Shoe Shine Made Me Walk on Air
From Toronto to San Antonio, L. A. to Seattle, conventions look
remarkably alike. Wherever I travel, I pass through gray concrete
airports to same-same hotels to even grayer, stony-floored exhibit
On a recent business trip to Richmond, I survived days of talking with
clients and potential clients, thumbing through books, assisting in
presentations, and sharing ideas with teachers.
By the third morning, my sparkle had dulled to a grim determination to
wind it up early and pack for home.
At the crossover point that ties the Marriott to the convention hall,
I spotted a bright-eyed somebody alive with enthusiasm and ready for
the morning's trade.
Brushes in hand, Charlie Squire, the Marriott's shiner of shoes, was
sprucing his stand.
I checked my feet. Yes, my aged tassel loafers could use an uplift.
"OK, Charlie," I said, "you've got a customer."
No ordinary shoe shiner, Mr. Squire kept a filing cabinet of polishes,
brushes, cloths, soaps, and other secret pots and tubes, from which he
extracted a worn buffer.
Intently, he smoothed away the street soil from heels and soles,
selected a tin of foamy liquid and spraddled brush, and began
Gradually, a man-type fact of life dawned on me-shoe shining may do
wonders for leather, but Oh!, what it does for the soul.
Steady, firm rubbing and scrubbing eased away hours of standing on
brick-hard floors. My spirits did a 180.
Then came the ebony polish, gently applied and professionally massaged
onto scuffed toes and crotchety arches.
The process, worked out over many years of brightening people's
footwear, proceeded with detailed precision: brush followed by cloth
followed by shine rag.
As I dug into my wallet, Charlie smiled, "Not yet. Just sit back and
let me put on the final touch."
Another perusal of the filing cabinet produced his magic elixir, a
weatherizer to seal out moisture and preserve the shine.
"Three dollars," Charlie concluded.
No, I couldn't let those skilled fingers settle for so little. I
handed him a five.
Like Dorothy, I gathered up Toto and skipped down the yellow brick
road to the opening session.
As the day took shape, I found moments to glance down at my glittering
tootsies, which surpassed even ruby slippers.
I think my Virginia convention experience taught me more about
self-esteem than about selling books.
Little things, especially the ones that affect the body, can resurrect
a flagging outlook.
Making contact with earth via clean, reconditioned loafers put me in a
"We're dealing" mood.
Like Clark Kent emerging from the phone booth, like Popeye gulping a
can of spinach, I was revved up for the chase.
My advice, readers, comes cheap-three bucks plus tip. If you're ever
dragging bottom in Richmond, look up Charlie at the Marriott. He'll
put a shine on your day.
"Catawba Valley Neighbors"
April 4, 1993