On Getting My Shoes Shined

Speaking of thrones and arses, I had my shoes shined recently. I was in the SF airport. Had to climb up two or three very steep steps to get to what looked and felt uncomfortably like an electric chair. Had a magnificent view from up there, watching the tops of people’s heads as they rushed to or from flights. I felt a little uneasy at such an elevation. Having your shoes shined is one of those experiences that, for me at least, still has overtones of class division and racism; you’re literally putting yourself above your fellow man. Not many social encounters around anymore in which that happens so explicitly.

The man who shined my shoes was a real professional. He applied several different kinds of polish. He used a toothbrush to reach the deep crevasse where the leather of the shoe meets the sole. Then he took two brushes, one in each hand, and start flailing away at my shoe. His arms were swishing back and forth like a windmill, but his aim was true so that the tips of the brushes just skimmed the surface of my shoe. Then he took a cloth and draped it over the shoes and swished that back and forth, sort of like the way you dry your back with a towel by holding it at each end and pulling it back and forth across your skin. After that, he applied a different kind of polish, this one more liquid than the previous paste, and buffed the whole thing up. By the time he finished, my shoes were so bright that I could have read by them at night.

My shoes looked good as new, better than new even, or actually, too good to be true. They were too bright, too shiny. The rest of my apparel couldn’t match the effusiveness of my shoes. I felt like a walking advertisement for the Diderot effect. Remembered Henry David Thoreau’s admonition:

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.