Any time you’re not using a device as it is designed to be used, you’re running a risk, and that’s as true with cars as it is for lawn mowers, power boats, or any other mechanism that comes with multi-page instruction manuals that feature lots of cautionary language and warnings in bold-faced black capital letters. Cars are designed for drivers and passengers to keep their feet on the floor, and not have them on the dash or hanging out the window.
I ran across this piece about the risks you run when you keep your feet on the dash. If you’re in that position when your car is in an accident, the car’s airbags will inflate in a split-second with explosive force, as they are designed to do, and drive your legs and knees back into your jaw, face and head with tremendous power just as your head and torso are being carried forward by the car’s motion. You can imagine the terrible damage that can be done in that scenario — and that’s just one of the many appalling injury possibilities. If you want to see some truly horrific images of bodily trauma, Google “feet on the dash” and see what you find. It might just give you nightmares.
Maybe it’s more relaxing to ride with your feet on the dash, and maybe it’s just a bit more fun in a break-the-minor-rules-of-conduct kind of way. Do yourself a favor, though, and resist the temptation.
Today I went to the doctor. He took a look at the toes on my left foot, saw that there wasn’t unseemly swelling, and declared that I could get my stitches out. The removal of the stitches made it a red-letter day.
It’s only the first step (pun intended) in the process, but it made me feel good nevertheless. Next week, barring some complication, I’ll get the pins taken out of my toes, and that will be a real cause for celebration. When I’m finally pin-free, I’ll be able to toss my crutches aside and also take a shower again — which I haven’t been able to do for two weeks because I can’t get my left foot wet. I’m not sure which development I’ll welcome more, because both are very eagerly anticipated.
I’m perfectly comfortable with my decision to have the operation, because my hammertoed condition really left me no alternative. However, I have missed my morning walks, and the sense of structure and order that they brought to my days, more than I would have imagined. I dream of once more being able to take my pre-dawn strolls along the Yantis Loop, following the white fencing, listening to music of my choice on my iPod, letting my mind wander to wherever it chooses to go.
My right foot feels confused, angered, and betrayed.
For years, it worked well with my left foot as part of a smoothly functioning team. It carried its share of the load without difficulty or complaint. It didn’t develop an embarrassing condition like hammertoes or require disruptive surgery, either.
But now that the left foot has had its surgery and needs to take a few weeks off, the right foot unhappily discovers it’s carrying the whole freaking load. Even worse, it’s a weird, hopping load as opposed to the manageable load imposed by a normal walking gait. With every swing of the crutch or balancing bounce, the full weight of a grown man falls squarely on that 56-year-old right foot. The right foot is growing sick and tired of it.
“It’s not fair,” the right foot thinks. “I’ve done my job and done it well, and now I’ve got to work even harder while the left foot skates. Where is the fairness in that?”
The left foot feels that the right foot is just satisfying its moral obligations as an able-bodied, working member of society. The right foot feels that an enormous injustice has occurred that probably will never be fully rectified.
Will they ever be able to bridge their differences and work cooperatively together in the future?
This morning I took my last morning walk — for a few months, at least. It was a crisp, clear morning, like countless others where I’ve started my day with a brisk 5 a.m. walk around the Yantis Loop in New Albany.
Tomorrow I’ll have surgery on the toes of my left foot. Joints will be shaved down, tendons will be rearranged, bones will be straightened, and steel pins will be inserted. I’ll have to keep my left foot elevated for a few days, to keep the foot from swelling to the size of a pumpkin, and then won’t be able to put any weight on it for a few weeks. My recuperation period will end with a few more weeks in one of those fashionable walking boots.
I’ll miss my morning walks. I’ll miss their deep feeling of peace and solitude, I’ll miss the sense of routine and structure they bring to my days, and I’ll miss the chance to collect my thoughts and let my mind wander as I ramble along. I’ll miss the exercise, too.
But I’ll gladly trade a few months of my walks to do what’s necessary to avoid my left foot looking like the gnarled and twisted roots of an old oak tree.
We’ll be taking a much-anticipated vacation in a few weeks, one where we expect to do a lot of walking. I know from bitter experience that nothing can ruin a walkabout holiday faster than sore feet, so I’m trying to be proactive about lining up appropriate footwear.
In my view, there are three crucial aspects to making sure that your dogs aren’t barking at the end of a long walking day. First, you need to buy good shoes (or boots) that are made for walking. That means comfort in the fit and thick soles with lots of cushion, perhaps with a gel insert or two. Second, you need to wear the shoes for a reasonable amount of time before you go on your trip, to break them in and avoid any chafing that might cause blisters. If you take your new shoes out of the box for the first time when you’re on vacation, you’re begging for disaster. And third, get some good socks with a fair amount of padding. I recognize that saying all of this makes me sound like your dorkiest grandfather, or perhaps one of those know-it-alls in the TV commercial about guys who’ve “reached the age of knowing what to do” and can hitch horses to their pickup truck to pull it out of the mud. I don’t care, because I’d rather avoid a situation where I’m focusing on my aching tootsies rather than on architectural beauty and fine art masterpieces and the other wonders that a foreign culture can offer.
I went shopping for my new walking shoes yesterday, and bought two pairs for my trip. One pair is black Reebok walkers that are identical to the pair I wore when Kish and the boys and I tramped all over Italy a few years ago; they were exceptional walking shoes. The other is a pair of brown Dr. Scholl’s work shoes, pictured above. I recognize that they are clunky and they make my feet look Frankensteinian, but they are roomy and comfortable and have lots of foam rubber in the soles. I’m focused on function, not form.
As Milton recognized, every Paradise needs a Beelzebub or two. Here in Antigua, the satanic actor is an invisible bloodsucking insect that has made mincemeat of my feet.
What’s especially devilish about these vicious biting bastards is that they don’t seem to bite everyone. Kish, for example, has been left blissfully unpierced by the no-see-‘ums. Obviously, these are highly discriminating creatures. But what is it that causes them to shun some people while leaving others tattooed with bites that itch like crazy? Are they some form of hellish punishment for the wicked? Or is there something about my blood that makes it especially attractive to these misbegotten monsters? And why do these vermin seem particularly eager to nibble on my feet, which are now dotted with more welts than the Caribbean has islands?
It’s impossible to resist itching the bite marks, but fortunately Russell suggested going into the ocean — and it seems to have worked. At least, the bites aren’t quite as itchy as they once were. Rum drinks and cigars seem to help, too.
I’m a big walker, and I knew we would be walking a lot during our stay in Paris. It is easy, and a good way to see the city as you move from museum to church to formal garden.
A few weeks before I left Columbus, my old sneakers gave out, and I went to buy some new ones. I chose some black Sonoma shoes that are comfortable and well-suited to a jaunt around the Yantis Loop. I am sorry to report that they have been a dismal failure as a Parisian walking shoe, however. They simply lack the padding needed to adequately shield my large, very flat feet from the constant pounding of foot against pavement, foot against marble floor, foot against dusty path, and foot against cobblestone.
I wore the shoes on the day we walked to the Arc de Triomphe and the day we strolled to and through the Louvre, and by the end of those days my dogs were really barking. I was afraid that when I took my shoes off, I would find nothing but bloody stumps. So, I switched to some much less fashionable but thickly soled old brown shoes, and my feet are once again happy campers.
By the way, when your feet are killing you you tend to notice things like the lack of floor covering. I say it’s high time that the French discovered the glories of wall-to-wall carpeting.