Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Agony of Defeet

I had this thing against wearing shoes when I was a teenager. I don't know where it came from, and as with most things from that time period, it seems pretty ridiculous in retrospect.

I'd drive down to the store to pick up a Coke or whatever, gripping the gas pedal with my toes like a chimp, then walk over the hot, disgusting cigarette butt and spit-encrusted parking lot to go inside the store. I also didn't carry a wallet, so I'd pull out a wad of crumpled bills, Spicoli-style to pay the cashier.

I have no idea why I did this. Maybe I was trying to reinforce Florida stereotypes. Maybe I thought shoes and wallets were for chumps who were brainwashed by society into conforming to what The Man thought was acceptable.

The soles of my feet must have been tough enough to walk on hot coals.

One night I was with some friends from my community college newspaper. The newspaper class was in the late afternoon, and a group of us would hang out in the newspaper office late into the night. Sometimes we were working on the paper, usually we were just wasting time.

I wore shoes at school, so I have no idea why I was barefoot at the time, but there I was, barefoot as Fred Flintstone. We were hungry, so we ended up at Denny's.

As we walked in, the server pointed to the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" sign, which I had ignored in my hunger for a Superbird.

"You can't come in here without shoes," she said.

 "What? Who made that rule? Mussolini? This is totally bogus," I thought, or possibly said. 

We walked back to my car in defeat. Hey! I had a solution! I was going to get my Superbird after all.

I had a brown marker in the car. Why did I have a brown marker and not a pair of shoes in my car? That is a question I can't answer.

The paper's art director helped me decorate my feet into a pair of brown shoes. They didn't look half bad. Sure, you could see my toes, and the brown wasn't really evenly applied, but they looked good enough to pass. I think she might have even Sharpie'd some shoelaces on there.

I was totally ahead of the curve on this one.

You know you're getting older when you start to identify with the authority figures in the movies when you once supported the free-spirited kids. I mean, jeez, just shut up and do your detention, stupid Breakfast Clubbers. Don't you think the Dean has other things to do with his Saturday?
Poor Dean Wormer just wanted the parade to go off without a hitch.
I was promptly and rightfully kicked out of Denny's. I never got my Superbird. When I recall that night, I don't think of a free-thinking kid challenging a stupid rule and causing some squares to question their assumptions about their regimented life, I think of the poor server who was working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift and had to put up with a smartass who really should know better.

I'd like to think I learned something that night, and started wearing shoes like a normal person, but I know for a fact that wasn't true, since my last night in Bradenton I got a ticket for operating a vehicle without shoes. I didn't even know that was a law.

I'd also like to think the experience of walking around shoeless added to my distaste of men walking around in sandals or flip-flops. Seriously. Nobody wants to see that stuff. It's almost as bad as marker shoes.