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Sandal Scandal

The first time I saw the sandals I thought to myself, “Hmm, I wonder who left those here,” the “here” being on a small patch of gravel along the street in a neighborhood near ours.

They’re brown leather with multiple straps; the kind you’d expect to see people wearing in an old gladiator movie and you’d think (well, I do anyway), “How did folks even survive a normal day – much less a day of battle or a chariot race -- before tennis shoes and work boots were invented?”

From the style and “cut” (if folks in the sandal game use that term), they appeared to be something worn by a woman or girl, and they were arranged as though on display for potential buyers who decided their local shoe store could no longer meet their needs and so moved on to searching ditches and roadsides to find their next perfect pair to go with their new sundress or shorts/top ensemble.

I first saw these sandals earlier in the summer, thinking little of what I had come across. But then a week passed, then two, then three, and now, almost six weeks later, they’re still there. Still perfectly arranged. Still without explanation.

Usually, things dull over time; some “big news” today becomes an afterthought a week later. Even major crises we hear about, or experience firsthand tend to fade in importance as time wears on. But with each passing day – and by “passing” I mean each day I passed these sandals during my morning walk – my curiosity didn’t fade; it grew, and I started trying to figure out what brought they here, why they were still here, and if anyone had tried to find or retrieve them.

And if not, why not?

While I’ve never taken the time over the past six weeks to pick up the sandals (that just seems weird to me, and what would that achieve anyway?), I’ve continued to wonder about the situation in which they were left, the person or people who left them, and what, if any, consequences came from the fact that someone has one fewer pair of sandals in their footwear arsenal.

ASIDE: If this story bores you, I understand, since the most exciting words so far have been “gladiator movie” and “arsenal,” and we’re not even discussing gladiator movies or arsenals. That said, it always frustrates me when I watch a period piece (like a gladiator movie, a western, a war epic or something set centuries ago), and the filmmakers don’t put forth the effort to try and recreate what life might have really been like “back then.” With exceptions (and things have gotten better and more realistic in recent years), movies tend to show things much cleaner and sanitary than they would have been in 22 A.D., 1776, 1865 or 1929. My guess is that’s done intentionally because some Hollywood “suits” determined that viewers don’t want to see people with black teeth, open sores or – as in the situation at hand – ratty sandals, so they “pretty things up” for the big screen (or phone, if that’s how you choose to view your favorite blockbusters). Anyway …

Every day, I take a walk. And every day (well at least on the days I travel this particular route), I pass these sandals. And every time I see them, I’m amazed they’re still sitting there, yet I’d be surprised if they weren’t. And every day, I think what or who brought them there … and why.

Were they put out to the curb, mere memories of a life she’d now outgrown, with other remnants at the curb – toys and such – that her parents hoped someone could use and would stop and grab after noticing the handwritten “Free” sign taped to one of the items?

Maybe. And maybe someone did come by and take some things, not noticing the sandals, which are small and naturally blend into their physical surroundings, like a fawn in a meadow.

Or were they left, forgotten, lost, after a girl and her friends decided to have a roadside lemonade stand one sunny summer afternoon, a day when one girl thought, “It’s a barefoot kind of day,” and now, with the first day of school approaching, she is left to wonder where she misplaced her sandals -- her favorites -- that are now presumably “gone forever”?

Maybe it was something weird, a freak occurrence. Try this on for size.

The girl is at a sleepover, but in the middle she has to leave for “just an hour or two” for a piano recital. Her mom set aside appropriate recital attire so she could change at the friend’s house, and her dad would pick her up to take her, then drop her back at her friend’s home immediately following the recital. (Mom would be coming to the event directly from work.)

Then … as she’s getting ready for the recital (as her other friends bounce on the trampoline and other fun things), she decides she doesn’t want to wear the shoes her mom chose for her. So, she texts her dad, requesting her favorite sandals, “You know, the leather ones that look like I’m a gladiator? They bring me good luck.”

Dad, of course, has no idea which sandals she’s texting about, but rummages through all her stuff – in her room, her closet, the mud room, etc. -- before finally finding coming upon them in the basement, half tucked under the couch, next to an open bag of Cheetos (where he should have looked in the first place).

“Aha! Got ‘em!” he proclaims to himself, as he rushes out of the house carrying his keys, his oversized coffee mug, his phone, a snack (for himself), and the sandals, which he puts on the roof of the car as he loads his other stuff into their assigned spots (cup holder, phone holder, etc.).

Then, Dad gets in the vehicle, fires it up, and heads out to pick up his daughter. Five blocks into the trip (and unbeknownst to Dad), the sandals slide off the roof of the car, “sticking the landing” on the side of the road, arranged as though on display and waiting for someone to purchase them.

Dad gets to the friend’s house, toots the horn twice, the girl runs out in her substandard, “non-lucky” shoes (which, by the way, match her outfit perfectly; also, I didn’t use the term “unlucky” because the shoes don’t bring her “bad” luck, they just don’t inherently spawn “good” luck.)

Seeing his daughter – “Isn’t she a cutie?” – Dad looks down to grab the sandals and (needle scratch on record) . . .

He looks on the floor, he looks in the back seat, he even looks in the glove compartment (never underestimate the power of a dad to act irrationally), and just as his daughter jumps in the car and says, “Hi dad. Do you have my sandals?” he realizes where he left them. Well, he thinks he knows where he left them … on the roof of the car.

But in reality, where he really left them was sitting on the side of the road a half-mile away, arranged as though on display in a shoe store, waiting not for someone who decided to shop for their next pair of footwear along the side of the road, but for some middle-age guy to pass by them nearly every day for the next four weeks, first curious, then wondering, then finally wracking his brain daily, trying to figure out how they got there, who left them, and why. (Remember dads and irrational behavior?)

Today, I’ll take my walk, and I know with relative certainty I’ll see those sandals. But one day, they’ll be gone, and when they are, I’ll feel like Ben Affleck at the end of Good Will Hunting when he knocks on Will’s door to pick him up for work and Will has finally left, seeking a better life.

And when that day comes, I’ll smile a wry smile hoping those sandals found their way to happiness.

© 2022 David R. Haznaw

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