Monday, December 6, 2010
Barefoot in the Park and the Streets
There have been many times since landing in New Zealand that I've had to fight the urge to cross the street. Not because I'm frequently running into members of the Mongrel Mob, New Zealand's mainly Maori and heavily tattoed gang. (No, that would make me lose all decorum, turn and head speedily in the other direction.)
No, it's much more incidious than that.
I'll look ahead and see some perfectly normally dressed gentleman coming towards me - and he's barefoot. Now, in the states seeing someone without shoes walking down the streets of a major city is a sure sign of mental disease. Someone who's likely to approach you and shout about Martians or the evils of Hannah Montana and carry on long conversations with himself and the voices in his head. Someone best avoided, in other words.
But not here. No, in New Zealand - especially now that summer is approaching - this is a perfectly normal, if still unexpected, sight. And it's not just some hippy thing. Hordes of children do it. Teen-aged girls do it. Respectable people do it, though I still haven't seen anyone in a business suit without shoes. That would just scuff up the cuffs, after all.
Now as someone who indulged in the art of running barefoot for a while, I am not going to be judgmental. I understand all the benefits to the body of not atrophying all the many muscles of the foot through excessive cushioning.
It's just so ... well, weird. And, you'd think, a little dirty. I mean Wellington's a nice, well-groomed city, but it's still a city. The risk of chewing gum and banana skins and very small needles must be everywhere. Not to mention the stubbing of toes on concrete curbs (or kerbs, as it's spelled here).
It's just a little sole-less, if you'll pardon the pun-ishment. (Ooh, double points!)