Sunday, June 25, 2017

Let's Get Some Shoes

Something happened to me a few days ago that inspired this week’s blog (with a little encouragement from Suzanne Smith...thank you!).  This event was both puzzling and frustrating, but it lead to some really great memories as I thought about which ones to populate this entry with. 
So what happened?  Well, someone stole my flip flops.

Yeah. You read that right.

The last couple of months I have been swimming laps a lot at the Y.  It’s felt AMAZING to get back in the water, even though it’s filled with a bunch of primates and not the animals I am used to seeing.  Regardless, it feels like coming home every time I slip into the water.

My routine involves a hot shower afterwards with temperatures nearing those found commonly on the surface of the sun, followed by a lazy walk back to my car (er, after I get dressed).  By the time I am done with my workout and shower, I’ve got such a delicious runner’s high that nothing can get me down.  That is, until Thursday when I realized my flip flops were missing.

Aaaaaand they're gone

Like, what the eff.  I don’t really think someone maliciously yoinked my shoes, but they were the only pair in the area AND they are pretty uh, worn.  They’re Sanuk yoga mat sandals, so they do a fantastic job at keeping my feet comfortable as well as soaking up all of the sweat and god-knows-what-else they routinely encounter from both my feet, and the substrate they walk on.  When I was moving from Fort Walton Beach to Baltimore, I furthered added to the uniqueness of said sandals by stepping enthusiastically on a gigantic, rusty nail sticking through a board (Home Alone style, people).  Not only was there a gigantic hole in the sole of that flip flop, but it absorbed a healthy amount of blood.  

Still, someone walked off with my skids, leaving me to walk barefoot out of the Y’s locker room like some kind of sopping wet hippie.   I felt sad.  I loved those shoes, because it’s hard to find shoes that are comfortable and last you a while through thick and thin. And you know what? Our work shoes are often like that.

Momma said they'd take me anyway-er

As a trainer, I worked within several different shoe worlds.  In some places, we were issued Tevas that could only be worn in animal areas. This was fortunate, because it meant it took longer for them to smell because we could not wear them all the time.  All other areas required white tennis shoes.  This was unfortunate because they smelled roughly 3 seconds after first wear, because it was in Miami where no quasi-sane person voluntarily dons close-toed shoes. Miami

At two other facilities, I got to wear flip flops or go barefoot. At two others, I wore close-toed boots for some or all of my day.  In all jobs, my shoes were tortured in unforgivable ways. But the flip flops? Those took the brunt of the beating.

The reason for this was because of the type of sandals one needs in order to work in an wet environment with big (dolphins, sea lions, seals) and/or potentially aggressive animals (otters, penguins).  Not only did they need to give you a good grip, they also needed to handle large amounts of fluids, not limited to salt water.  Bleach, chlorhexidine, Roccal, betadine, Bully or Comet, bird poop, otter poop and pee, sea lion poop/pee/molasses tar mouth stuff from hell, fish blood and oil, your own sweat, sunscreen, and -if you were lucky- the tears of tourists you caught red-handed breaking into an exhibit.

Check out those flip flops.  They broke one month later.

So your flip flops needed to be able to interact with many different matrices of liquid or semi-liquid substances AND still stay on your feet AND still keep you upright.  They also needed to dry quickly, so you didn’t come back to work the next morning, step into your flip flops and experience the foamy squish so many of us know and love.

And, because I really love all of you readers, I will not go into detail about how those shoes smelled.  Mostly because I am already throwing up on my keyboard.   BUT! Now that I am entering the world of forensic science, I wonder how like, if it’s worth suggesting that part of the proficiency test for serology and trace chemistry examiners is to take a marine mammal trainer’s shoes (preferably flip flops or absorbent water shoes) and decide what the hell is in them. 

I mean, would they have been able to tell that my black Sanuk’s were exposed to a delightful misting of semi-gaseous sea lion diarrhea?  Or how about when Dapper the penguin bit me directly on my lip and sliced it open, letting blood pour down my shirt and onto my shoes?  

I don’t know….but maybe I can use that as my thesis project this next year.

Oh, let me just mention how difficult it is to even find good work shoes nowadays.  Has anyone else noticed that the trend to produce cheaper and cheaper stuff has resulted in....

.....PLASTIC soles?

Uh, thanks for pretending to make those sandals slip-proof by slapping a nice-looking tread design on the bottom.  But try walking in those POS's on a sea lion deck and you're going down.

See ya later bye

So when you find a good source of work shoes that:

1) Do not smell
2) Maintain you in an upright position at most or all times
3) Do not remove the skin on your feet in uneven slices, one second at a time
4) Remain in tact for greater or equal to 8 weeks

Then you know you have in your possession, the single most precious object that suddenly makes Gollum seem rational.

So maybe it is this lingering feeling of Special Shoes It Took Forever To Find that made me so upset that my Sanuks went missing.   Even though I don't clean pinniped habitats for a living anymore, I still feel the raw emotion of a good pair of flip flops suddenly being no more.

Anyways, it sure would’ve felt more satisfying had someone stolen one of the many pairs of shoes I’ve worn in my dolphin trainer career, knowing that at some point the thief would’ve wondered why their front hallway (or wherever they keep their footwear) smelled like a pile of dead bodies.  Or why mushrooms are growing out of the hole in the sole.


How about you guys?  Let’s hear your best/worst work shoe stories!


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