Monday, May 3, 2010

Becoming a hobbit

Back in the first days of university I decided to go barefoot.  The buildings I frequented had no issue with this so I ended up going without shoes for a couple months straight and the experience was an interesting one.  Because at the time I was a hardened northerner I went barefoot until November and was finally convinced to put on footwear because walking around the snow piles was annoying and walking through them wasn't pleasant either. I got some very interesting reactions to this though and it made me think a lot about how people approach new situations.

For example, several people expressed horror at how stinky everything would be due to my bare feet.  It often took me awhile to convince them that feet are no more inherently stinky than elbows, ears, or any other 'low sweat' portion of our anatomy and that in fact socks and shoes are the *cause* of stinky feet, not the cure.  It was also regularly suggested that I would step on glass or a discarded needle or something similar and cause myself great injury.  When asked how often they had stepped on a shard of glass or a needle point with their shoes on no one could actually recall an incident where that occurred, but nonetheless there were many who felt my behaviour was dangerous despite my perfect accident record.

I fully expected people to react with surprise to something like this.  That is how people are - we react more to strange things than we do to dangerous things.  The thing that really surprised me though was how entrenched people's views were.  Despite the fact that no one could come up with a single reason why bare feet was a bad idea (aside from specific businesses requiring shoes ... for no reason) many people were still against the idea.  Of course at the time I was having a lot of fun with the strange reactions and enjoying tearing down shocked, irrational reactions with irrefutable logic.

I decided yesterday that I should make an effort this summer to get back to my barefoot roots.  The audience is quite different this time of course because I am not dealing with freewheeling university freshmen but adults with responsibilities and jobs.  I wonder what people are thinking - I see them glance at me strangely but few ask questions aside from the toddlers at my daughter's daycare who all innocently ask what I am doing.  I suspect I will enjoy my little experiment for a month or so and then end up being forced to quit due to the city streets in summer being rather uncomfortably hot on unprotected toes.

I am excited about challenging people's assumptions and pushing them to think rationally instead of just reacting by rote, but not enough so that I am willing to put up with burnt soles and detours to avoid black surfaces.  I don't think I would make it in the Shire.


  1. This reminds me of when my brother dressed as a child in trouble for hallowe'en. He had a fake knife, a painkiller bottle stuffed with candy that he would regularly eat handfuls of, and a plastic bag ready to put over his head. Every time he put the plastic bag on his head someone would freak out and say, (and they would always say exactly the same thing) "My mother told me never to put plastic bags on my head."

    It's not terribly strange, but it is pretty funny how people managed to take this lesson from childhood through their whole lives, believe it with all their heart, and even try to enforce it, without actually considering how dangerous a grocery bag is to an adult.

  2. See, I'm more worried about the dog crap that is smeared all over the sidewalks around our place. And the occasional broken bottle. Especially if Elli decides that she should also run around barefoot. And the bubble gum that gets all melty and sticks to your feet.

    Gravel roads: fine. The sidewalk near where we live: totally gross. I'd really rather you didn't go through with this one...

  3. Hah. I have been walking around barefoot for a couple days now and the sidewalks are actually remarkably clean. I have not seen a single objectionable thing on the sidewalk at all unless you count pebbles, which while my feet don't like them aren't really a problem.