Trick or treat
Smell my feet
Give me something good to eat
I’m reminded of this ungracious taunt from my childhood as I think about Halloween being right around the corner, and as I look down at the appendages attached to the end of my legs. I’m not asking you to smell them (for now, at least, that’s still impossible on the Internet) but I do ask you to take a look …
You may be able to tell that I’m wearing three overlapping pairs of slippers. This is not an attempt to recreate the popular layered look. Instead, I’m simply trying to keep my tootsies warm.
I guess it’s a matter of advancing age and retreating circulation that I find it harder and harder to keep my feet toasty. We maintain a vigorously air-conditioned home, which I’ve always found to be otherwise comfortable. Having spent the first half of my childhood in Miami without the benefit of AC, I figured my metabolism had been permanently reset and that thermostatic extremes are now required. The rest of my body likes this. My feet, not so much.
For the last half-century or so I went barefoot every chance I got. Growing up in south Florida, we played stickball in the street without shoes. We explored nearby construction sites without shoes. I tried to go to church without shoes once (you’d think Christianity would be okay with this, considering all the foot-washing references in the Bible) but, in the Lutheran denomination anyway, this was frowned upon.
You also had to wear shoes to go to school, at least until I went off to college, where there was no such requirement in the 1970s. While attending Florida State, I also played tennis barefoot (recreational, not varsity), went to work at the student newspaper barefoot, lived virtually my entire life barefoot. I developed immense calluses that rivaled the protective qualities of some of the world’s best sandals. I was like Huck Finn, except a little less tow-headed. Life was carefree and wonderful.
Now, of course, I have to wear shoes more often than not, at least if I hope to earn a living outside the home. Like the Lutheran church, the financial document analysis business frowns on the unshod foot. In my particular office, we don’t have any direct contact with clients that would require the decorum that shoes provide. Still, right there in the Employee Handbook, on page 37, between the requirements to wear pants and to occasionally cut your hair, it is clearly stated:
Associates must wear appropriate footwear at all times. Steel-toed shoes are required in pressrooms and warehouses. Elsewhere, it is to be decided by the local management team what kinds of footwear are and are not proper.
I don’t know how often the managers at my facility hold meetings amongst themselves to discuss the kinds of shoes that associates are wearing, but it can’t be that often. Throughout the summer that’s just now ending, most women wore flip-flops, or a slightly upscale variation thereof. The men generally went with athletic shoes, though a few (especially on the night shift) would occasionally don foot thongs. Loafers and wingtips were extremely rare.
I went with a pair of nice running shoes on most days, but as soon as I got home, I’d abandon these at the foot of my bed, a good idea considering I’d usually be taking a brief nap after having gone to work at 5 a.m. Even after I woke up and began puttering about the house, I’d typically leave the shoes and socks aside.
Now, though, I’m starting to wear these slippers. Maybe I’ve got that Peripheral Artery Disease so common in TV commercials. Maybe I’m feeling some early symptoms of diabetes. But I’m not about to show up at the doctor’s office with the complaint that I have to wear foot coverings. I’m sure that’s not covered by insurance, even though it really really hurts when your feet get cold and you can’t get them to warm up.
So I guess I’m fated to finally act and dress like a grown-up. As the blood flow retreats more and more from my extremities, I’ll do whatever it takes to stay comfortable. I guess a hat and gloves are next. Not long after that, I imagine I’ll start rocking a shawl, and then soon thereafter, they’ll dress me in a full business suit for my viewing at the funeral home.
But most caskets I’ve seen have a two-piece lid, and maybe I can be barefoot under the bottom half. I don’t think they have a “no shoes/no service” policy in Heaven — in fact, most artistic renditions of God show the Almighty sans footwear or, at most, wearing flip-flops — though I might need to be careful where I step if I end up in Hell. At least my feet will be warm.