Andrew would never wear shoes. He wouldn’t wear them at home, or at work, or even on the train ride in between. He wouldn’t wear them when the rays of the sun had turned the concrete paths into scorching white tracks, and he wouldn’t wear them when the ice cool rains swept and rolled their torrents through the streets toward their underground seas. He wouldn’t wear them when he went to the bank, and stood in a long queue with jacket and tie men of business. He wouldn’t wear them when he went to the local café, sip his coffee, pick at his mezzo plate, and amuse his friends.
After I became his friend it seemed like a strange and unnecessary question to ask, but as I was genuinely interested to know why he traveled his life barefoot, I asked him.
“It enables me to feel grounded.” He said. “If I walk around with shoes on, I feel disconnected from my environment, because every place feels the same. Once my shoes are off though, it’s a different story and I can relax into my surroundings. I can float with the direction of the grain in a wooden floor. I can cringe at the scratch of asphalt when I quickly cross the street. I can squelch dirt and grass between my toes when I play soccer on the oval at lunchtime.”
Andrew loved listening to live music, and would do so as often as he could, but this love only caused him grief. He discovered that you are not allowed to enter a music venue, or even stand quietly at the back of the room, unless you are wearing a pair of shoes. Music venues are very strict when it comes to their shoe laws. Shoes are required if you desire to be on the premises, no exceptions. So Andrew made up his mind to buy a pair of shoes. He chose a very comfortable and loosely fitting pair of black leather and fur shoes that he’d found in an OpShop. He carried them in his backpack. He wore them without socks.
Now when he arrived at the front door of a music venue he was welcomed with open arms. He was no longer the recipient of disapproving looks, wagging fingers or flat denials. He enjoyed many a wonderful concert but over time began to realise that shoe wearing music venue patrons were not always there just to listen to the music. They were often there to meet friends, drink heartily, and talk loudly.
Andrew decided that the people who wrote music venue shoe laws had it all wrong, and he came to a simple conclusion. The wearing of shoes does not indicate a good listener. That simple fact persuaded him to donate his shoes back to the OpShop and joyfully return to his barefooted music listening option – standing outside on the front steps with his ear pressed to the door.