When I wake up in the morning, I am in a state of foggy confusion for the first hour. I shuffle from room to room, arbitrarily picking things up and putting them down again, wincing if my flatmates speak louder than a whisper. I think it is my body’s way of managing to stay almost-asleep for as long as I’ll let it.
This is why I pack my gym bag and figure out my lunch the night before. (Yes, yes, I know. Suggested names you can call me: nerd, goody-two-shoes, square. Alternatively, try some insults more modern than those used in the 1950s… unfortunately, I’m too much of a square to know any). A few days ago I decided to be like one of the rebellious kids and I winged it. I remembered a dress, a towel, my clicky soap container, and a water bottle. What didn’t make it into the bag were my work shoes.
It’s such a horrible feeling when you realise you’ve forgotten something important. Your face goes all tight and you start scrambling for an easy fix. Then there’s the emotional rollercoaster ride, where the ‘up’ is momentary waves of denial, and the ‘down’ is the crushing reality that you’re going to have to wear your gym shoes to work.
I know, I know, this isn’t quite at the level of “I forgot my passport and my international flight leaves in an hour”. Maybe forgetting one’s shoes is really more of a children’s rollercoaster, where they don’t even have those proper full-body restraints, but just a little fabric seatbelt, and it sort of lurches around a viewing platform where the parents are all standing saying “weeee!”, so the kids know they’re supposed to be having fun.
After I’d been round my internal rollercoaster track a few times, I turned to my friend Michelle and meekly said “I think I forgot my work shoes”. At this point we were well past ‘thinking’ and firmly in the realm of ‘knowing’, but it felt like admitting that would be making a commitment to solving the problem. We grimaced at each other, her out of sympathy, me out of self-pity.
“I was going to bring my black flats, but then I changed my mind. But, you could have worn those, if I had” she offered, giving me no solution to any problem. I briefly considered blaming her for the fact that I had forgotten my shoes, but this was a momentary flash, quickly silenced by that voice reminding me that friendships are good, and that she was just being helpful, and that she reads this blog.
Squinting at my reflection in the mirror, I tried to work out if I could get away with wearing my gym shoes to work. I mean, I already walk to and from work every day wearing sneakers over panythose, a look I have dubbed “snantyhose”.
Could I get away with snantyhose in the workplace? It was a fashion dilemma that would require some group discussion. I turned to Michelle and asked, “what’s more professional, gym shoes or just stockinged feet?” I had barely gotten through the sentence before she emphatically announced “NO SHOES”, head frantically bobbing in agreement with her own suggestion. Another woman in the changing room chose this moment to laugh.
Clearly, the world is not ready for snantyhose.
When I arrived at work and stashed my gym shoes under my desk, I felt a burst of adrenalin. How would I manage to hide my lack of shoes from my co-workers? And all of a sudden, it became an adventure instead of a tragedy.
I tiptoed up the stairwell to the kitchenette for coffee. Alas! Someone was in there! I skulked in the hallway, thighs tensed, ready to spring into a doorway at any second. I felt like a stocking-footed ninja, and was chuffed that I’d dressed in head to toe black.
Once the kitchen was free, I made my cup of instant in record time, trying to optimise the use of my limbs. One arm fetched coffee, the other rinsed the mug, all the while my neck craned to hear approaching footsteps – I felt like a gymnast. Or maybe an octopus.
Coffee in hand, wondering what an octopus would look like in a sequinned leotard, I passed a woman in the hall. I quickly ran through a scenario in my head that began with her asking where my shoes were and ended with me being homeless. Panic set in and I went with my first instinct – to maintain intense eye contact, hoping that she would remain trapped in my gaze, leaving no time for her to notice my bare feet. It worked. She looked slightly rattled, perhaps feeling mildly stalked, perhaps a smidge sexually harassed, but she didn’t look at my feet.
Yet another successful professional interaction.
I spent the day in a heightened state of awareness, ears pricked up like a meerkat, coming up with a range of possible excuses. Every time I left my office I was almost giddy with the fear – or was it excitement? – of running into someone powerful. In comparison, yesterday I spent most of the day clomping from printer to desk to kitchen, sighing, wishing I had an excuse to slink around like Catwoman again.
I might start forgetting my shoes more often.