I recently replaced my most favorite work shoes of all time. In many ways this made me happy. They really needed to be replaced and the new ones feel so very comfortable. But in other ways it made me sad. This particular pair of shoes had been with me for a long time. I had worn them through many firsts and many lasts, many good times and many bad times, several jobs, two foot surgeries, two addresses, buying a house, every gig I have played since 2008, and having a kid. They had been replaced and retired and then when the replacements wore out I brought them back out of retirement until a another suitable replacement pair could be found. In short–they had great sentimental and practical value to me.
It wasn’t just with this pair either. I had worn down just about every pair of work shoes I had ever owned until they were little more than a strip of rubber and a shoelace. I had always thought I was just weird because I don’t like to shop. I don’t like to shop for shoes. I don’t like to shop for clothes. Nothing ever fits right and nothing ever looks good and I just hate the whole process. So that’s the main reason I wear my shoes so long past their expiration date.
But the other day I noticed a fellow restaurant worker’s shoes and I didn’t feel so weird. When this pachouli-soaked hippy showed me her toe poking out through one of the bigger holes in her shoe I knew it wasn’t just me. Thinking back on it, I’ve had many coworkers who wore their shoes until they were ordered to get new ones.
It’s a thing, I guess.
When I was shopping for the replacement pair the second time around, I couldn’t find anything I liked. If they fit they looked stupid. If they looked alright then they didn’t fit well. After going to every shoe store in town I finally gave up and ordered a pair online, the same make and model as my favorite pair: Docker’s Shelters, black. So that . . . kinda explains why I don’t like to shop. For shoes at least.
But what about everybody else? Why do so many restaurant people wear their shoes down to nubs?
My theory is that we have the finely honed ability to let just about anything slide that isn’t of immediate, pressing concern and isn’t yelling at us to run food. That includes things like getting new kicks, alcohol permit renewals, washing aprons, paying rent, et cetera. (Yes it’s shameful, but I will admit that I have worn an apron to work that hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine in (gasp!) a week. And by a week I mean a month. And by a month I mean I’m pretty sure there were a few times when a couple of calendar pages got ripped off before my apron got washed washed. Obviously you can’t let sauce stains build up until you are brewing homemade penicillin. Don’t think I went that long without trailer park washing prominent stains out with a wet rag. That’s a near daily chore for me. But yeah there were long stretches of time when that tiny little nut coverer of a Chili’s apron didn’t get Tide clean.)
Sometimes money is tight and that’s why shoes don’t get replaced in a timely fashion. But usually I think it boils down to ‘Aw fuckit it can wait til tomorrow.’
So the next time you see your server or bartender and they have a stained apron or shoes that a homeless person would scoff at, don’t think that they suck at life and don’t care about their job or your dining experience–they probably just have better shit to do in between shifts on their third double in a row.
Dignity and Respect
Me, The JerBear