By Ken DeLaat
The above question, spoken aloud and generally in the company of someone else (but not exclusively), has long been my response each time I see abandoned footwear alongside the road.
You know what I mean. The lonely single shoe (or boot) languishing on the shoulder or even sometimes brazenly taking a stand on the median. One might go years without noticing them but once you do….
My moment came during a journey to the South years ago with LSC Lil and a couple we have traveled with extensively over the years.
The trip was in one of those periods that road trips endure from time to time when the scenery has become tedious by virtue of its sheer persistence. At the time I was likely zoned out a bit (no, not driving) and just kind of gaping out the window of the passenger side. It took I believe a couple of sightings before my attention was drawn to the surprising frequency given the object and all. I mean you see tire treads, animal carcasses, and various car parts all the time. In states without deposit laws you also see bottles and cans nearly everywhere.
So I began developing a little schtick whenever another one was discovered.
“Look. A shoe. Just one. By itself. How did it get there? Does it have anything to do with the rumors of alien abduction? Were they tossed from a vehicle or carefully placed in strategic spots across the land to mark possible portals to another dimension? What can it all mean?”
You get the drift. As my monologue continued to take form (and lengthen) the animosity from fellow passengers rose at a parallel clip until a not so polite request to ‘just give it up on the whole shoe thing’.
And so of course when one is asked in those terms to cease and desist and one knows they will be spending a great deal of time with those requesting the action over several days one acquiesces.
However the pique in my interest did not subside. No, in fact it grew as time went on and the discovery of the absolute proliferation of these lone loafers, solitary sneakers and forgotten Florsheims gathered about on the nation’s highways and byways is met with a consistent level of enthusiasm. An enthusiasm not always shared by Ms. Lil, who is my favorite and most consistent road trip companion.
One can imagine that a few decades of frequently hearing about ‘sightings’ might wear a bit on even the most patient of folks. Particularly if you, say, call them at work to report the discovery of a red pump along an entrance ramp and the person is apparently in a meeting of some importance….an event resulting in some ground rules about calls at work about shoes and perhaps notifications of discoveries in general.
Recently a friend and neighbor (who harbors a deep and disturbing resentment toward roosters but that’s for another day) posted on my social media page a reference to the phenomena causing my brain to begin once again pondering the Big Question.
And for some reason all I could think of was Cinderella.
Perhaps the quintessential lost shoe might have been the glass slipper of the girl trying desperately to outrun the clock right?
Could it be perhaps that each of these represent the human desire to achieve our dreams like Cinderella did? Maybe a symbol of our collective desire to become fulfilled? Think of Basketball’s March Madness when the so-called Cinderella teams knock off a couple of the big boys and are labeled such. Do the shoes represent the Impossible Dream? The chance to draw a winning ticket in the lottery of life?
After all how random can it be, right? There have been articles on this occurrence, wikipedia has a reference page on them and facebook and twitter each have pages dedicated to the mystery.
So while others may scoff at my ongoing fascination with orphaned footwear and though attaining a definitive answer to their proliferation may continue to prove as elusive as obtaining straight talk from a politician, the gathering of evidence as to the source of the mystery will remain a personal quest.
These were my thoughts the other day as I was cruising up ‘37 toward White Cloud in the early morning hours.
Then as my mind began to drift toward other areas (as it is known to do) I passed 40th St and on the east side of the road just north of the intersection…….
I think not.
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