Saturday, November 01, 2003

Utter repulsion

Like it? 
I don’t like your feet. Nothing personal, buddy — I don’t like anybody’s feet. I don’t even like my own feet, which is why I keep them hidden in heavy brown shoes, as opposed to footwear where my toes would be exposed to sunlight.

I find the human foot unpleasant. Toes vex me. I don’t have a foot phobia or anything, but there are so many other nicer — and cleaner — parts of the human body: noses, shoulders, eyebrows, necks, you name it. The boob, to be sure. I’ll even take a nicely sculpted elbow, for instance, over any toe any day of the week.

When people wear sandals around me, I wince privately and turn away. These people always seem to have inch-thick calluses creeping up the sides of their heels. And they wiggle their toes an awful lot — more than seems necessary. Perhaps just to perturb me. The feet are bad enough, but it’s the toe-wiggling that sets my teeth on edge.

My wife’s feet are OK, I guess, but they’re still feet.

My point is, you can rest assured that I do not have a hoard of strange people's shoes in my home. Remain calm, Mr. and Mrs. America — if I see you on the street, I will not accost you and try to smell or lick your toes.

There are plenty of people who can’t say that. People with foot fetishes are everywhere lately.

Take the Rhode Island foot-licker — please.

In August, Raymond Dublin of Providence was sentenced to 18 months in the slam for sneaking behind a woman in a Bellingham Save-A-Lot and licking her toes on three occasions. Dublin had just gotten over a year’s stretch in the clink for doing the same thing to a woman at a supermarket in Woonsocket, R.I. For that kind of time, he should have at least swiped their purses, too.

Perhaps Judge Paul Losapio said it best: “I don’t know what type of counseling someone could undergo for this kind of behavior.”

The simple answer, of course, is to get him off strange women’s feet and onto his own. So here’s my two cents’ worth: yoga classes! Women in area grocery stores can wear their open-toed shoes again, and Dublin becomes flexible enough to smell and lick any number of his own toes. Everybody wins.

Not long ago, Donald J. Ruther of Ohio took the foot-sniffing deal a step further. In 2002, the Associated Press wrote that Ruther “pleaded guilty to burglary, admitting he had sneaked into a garage and stolen eight pairs of athletic shoes belonging to teenage girls.”

Ruther had intended to add them to his collection — “500 pairs of men’s, women’s and children’s shoes of various sizes and styles.” Some people bake cookies for comfort, and others bury their noses in other people’s footwear.

This story made me wonder if he sorted his collection at all. I collect things, and I prefer to keep them in order. I alphabetize my records and CDs, for instance, and I try to shelve my books according to preference. Maybe, like a connoisseur of fine wines, he stored his shoes according to vintage, in an enclosed cellar room to keep the fresh air from spoiling them.

I was also wondering if it was necessary to steal both shoes from a pair, if only having one constitutes an incomplete collection.

Apparently, just having one shoe works just as well. Last week, in Japan, Ichiro Irie was arrested on charges that he’s been stealing shoes from a nearby hospital — but only the left one.

Why the hospital? It’s common in Japan for people to remove their shoes before entering public buildings. Hence, I will never, ever visit Japan.

Why only the left? Pardon the pun, but perhaps it just felt right.

Any-hoo, Mr. Irie was caught when police baited him with a new pair of ballet slippers. He was trying to decide which shoe was actually the left when they nabbed him.

I made that up, but this part is true: When the fuzz searched Mr. Irie’s house, they found 440 left women’s shoes in a closet — pumps, sandals, high heels, you name it. They’ve been taken into custody and are being held for questioning.

Even celebrities are not immune to shoe fetishes.

NBA rookie Lebron James made his debut as a Cleveland Cavalier this week wearing a brand-new pair of Nikes that he helped design. He gave his pet shoes a name, “Zoom Generation,” and designed them to look like his Hummer SUV — the mark of someone who’s truly obsessed.

Starting Dec. 20, shoe fetishists can buy their very own copy of James’s sneakers for $160 a pair (they’re only half as much in Japan).

Uninterested because a new pair will smell too nice? Take heart! According to the Associated Press, “James said he expects to go through ’40 or 50’ pairs of his new sneakers this season.”

Even though I can’t understand foot fetishists, I’d hate to see all those sweaty, foul-smelling, double-digit-size sneakers go to waste. There are plenty of profoundly insane people out there who could adopt those shoes and give them loving homes.

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