Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

How I discovered the escape of the toes

By Dick Hirsch
I have just seen more toes than a busy podiatrist sees in a year and I didn’t enjoy it but, on reflection, I marvel at how toes have escaped their traditional confines and migrated into the daylight. How did this happen?
There I was, spending four hours between planes in a faraway airport, wondering how I could possibly occupy my time. I did have a book, of course, but I was saving it for the long flight home. I had already read and discarded the daily newspaper, so I resorted to an established and usually satisfying pastime, people watching.
The airports are crowded because it is vacation time and because there are so few direct flights to wherever people are traveling. As a result, people will spend almost as much time in the terminals as they do aboard the planes.
I had a strategic seat on one of the main corridors within the secure area and I started watching. In case you have never tried it, I can tell you that an an airport is an ideal location for people watching because there is such diversity. It wasn’t always that way. In the old days, most passengers were “dressed,” the men with jackets and ties, the women suitably attired for what was considered to be an occasion. That changed years ago when informality became the preferred style.
So there I was, people watching, and I suddenly found myself looking at the passing feet rather than the passing heads. I cannot explain how it happened, but it was an enlightening experience.
I couldn’t believe the quantity of toes in the passing parade. I’ve occasionally read references to toe fetishists, but I’m happy to report I’ve never known one, and I have never understood the attraction. Toes, at their best, are the most unattractive of digits.
Flip-flops and sandals were seen in abundance, some with sequins, some with plastic flowers, some with rhinestones, all with protruding toes, most women with nails painted, some unvarnished. I’m relieved to report that male toenails were au natural, unadorned. I have always associated flip-flops with children and teenagers, but I soon discovered that is a faulty assumption. Flip-flops---which are best described as a basic rubber or plastic sole with a strap that is gripped between the big toe and its neighbor---have moved from the overstock section at the drugstore to become a major apparel item for both men and women.
I expected the sneakers. I am well aware that from early childhood to geezerhood, sneakers have become the shoe of choice for millions of people, not only in the US, but around the world. Sneakers used to be associated with the gym, the basketball court, or the running route, but they have expanded their reach and become walking or “casual” shoes.”
Yes, there were plenty of sneakers on the move in that airport on that day, but their supremacy was challenged by the flip-flops and the sandals.
I stopped counting when I suddenly realized that I may have been the only person in the airport with a pair of brown leather shoes with laces. I thought I was suitably clad for the flight---khakis, a polo shirt, socks and comfortable brushed leather shoes---but amid all the exposed feet I began to feel like I was, well, out of step. I’ve always been described as a contrarian by some and I don’t mind being different. And yet, with each passing minute, I couldn't find anybody with what could be called a traditional shoe...until... until...thank goodness for the pilots. They still wear shoes with laces.
As more time elapsed I became reassured that I wasn’t totally alone with my shoes. Do loafers count? I believe they qualify. They were visible, some with socks, some without. There were others, too; I spotted a solitary pair of wingtips, and a random assortment that could be classified as brogues. No, the wearers definitely did not all appear to be eligible for membership in AARP or recipients of Social Security. But they were the exceptions, a definite minority; or to put it more positively, it was an exclusive group, well shod, with toes encapsulated.
This is absurd, I know, for a person of my supposed experience to spend time studying passing feet. Yet at least I learned something I didn’t know before...and, furthermore, I’ve never been very successful at sleeping while sitting up in a public place.



Post a Comment

<< Home