Column: Mystery: Why is it only one shoe is found in the road, not two?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

Off we go, into the wild, blue wonder.

I expect the unexpected, but I wonder about shoes.

Years ago, a neighbor paid me a visit.

He was wearing one red tennis shoe and one blue tennis shoe.

I tried not to stare at his unmatched set of shoes, but I couldn’t help myself.

He noticed me staring at his shoes and said, &8220;Can you believe someone threw away a perfectly good pair of shoes like these?&8221; He smiled like the cat that had swallowed the canary.

It was hard to believe. The old joke would have him adding that he had a pair just like them at home, but this wasn’t an old joke.

I admit it. I am a shoe-spotter.

You’ve all seen them.

A lone shoe lying on the road.

There is always only one shoe. Most shoes come in pairs. Where is the other shoe? Where is the missing shoe?

This great mystery has confounded humankind for at least several days.

I have seen everything from flip-flops to cowboy boots resting on the road.

Have you ever wondered why someone would keep going after they had lost a shoe? Wouldn’t a person notice that a shoe was missing? Becoming unshod would leave a foot feeling chilled or liberated. Shoes are not cheap. I want to know if I lose one. I know my foot would quickly alert me of the absence of a shoe.

Do the shoes bounce out of a car? Are they sucked out of a window? Do arguments in a vehicle result in one of the combatants grabbing another’s footwear and chucking it out the window? Do mischievous children toss shoes out windows as a prank? Do the shoes fall from shoetrees growing along the road? Do absent-minded people place shoes on the tops of their cars and forget about them when they drive away? Do crows place lone shoes near roadkill so that their meals are easier to find? Are the shoes tossed because they have been befouled by an encounter with dog poop?

Perhaps it’s the work of a deranged person who purposefully places shoes all over the country in order to take our minds off the high price of gasoline? Are they old Sports Illustrated sneaker phones? Are they disguised radar guns strategically placed by the police to help them apprehend speeders? Do they indicate the site where an individual was abducted by aliens from outer space?

Were they left in the wake of a car driven by newlyweds off on their honeymoon? We sometimes tie shoes to the bumper of such cars. In England and Ireland, it was once customary to throw shoes at the bridal couple as they left in their carriage. If the carriage were struck, it brought them good luck. If the bride or groom were hit, it brought them a visit to the doctor.

Sharon MacDonald wrote, &8220;Beneath my bed are flippers, slippers, boots and shoes. What do I like to wear?

Barefoot is what I choose! What’ll I do with my shoooooes?”

I look for the day when I will see a roadside stand offering for sale the unmatched pairs of abandoned shoes. Shoes priced to sell.

I do see pairs of shoes discarded. They are typically a matched pair of sneakers tied together by the laces and hanging from a utility wire.

What does this mean? I have asked around. The most common answer I received was, &8220;Huh?&8221;

Other responses said the hanging shoes were a sign that drugs could be purchased in the area.

One wise guy told me they were placed there to alert low-flying aircraft. Others told me that the shoes mean that a murder had taken place nearby, that a gang member had died, that mean kids throw the shoes of weaker children over the wires just for orneriness, that it indicated gang turf, and that it’s a way that some young folks discard old sneakers.

I think it might just be something boys do, like spray-painting bridges.

The neighborhood conspiracy theorist believes that the shoes are a sign of the end of civilization, as we know it.

What does this have to do with the lone shoe on the road? Nothing. Unless the shoelaces break and one of the shoes falls to the roadway.

I did find two shoes on a highway one day.

They were both for the left foot.

I will happily entertain any single shoe theories that any of you might have.

I will continue to observe the lone shoes on the roads.

I will watch and wait for the other shoe to drop.

(Hartland resident Al Batt’s column appears every Wednesday. To respond to his column, write a letter to the editor at