Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On the Other Foot


On the Other Foot...

Long before I ever washed up on the shores of this island nation, my wife, Em, had exposed me to some of the ways of the Land of the Rising Sun. I can remember on occasion watching some Hollywood movie where invariably one of the characters would jump on a bed while wearing his/her shoes. Em, who is a product of Japanese culture, would go into immediate shock.

Her jaw would drop and her eyes glaze over, fixated on the offending soles lying atop the bed linens. She would completely lose sight of the story line and in a shell shocked voice ask, "Isn't he going to take off his shoes?" The question was often followed by an impassioned soliloquy about the germs from the street clinging to the soles of shoes. Finally she'd wrap up with a general damnation of the people of an entire nation who would carelessly abandon their infants to crawl on the same floors they soiled with their filthy Buster Browns. Humoring her, I'd just shake my head from side to side and shrug my shoulders, saying "It's barbaric. I know."

Years later when I first stepped foot in Temple Valley I never knew exactly when and where I was required by custom to take my shoes off. I knew enough that I should remove them when entering someone' s home but beyond that I was a clueless about when to go shoeless. Than I discovered that in the foyer of most public places where the custom is practiced, the host or proprietor, etc. usually provides guest slippers that are at least four sizes too small. Just big enough to barely squeeze into, they are perfectly designed to make any ham-toed foreigner like myself trip at the most embarrassing moment possible.

They drive me absolutely crazy! Shedding my shoes for these slippery slip-ons can be maddening. Whenever Em accompanies me on these awkward occasions I often find myself waxing poetically about how our natural immune system shields our bodies from germs of all kinds. I usually wind up threatening to forgo the slippers and boldly walk across the floor in my boots. She just stares at me and shakes her head as a faint hint of a smile crawls across her lips. That's when I realize that the shoe is now on the other foot and stumble along. 

Related post: Outstanding

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