It is getting colder here in NJ, and today I had to go to the bank and to the post office. It was frosty in the morning when I did the errands wearing several layers on top but without shoes on my feet. I also trimmed the bushes and raked the leaves all afternoon barefoot. For the past couple of days I am happy to report that I can run barefoot for a couple of miles on the road, even though it is dark and cold, before having to put some racing flats on to finish a decently long workout. I must say that the acorns on the sidewalks have been so much worse than anything else I have ever stepped on, now that we are deeply into the fall season.
But that isn't what I came here to talk to you about. I came to talk about addiction and lying.
I may have reached a new low today. This addiction to barefooting has led me to lying to children about it in public.
I was in a local post office. I had several items to ship from my eBay sales. I needed to put the items in Priority Mail boxes that I got at the post office right then and there. I was putting things together on this high service table they have there for this purpose while some other people waited in line for the one open window. There is nothing worse than waiting in line in a post office with those potentially "postal" postal workers working with a hustle index that measures in negative numbers. You can either look at the stamp advertisements or try to decipher the various posted charges for mailing services. Despite the availability of that exciting reading material, I could feel some of the people in line were glancing at my bare feet, no doubt wondering about them, but exercising politeness and not saying anything about what they might be thinking.
A woman came in with two children of about 3 and 4 years of age and she got in line. The children began playing chase-each-other-under-and-around-the-table. On about the third table lap, the older girl said to me, "I need to know what happened to your shoes and socks." Kids are great, saying stuff that adults are just too afraid to say! And it wasn't just a simple question, it was a statement - she needed to know what happened to them. As a teacher who has part of his current salary being pulled from grants based on the No Child Left Behind legislation, I was not going to leave the needs of our children unfulfilled. I smiled and said, "Well, it's a long story..." My mind began working hard and fast - do I explain running barefoot and living as barefoot as possible in support of the strength it has given me and about how it just feels better than sticking feet into sweaty shoes? No, that was too much for a 4 year old - so all of this happening in a split second so I said loud enough for everyone in line to hear, "I'm in a university study experimenting with the effects of not wearing shoes."
...And it was like everyone in there relaxed a little. Maybe they went back to looking at the Christmas Stamps poster thinking their world was not as challenged by the barefoot guy as they had initially feared. Seems it is OK to risk barefooting on cold mornings if it is in the name of science. And the funny thing is, I said the lie with absolute conviction, no guilt feelings, and it was unconscious and unplanned! It just rolled off my tongue as if I was not in control of what I was saying.
In the past I have used the nonverbal strategy of carrying a pair of flip-flops to make people feel comfortable with encountering a barefoot guy in the mall. I think now I have a cold-weather strategy: Make them think I am an experimental subject - perhaps doing something self-sacrificing that I really may not even want to be doing! - and that I am doing it to advance human knowledge.
And I think I am advancing human knowledge, kinda...