Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Tale of Two Shoes

I haven't written here in a really long time.  I didn't feel like it.  Probably not writer's block.  I think that would mean that I wanted to write something, but couldn't.  I just did not want to.  Now I do.
It's been a pretty eventful time, but not exactly a fascinating time.  There hasn't been a lot of exotic, unusual travel, no grand adventures.  Just mundane life.  In China.
Christmas, to virtually all Chinese, means nothing.  A few folks with money give gifts.  The few Christians that are here have a religious observance.  Everyone else goes about their daily business.  If school lands on Christmas day, they all go.  I have always insisted that I get 3 days off, and made sure that it was in my contract wherever I worked.
However, on the day after Christmas, the Education Bureau for the region was hosting the finals for the primary school English competition, and I had been invited to come help facilitate--for a generous fee.  I accepted.
It was to be held at a school at the other end of the city, so I needed to leave in the early morning, catch a bus, meet my assistant, then take a taxi the rest of the way.  The weather was cool and rainy.  I dressed in nice, semi casual clothes, which included a pair of nice, casual shoes that I had bought here years ago.
It was raining as I began to walk to the bus stop and the pavement was wet.  A few hundred yards from my apartment, just as I was crossing the street something did not feel right with my right foot. It felt like something was flappy.  The sole was coming off of my shoe!  Crap!!  
I couldn't go to the competition like that, so I headed back to my flat, as fast as I could with one sole flapping.  It did not flap for long, since it more or less dissolved.   The left sole soon followed. I had nothing on my feet except the uppers and a thin, fabric sole. My feet were getting wet from the bottom up.  I raced up the five flights of stairs to my home, changed socks and shoes, then hurried to the bus stop.  I called my assistant and told her what had happened and that I was running a little late.  She said, "Oh, that happens all the time.  It's happened to me before."  Really? 
I had apparently only worn those shoes in the time I had owned them during dry weather.  I was blissfully ignorant of the walking time bombs on my feet!  Some dickhead  unscrupulous factory owner used some kind of paper pulp product as an injection molded shoe sole, knowing perfectly well that thousands of innocents were going to experience the same thing I did.
This is nothing but a slightly amusing story involving a pair of twenty dollar shoes, but is something that happens on a much more dangerous scale involving dangerous chemicals, adulterated foods, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and countless other situations where people are endangered so that someone can make a buck.  It happens in China.  It happens everywhere in the world.