The Von Trapps planned ahead, wearing sturdy travel outfits and lace-up shoes for their escape through the Alps.
But what if you had to evacuate and weren’t wearing the right shoes? What if you wore the loafers-without-socks to work today (you still think it’s cool, though it has been a while since you read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in which the eleven-year-old protagonist envies girls who don’t get blisters), which are fine for the walk from car to desk, but not for escaping. Or you were wearing the feminine loafers (that evoke the Belgian flats with tiny leather bows that the rich moms wore in Princeton, which make you feel very pulled together even in pajamas) that have no arch support and would fall off your feet if you ran.
And then what if you had to run, and especially with a child, as in the nightmarish scene from The Handmaid’s Tale, in which Offred and her daughter run from pursuers:
I’m running, with her, holding her hand, pulling, dragging her through the bracken, she’s only half awake because of the pill I gave her, so she wouldn’t cry or say anything that would give us away, she doesn’t know where she is. The ground is uneven, rocks, dead branches, the smell of damp earth, old leaves, she can’t run fast enough, by myself I could run faster, I’m a good runner. Now she’s crying, she’s frightened, I want to carry her but she would be too heavy. I have my hiking boots on and I think, when we reach the water I’ll have to kick them off, will it be too cold, will she be able to swim that far, what about the current, we weren’t expecting this.
(I’m reading the book again, after seeing this handmade sign at an anti-Santorum rally–“The Handmaid’s Tale Is Not A How-To Guide”–and I’m only on page 131 so I can’t tell you exactly who the pursuers are or if they are ever identified.) Shouldn’t we wear sneakers all the time?
If you’re running through the woods and get caught, you could be shot, or in the old days you could turn into a tree, as recounted by Ovid. Phoebus fell in love with Daphne at first sight, and chased her through the woods, until she was so tired she begged her father, Peneus, to trash her beauty so men would stop staring at her and having their hearts burst into flames, and so:
Her prayer was scarcely ended when a deep langor took hold on her limbs, her soft breast was enclosed in thin bark, her hair grew into leaves, her arms into branches, and her feet that were lately so swift were held fast by sluggish roots, while her face became the treetop.
No mention of shoes. But she had to become a tree because she couldn’t outrun a guy who imagined himself in-love-at-first-sight and yet still thought the following:
He eyed her hair as it hung carelessly about her neck, and sighed, ‘What if it were properly arranged?’
Like, she’s pretty, but if she would just fix her hair…I forgot Ovid was so funny.
Truly I have not been chased through the woods except by fellow children, and I’ve never had to evacuate for fire or flood or war.
There was the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, and I have no idea what shoes I was wearing when I ran into the street. Same story with a 1984 train accident–I may have walked that mile on gravel barefoot for all I remember. Maybe the truth is, when things are dire you don’t care about shoes or sunglasses or umbrellas, and you’d really like to think that come what may, it wouldn’t be so bad as to make shoes irrelevant.
Because for me on a rough day, all I need is my old red supermom shoes:
Husband calls them ugly (okay, all he said was, Thank god you bought them in blue this time).