Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Pearl Necklace Part 1: Steel Toed Boots Required

      My work shoes are steel toed boots. Not an easy feat when you consider the child labor laws in this country. I wear a size two and a half. I’m a Buster Brown kind of gal. In the old days, the clerk, no matter how embarrassed, was required to give me a balloon just like he gave the other customers – children under ten. Lest you think financially my shoe size is a bonus (cheaper), mind you the money you may save is offset by the choices of shiny paten leather pilgrim shoes with a giant bow, sneakers that light up when you walk and little kids, worse yet, their parents, staring at you when you stand alone in the children’s section of the shoe store.
      Alas, I have, as usual, digressed. My work shoes are steel toed boots. I love my little boots that look so grown up, so woodsy and earthy. They wrap your feet and ankles up in a well protected cocoon. They even make my five foot two inch frame taller by at least an inch or so! Double bonus. Who cares that to keep them on I have to wear really thick socks and lace them so tight I almost make my hands bleed. They are adult shoes. They’re real shoes. They’re work boots and I am a blue collar kind of gal who thrives in the sweat and oil of physical work.
      There is something magical or special when I put my little boots on in the morning that tells my spirit “work is to be done.” When I come home, unbind them and clomp them on the floor, with a heavy thud, my spirit knows my “work is done.” Technically, my job is an office casual shoe type of job. The sweat and oil one encounters in the office is trying to find the paper jam in the copier. But, as they say, I have ‘taken it to the street’ and spend as much time in the plant, walking the plant and talking to the shop floor employees as possible. It is for them and their voices that I can keep my sanity in a world of numbers and 50,000+ lines of Excel spreadsheets. Thus, my work shoes are steel toed boots.
     Until this week. My work shoes are size two and a half hiking boots from the children’s department. I can no longer wear my steel toed boots. The weight and steel plate are too much and have damaged my little feet. The doctor (and my feet) has said no more. Hiking boots are cool. Safety requires a thick sole in the plant and the hiking boots have been approved as an ok compromise for the steel toed boots. I am still in the plant zooming around like a little beach sand piper. But I miss my work boots. I miss the weight. I miss the stiffness. I miss feeling like I was one of ‘them’ and not an ‘office’ type. Maybe that was the real cocoon they provided. Perhaps they shielded me from a world, where at heart, my heart is not.