Gum Shoes

Posted on Posted in Uncategorized

“Have you been to the amusement park yet,” she said taking her hands out of my mouth so I could respond. I looked up at her, my mouth open.

“Uh huh,” I managed, feeling like I was suddenly part of a Bill Cosby skit.

“I bring me kids every year,” she said putting her hands back in my mouth. “They’re too young for many of the rides, but it is still fun.” As she scraped my teeth, I held on to the chair tightly, bracing myself for the inevitable sensitive spot. “Do you have kids,” she said, again taking her hands out of my mouth so I could respond.

“Come on,” I wanted to say. “More work; less talk,” but I didn’t. Instead I sat up a bit and nodded. She put her hands back in my mouth and told me all about hers.

“Maria.” We both looked toward the door, startled. It was the dentist. “Did I scare you,” he said seeing our reaction. He did.

“He’s always doing that,” Maria said when he left. “He makes no sound when he walks.” I smiled at her. ‘That is why they’re called ‘sneakers,’ I thought but didn’t say. I resumed the position instead; head back, mouth open.

A few years ago I had a housekeeping manager who, despite her best efforts, was having the toughest time getting her facility cleaned. “They’re always working,” she said when I asked her about the staff. “I never catch any of them goofing around or not working.” She used a lot of hand gestures when she talked. We kept walking.

At first I didn’t hear it, or if I did, I didn’t catch it, but just as we rounded the corner I saw a housekeeper standing in the middle of the dining room leaning on a broom and watching TV. A split second later she jumped into action; sweeping the floor with more vigor than needed. The thing that got me was how she never looked up; never even looked our way, but somehow, she knew we were coming. That’s when I noticed the sound. “Click, Clack… Click, Clack…”

I looked at the manager’s feet and saw that she was wearing these black, wooden clogs that made this loud ‘Click, Clack’ sound with every step. It almost sounded like she was walking a team of horses down the hall. ‘How did I miss that,” I wondered.

“Did you know that the first rubber soled shoes were called gum shoes,” I said as we walked by the dining room. She didn’t. “Rubber was pretty unmanageable back then,” I said still walking. “It would get hard and brittle in the cold and soft and sticky in the heat. It would literally stick to the ground like gum.” She gave me a questioning look, still walking, though softer.

“You know who loved gum shoes,” I said, eyebrows raised. “Private Detectives; they just loved sneaking up on people. In fact, that is how Sneakers got their name.” She stopped walking and looked down at her feet. My eyes followed and then we both looked up.

“Sneakers, huh,” she said. I nodded. “You might be on to something.” I was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *