One Day Without Shoes 2010

Yesterday, April 8th, was One Day Without Shoes sponsored by TOMS Shoes. I participated in New York last year… It was much harder then. This year, I barely left the house except to bring the trashcans up from the street (Thursday’s trash day on my street) and check the mail.

Since this year was boring, I’ll relate how I fared last year. My trip “to get cat food” turned into an excursion into Manhattan to meet with a friend. Here’s how it went down.

I woke up around 8 AM and shuffled around the apartment until my cat’s meowing irritated me enough to brave the big bad outside. Luckily for me, One Day Without Shoes is in the spring, so it was bearable outside (read: I didn’t literally freeze my feet). I made my way down the three blocks to the convenience store without so much as a sideways glance. I took one look at the tiny shop and decided against going in there because the floor was so dirty I didn’t even want to think about it. I went into the CVS across the street after checking for a No Shoes No Shirt No Service sign. (There wasn’t one that I could find.) I’d been in that CVS before, so I knew where I was going, but I passed by a woman with a small child who shooed the girl into the next aisle when she saw me coming. I picked out what I needed and, on the way up to the front, I got a phone call from a friend who was seeing a movie in Manhattan and wanted me along. My trepidation apparent (I told him I’d explain when we met), I agreed. At the check out counter, the cashier raised her eyebrow at my lack of footwear but said nothing. New York is, apparently, a city where money talks.

I headed back to my apartment to drop off the cat food (and feed the cat so she didn’t just up and die on me or start a rebellion while I was gone) quick as my feet could carry me while still avoiding puddles, rocks, sticks, and things of that nature. Back on the street, I braved the 20th Ave. D line subway stop and was given a look (courtesy of the station attendant) before brushing on through the turnstile. On the platform, I had to watch for spit, gum, and other people’s feet. Ick. The train ride was relatively uneventful, though one young boy did ask his mother why I didn’t have enough money for shoes before being told to be quiet and stop staring.

I transferred to the N line at Atlantic Ave. and got off the train at 42nd St. to find my friend. Times Square was packed and proved to be—while relatively clean—a nightmare for maneuvering when I had to think every second about my feet possibly getting stepped on. After about twenty minutes of delicate progress, my friend nearly ran me over and immediately inquired about my bare feet after I had to hop out of the way of some passersby. I explained One Day Without Shoes as well as I could remember offhand and was rewarded with a “Ah, V, that’s what I love about you. You’re so strange in the most entertaining ways.”

Commence momentary eye-rolling, but my friend and I had always had an interesting dynamic, and I wasn’t really bothered by his comment. We headed to the theater and he posited that perhaps we should’ve met at Stillwell Ave. because people go barefoot there all the time, though he admitted that it was probably a little early in the year, even for that. At the entrance to the theater, an attendant stopped us and told me that shoes were required in the building and I wouldn’t be allowed to go in without them. I tried to explain the situation, but all I got in response was, “Sorry, ma’am, it’s the theater’s policy.” A pause, and then, “Usually don’t have to enforce it until summer, though.” Maybe the Stillwell Ave. thing wasn’t such a bad idea.

So, we headed back outside; it hadn’t occurred to me to bring shoes with me since, in retrospect, I thought that would be defeating the whole idea. We bought Greek food from a street vendor and leaned against the building eating—me dancing around so as not to be stepped on and him being highly amused by the whole thing. He didn’t seem to mind that he’d been kept out of a movie and, after a moment, suggested instead that we visit Central Park so I could walk on the grass and not be stared at so much. I readily agreed.

We spent three or four hours in the park, where I received fewer questioning glances and was generally able to walk without worrying about catching some incurable disease from the pavement. When it was time to go home, I braved the subway again and endured his light teasing for being so idealistic until we split ways at Atlantic Ave. I exited the train at my stop and made it back to my apartment without incident.

I learned a few things from my first One Day Without Shoes. First, New York City is dirty and I had to scrub to get the gross off that evening in the shower. Second, having to think about where one’s feet are every part of every day is a pretty tiring task, and I can see how having shoes would allow someone to focus on more important things the bigger issues. Third, in developed countries like the U.S., not only are shoes a generally good idea for health/safety reasons, they’re often required to even participate at all. Fourth, shoes are so much a part of daily life here that other people will think something is wrong in the head with a person who isn’t wearing them.

There are so many reasons to support TOMS and One Day Without Shoes, and if you’re on the fence about the cause, think about what I learned. Would you want to go even one day without shoes?

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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