Archived Story

Shoeless traveler receives footwear in A.L.

Published 9:54am Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Column: Creative Connections, by Sara Aeikens

The temperature is in the 60s in Albert Lea, and the snow from the snowstorm last week is almost melted, which must mean to me that spring is really close.

I drove out of the Albert Tribune parking lot and turned the corner on Front Street to the north. I noticed a barefoot woman crossing First Avenue headed toward Kwik Trip. I turned left into the store parking lot and stopped my car in a location that was out of the way from traffic and allowed her space to decide if she wanted to interact with me.

I rolled down the front window and asked her if she might like a ride somewhere. She responds with a smile that I interpreted as a positive answer. I then noticed the assortment of bags she lugged over to the back door of my red car.

As I unlocked the car door, she took off her black backpack and hoisted it into the empty side of the back seat along with another bag and also a larger bundle that looked like a sleeping pack containing a blanket and a pillow with a rope tied around it. She climbed into the small space and crossed one leg.

I then realized she really didn’t have shoes on. As I asked her if she needed shoes, I mentally made a note that I had five pairs in the trunk that might fit her. She replied that she picked up a pair of shoes at the Salvation Army Store that felt like several sizes too big and hurt badly.

After I opened the trunk latch, hopped out of the car and searched through my shoe stash, I selected a pair of size-nine gray tennis shoes and gave them to her. She found her socks, tied the shoes tightly around her feet and exclaimed she thought they’d fit. As she handed me the black cloth slip-on shoes, I noticed the size said seven and I wondered how mine could possibly fit, but she liked them better than the black ones.

She still hadn’t managed to tell me where she wanted me to drop her off, being very vague with an “up there somewhere.” She told me she visited the Mormon Church in the morning and found the door locked. Then she went to the Salvation Army and picked up the shoes. It sounded like it involved a fair amount of walking so she was happy to acquire walking shoes. She mentioned she has come here before and in the past several years made treks in her travels to Texas.

She shared what she calls her hometown area — where she hangs out the most — is south of the San Francisco Bay region. She said that she is 50 years old and a mother to two grown daughters who live in California. Her smile shined through her tan acquired through many miles of hitch-hiking. She said that sometimes she bums money from others when she runs out. She didn’t ask me for any, but she say she was hungry. I gave her my lunch. She indicated she spent a number of years working in a bar in California and also sings to earn money. She noted she wanted a cigarette and that her next project involved finding a cigarette butt.

She agreed to let me drop her off at Skyline Plaza and bid me farewell with an indication that I’d see her again someday. She gathered up her cumbersome belongs, headed for the inside retaining wall next to Nelson’s truck loading dock, where she dumped her belongings in a pile and sat down on top of them for a moment of rest as I drove off. I do believe I have never experienced a similar quarter hour of unfolding surprises.

 

Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident who types an occasional column.