Post, Saturday, August 20, 2005
FEELING LIKE IT
I stopped working in the city core a few months ago and now make the daily
trek to an office near the Arctic Circle (Markham, actually). People ask me
what I miss about not being downtown. It’s not the restaurants, convenient
banking (if there is such a thing) or the high ransoms for parking.
What I miss are the downtown shoe shines.
The skilled hands of Penny Simmons.
If you can’t afford 10 years of psychotherapy or need something to help
you get through the day without strangling someone, I highly recommend going
for a shoeshine. I think of a shoeshine as a 10-minute vacation. At most, it’ll
probably set you back six bucks, GST and tip included.
The New York big shots who have their shoes shined while they work at their
desks have missed the point. A really great shoeshine requires you to sneak
away from the office in the middle of a hectic business day.
For those of you who have never had a professional shoeshine, let me describe
its joys to you. First, you get to sit in a leather chair about five feet off
the ground, usually looking out over a public area. This gives you a great
view of all the poor slobs who are rushing around actually doing something
productive. It also allows the rest of the envious world to see you being pampered
as they pass.
Forget going to a spa for the seaweed and crunchy peanut butter detoxifying
wrap. In a democratic country it’s as close to feeling like a king that
a regular guy is going to get.
A good shoeshine is almost like a professional massage, except you don’t
have to get naked in a cold room and be handled by a stranger named Lars.
The shine itself is a rhythm of rubbing and buffing and, if your guy (or gal)
really knows what they’re doing, a little waterproof spray. You come
out looking and feeling like a million bucks. And, unlike when you do it at
home, you don’t have black polish up to
One of the reasons I like shoe shines probably has to do with my father. Dad
hated wearing ties, suits or even hard shoes. But he still loved to get his
shoes shined. After
our regular Wednesday lunch, he and I used to walk up the street together.
If we came within a block of our favourite place, he’d always say, “Do
you have time for a shine?” I always did.
It was one of those male-bonding things. Our favourite place had two chairs
so we could sit and talk, stretching our lunch hour out another few minutes,
sharing what may be the last innocent pleasure left to men.
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