiting—my least favourite thing to do.
I gathered with a crowd of passengers waiting to be herded on to the plane and squeezed in like cattle at the stock yards; bags loaded with every article of clothing they own and can’t risk losing, and with food for a long flight so they won’t require a bank loan to buy a sandwich made at the turn of the century.
I may be getting off on a different tangent. My apologies.
While I wait, and wait I do until they are just about ready to slam the door shut and then I jump up and join the line, always hesitant to be squashed. While I wait, I watch people, or more accurately I watch shoes.
You can tell a lot about people by the shoes they wear. I’ve written about my love of shoes before, but it struck me as I sat there watching woman after woman walking (if you can call it that) because it looked more like balancing as they perched on top of heels of a ridiculous height.
I don’t know what it is, but it’s not walking. They look like they are wearing stilts, dragging their feet along the floor, chanting in their heads, “This doesn’t hurt, this doesn’t hurt.”
I couldn’t help wondering how these life-threatening heels are any different than young men wearing pants clinging to their hips. Both look incredibly uncomfortable. And for what? For fashion?
I’m not sure I will ever understand this part of the human condition—our willingness to follow along like lemmings in deciding what we will wear. But back to the shoes.
A husband and wife sitting opposite me were wearing worn sneakers. Sneakers for comfort, plain ones, no brand names. I decided they were meat and potatoes people, worked hard, expected little or nothing in the way of a free ride.
They were going on a long-awaited holiday, and they were going to be comfortable and sensible. No flash. They had saved long and hard for this excursion, cutting out all the frill and fluff from their lives.
A man was travelling alone, and his shoes had mud on the soles and up the sides. A hurried man, with no attention to detail, no family I guessed, no partner to make him try harder, no voice at the door just before they left the house saying, “Oh dear, you’ve got mud on your shoes. You’ll want to clean that up.”
The mud made me wonder if he was lonely or if he had given up, or if his life was just too cluttered to worry about what was at the ends of his legs.
Another man wore thick heavy socks inside sandals, and I decided he was indecisive, a fence-sitter, not sure he was certain of his politics though he would claim otherwise.
His brow would wrinkle in concern over the plight of the environment, but he’d fear his own ineptness to do anything about it—fear that comes across as bravado and intolerance and fierceness.
Another young man, young-ish because I’m not a good evaluator of age, came and sat beside me. He was wearing shiny pointed shoes, the leather glistening as though he had spent hours polishing them.
His leather jacket was the same brown and almost as shiny as his shoes.
He wiggled inside his jacket as if he was itchy, uncomfortable, and he tapped his left foot almost constantly to some arbitrary rhythm in his head while gawking at every female passing by. I decided he was restless, anxious to see if his shiny leather was really going to get him anywhere.
The leather seemed like a costume to cover his real self.
I wear sneakers almost constantly. I like them trimmed in lime green or purple. I also like boots. At one time, I wanted to be buried in my work boots—the steel-toed ones.
I imagined the top half of the coffin closed and just my feet exposed. I thought it could be funny, lightning the mood.
But those boots are worn out and I have no need to replace them; heavy things no longer are threatening to fall on my precious toes.
Oh, the stories shoes tell.
wendistewart@live.ca

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