At the end of the day, the feel of clean, white, sweat socks is unparalleled. Not those wimpy thin-ribbed ones, no. The ones with deep ridges and thickly cushioned soles, yes. When I get home, one of the first things I do is release my imprisoned feet. This is a brief moment of ecstasy. Then I slip those faithful feet into a pair of high-quality sweat socks. They envelop my feet with just the right amount of warmth and support. My toes are cradled in fluff. And the bottoms? Well, the soles feel like they’ve made a trip to the local spa to be swaddled in that lush terrycloth those expensive robes are made from. Food for the soles! Then I stand up, enjoying a moment before I have to slip my shoes on. As long as I can wiggle my toes in those thick socks at the end of the day, my feet and I can stand anything.
Some people have a hard time dealing with feet, even though they know that life would be missing something essential without them. In spite of that, these footophobes are repelled by feet. I once was on a long road trip with one of these foot haters. When one of the other passengers nonchalantly removed shoes and socks, and propped her feet up on the back of the front seat, I thought we’d have to pull over and call the paramedics. My phobic friend’s immediate response was a high-pitched yell that brought every dog within fifty miles to its feet. As the driver, I was sure I struck a member of some endangered species, perhaps even a whole herd. No, she assured me, after I had pried my fingers off the wheel; it was merely her shock at seeing a naked foot appear close to her face. They are just so ugly, was her first intelligible comment. Well, I countered, they are the underpinnings of our entire civilization after all. Her answer was about what I should have expected. She didn’t care if the world stood on its own two feet as long as she didn’t have to look at them. Where I saw ten nicely spaced digits with the big toes providing real and artistic balance, she saw ten nubs of flesh, akin to giant warts, with the big toes being merely the largest offenders. The woman has no soul. Or maybe no soles.
I may not have the most beautiful feet, but they have afforded me hours of pleasure, to say nothing of the entertainment they provide for others. I happen to have fairly small feet, which is fine when trying to hop rocks across a stream, but is not so fine when snugged up in a pair of hiking boots. Of course, the mocking to which my feet are exposed may have something to do with the fact that my former hiking boots happened to be twenty years old. I thought I would never give these babies up. Every spring I cleaned and polished them, coated them with silicone, and stored them away. Snow came, and I hauled them out for their annual appraisal. Every fall it was the same—they looked great; why fool with a sure thing? Anyway, those boots had a two-inch sole, which brought me up to the tallest I will ever be—five feet, five inches. That was the point the mocking began. Because I have a size 7 boot, and the soles look pretty hefty in proportion to the length of my foot, it appeared that I either, like Cinderella’s stepsisters, lopped off part of my foot in order to fit into those boots, or my foot was so flexible that it folded up, accordion-style. I took the derision in stride, so to speak, because those boots, which, I admit, made me look like Frankenstein’s bride, proved themselves. At one point in their long career, they were totally immersed in a shallow stream in which even my small feet could find no steppingstones. By the time I climbed out the other side and walked another five minutes, the sheepskin lining wicked all the moisture from my feet, and I was good to go. Even my heavy-duty sweat socks, which I put on with such enthusiasm, didn’t even need to be wrung out when I returned to camp an hour later. If those boots didn’t lead me to defeat that night, I was not about to give them up in the foreseeable future. But the foreseeable future came too fast, and they wore out. I gave them a dignified burial.
Feet are wonderful things. Considering the abuse dished out to them, they do a fine, upstanding job. In fact, I think I’m going to take my feet out right now for a reward. Let’s see. How about a new pair of clean, white, sweat socks?