Al Batt: He died in a tragic sock accident and why I like to wear sandals

Published 8:46 pm Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

My great-grandfather died in a tragic sock accident.

I asked my father for further details on his 70th birthday, but it was too soon. He couldn’t talk about it. My great-grandfather’s unfortunate demise is why I like to wear sandals.

Sandals are safe because there is no need for socks and because I once had a pair of haunted socks. That’s another story. I like sandals built for walking, not for shuffling along.

I do wear shoes and when I wear shoes, I’ve accepted the need for socks.

I was missing when tying shoes was covered in school. My small school was a Petri dish of illnesses. I’d likely been placed on the excused absence list after contracting measles, mumps or chicken pox while my classmates delved into the mysteries of tying shoes. That kept me from becoming proficient at that skill.

There was a local Red Wing shoe store my mother dragged me to. I remember getting church shoes (wingtips) and work shoes there. They needed breaking in and the church shoes weren’t averse to squeaking loudly when I made steps in church. They were as noisy as geese on a pond. Mother purchased shoes that were a bit large for me, to give me room to grow into them. After I’d accomplished that feat, there was a shoehorn available for cramming my feet into shoes that had become a bit small for me.

I recall wearing plastic bags (once holding Wonder Bread) over my socks and inside my boots during the winter. They were the poor man’s winter boot liners. I could better embrace the climate with this elaborate moisture-prevention system. I’d heard of kids putting the bags over their good shoes before pulling boots over the shoes. That wasn’t in my bread bag of tricks. We used our Wonder Bread bags as lunch bags, storage bags, to gather produce, and to carry books in the rain. Wonder Bread was sliced white bread and ads inflated its nutritional value by claiming it “helps build strong bodies 12 ways.” The FTC strongly suggested corrective advertising, but its bags kept my socks dry.

I like the way shoes with laces look, but I’m a tall drink of water. It’s a long way down to tie a shoe that had cast its laces free. They’d become untied because I lack the skill of tying a proper knot. I wait until I’ve dropped something to the ground and then tie my shoe while I’m down there picking that up.

There are many wonderful brands of shoes. Everyone has a favorite. I still wear Red Wing shoes as foot covers. They’re difficult to wear out. I enjoy the company of Keens. I’ll continue to support those fine products from local sellers, but I was gifted with handsome, laced shoes advertised as a step into freedom. I’d never heard of Kizik shoes, but I’ve become enamored with the pair I trot about in. They feature foot-activated shoe technology. That’s right, foot-activated shoe technology. I step on the heel of a shoe and my foot slides in. Voila! No tying of laces required and no damage done to the back of the shoes. I don’t have to wait until I drop something to the floor before retying a shoe because they never come untied. It’s gooder than grits.

What do I know about shoes? I’ve never taken a calceology class. Calceology is the study of footwear, especially historical footwear. My footwear knowledge is limited, but I know if I don’t have comfortable shoes, life is uncomfortable. Good shoes offer a beautiful inner peace for my trotters.

A neighbor purchased $50 boots for a long hiking trip in California right after his graduation back in the Dark Ages. He loved the boots, but they proved to be too small. He had no other shoes and many miles to go, so he limped around for a few days and the front end of his feet became wildly sore. To bring relief, he cut the toe off each boot. He’d ruined a $50 pair of boots, but wouldn’t have taken $50 for one of those holes.

I’m grateful for many things. One of them is a shoe that doesn’t torment my foot. Shoes are sails that carry us through storms.

I like these new shoes. When I count my blessings, I’ll count two more.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.