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June 27, 2022

The Mystery of the Single Shoe

By Tedi Trindle

When you see an odd thing often enough, it ceases to be odd and becomes commonplace. For instance, if you happen to live in a town where people dress in Colonial garb for work, like I do, you get used to seeing Benjamin Franklin look-alikes buying gas at the service station. Such is the case for me when it comes to seeing single shoes lying abandoned in the middle of the road. Not only do I live in a town where people dress like folks did three hundred years ago, I also live in a town where one often sees a shoe in the street. I do not know why these shoes are there. But they are.

It seems to me that shoes are not the sort of things which spontaneously fly out of a car window like a piece of paper in the wind. For one, they are somewhat heavy compared to things which catch the wind. For another, they tend to be on people's feet, which ordinarily are to be found reasonably far away from the windows.

Nor are they the kind of things one accidentally drops out of the car, as in, "Oh, whoops! I just dropped my shoe in the road." Shoes, it seems to me would never fall from the roof of a car either, like a piece of furniture or a badly lashed surfboard. They also do not seem to be the kind of thing you would mistakenly leave on the hood of a car, like a soda bottle or a baby. Most shoes have fasteners, you see, and are weighed down by the person in them.

No, I can only think that, when a shoe comes to rest in the middle of the road, it's because somebody got mad at somebody else and threw it there, probably without that person's knowledge. Otherwise, one would assume they would go back for it. Unless the hurler of said shoe was the driver and refused to return for the sacrificial footwear.

Now, what would make a person so mad at another person that it would cause them to think, "I am so mad! I must throw a shoe!" Did the driver miss a turn because someone was talking to them? Did the passenger spill coffee in their lap because the driver hit the brakes too hard? I must admit I have never been mad enough to be overtaken by an uncontrollable urge to fling a sandal onto the interstate. I have thrown breakable things at walls, dumped spillable things on floors, torn rippable things to shreds, and banged doors shut while cussing at the top of my lungs. But no shoe-flinging. Not me.

It also seems like, with the preponderance of discarded shoes, you would see more people walking around with only one shoe on. The only time I ever see this is when a person appears to have injured the shoeless foot. I cannot recall ever having seen anyone hobble around town with one shoe, the other foot clad in a sock. If I had, I feel certain I would have remembered it and connected the incident to road shoes. Perhaps I live a more sheltered existence than I had previously thought.

I suppose it's possible that there is a clan of shoe-throwers out there. Maybe throwing someone's shoe from the car in a fit of rage is a tradition passed down from generation to generation. They get into a tiff in the car over which radio station to play and, the next thing you know, someone grabs someone else's foot, wrenches off their cross-trainer, rolls down the window and yells, "Hah! You don't like rap? Well, I hate country! I throw your shoe in defiance!"

If the car is particularly full of people with diverse tastes in music, one could conceivably follow them for miles, watching shoe after shoe come flying onto the freeway. One might even get a matched pair that way. I think, if I were to observe such a phenomenon, I would continue to follow them, just to see if this were some bizarre game of strip road trip. And maybe it is.

There are other things that land in the road, but they are more understandable. Car parts like hub caps and pieces of truck tires and such. Cardboard boxes and mattresses and fast food bags. Once, I even saw a loaf of Hillbilly bread, which was unflattened and lay on the highway as if it were out for display. I admit I wondered about that one. Hillbilly bread is pretty good bread, after all. I even considered going back after it. But it was not a shoe. It cost less than two dollars and did not come in pairs, so perhaps it wasn't worth turning around for.

Today, I saw a bathroom rug in the middle of the road. I'd finally gotten accustomed to the idea that I am going to see discarded shoes. But a bathroom rug? You know, I have a fairly active imagination. I write about things like competitive fly-swatting, dead Easter bunnies, and ancient vaults. I think about things like discarded shoes and come up with explanations for their presence which satisfy me. But I have to admit that even I can't quite picture a clan of people driving around throwing their bathroom rugs out of their vehicles. Some things just defy the imagination.
Article © Tedi Trindle. All rights reserved.
Published on 2003-07-21
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