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Monday, February 23, 2015

A Brief Meditation on Boots

IN MY OFFICE AT HOME, the windows leak and the furnace has to heat the entire house in order to get my legs warm. I shut myself into the room with a small ceramic heater to provide warmth, adding a layer of long-johns and sweater when we get to the wind-buffeted single digits.

At the coffee shop I frequent, the heat blowers function continually, issuing their warmth from above, mixing it with the aroma of coffee roasting and bagels toasting. But, unless I sit far to the rear, I suffer the Arctic blast that occurs each time the door is flung open. I’m near the door now, but it was a necessary choice. A woman with two young and voluble children is perched towards the rear. As I learned when the three were in line for their comestibles, the children are of that well-loved variety who have learned to drill any nearby grown-up with an unblinking stare in order to provoke (I’m assuming) a gushing aren’t-you-so-cute or the like. As I was never disposed to gush such nonsense even to my own child, preferring to make up for it by footing her therapy bills, I find such behavior loathsome.

Yesterday morning we were met with a fresh fall of snow, necessitating its removal by snowblower and shovel. I have shod myself with all manner of snow-resistant footwear over the years, including heavy rubber boots with metal buckles, light rubber boots with removable linings, boots of ankle height, boots of calf height, hoping to get at least a season out of each before a buckle tears away or the upper separates from the sole. And the boots never seem to be tall enough, allowing the snow to take up melty residence within.

I’m studying the footwear of the customers around me. Very few are sneaker-shod, as I am now. There’s a preponderance of work boots. Because this is Albany, on a workday, near the state offices, I’m seeing some business shoes on the men. The women are exclusively in boots, each of which makes its own fashion statement, from the colorfully patterned rain boots of the young woman waiting for a latte to the calf-high boots of brown suede topped by a muff of fake fur on the woman giving a sandwich order. I see nobody in heels.

Inclement weather seems to inspire some sensible choices. My daughter’s most recent had-to-have was a pair of Carhartt boots, brown leather lace-ups that look ungainly until they’re surrounded by snow. This inspired me to go after a similar pair, black leather Carolina boots that mercifully allow you finish the endless lacing against hooks instead of through eyelets. They’re tall enough to have served during all but the most recent snowfall, which left the accumulation high enough to require what’s become our farm-life necessity: Muck Boots, a heavy-duty brand intended for the worst of the dairy-farm chores, but also well suited for snow.

Every one of us in the household owns a pair. They slip on instead of your shoes, a tight fit going on but an unexpectedly comfortable walkaround thereafter – like a good pair of cowboy boots.

Today, however, the snow has been pushed aside and it’s back to the sneakers. An ambulance driver has come in for coffee: workboots with Vibram soles. Here’s a young woman in Keds. An elderly man in brown brogans. Another woman with fur-circled ankles. It doesn’t seem possible that we’ll be back in our Crocs and flip-flops in a matter of weeks.

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