by Karl Arnold Belser 

Jackie and I have had disagreements over the years, and the issue about wearing sandals stands out.

I like tennis shoes; an off-white that goes with everything, gummy soles that go anywhere, thick sock comfortable.  The open air appeals to Jackie, and she tells me that it’s cruel to keep feet caged.

A few years ago I got off the plane in Orlando, Florida and realized that long pants and tennis shoes were too much.  Jackie laughed and said, “You’re finally coming to your senses.  Let’s get you some real vacation clothes.”

I cringed, and we drove to Wal-Mart on the way to the motel.  There I took off my shoes and socks, and tried on a pair of flashy blue, fake Tivas with Velcro straps.

I shuddered when I saw my feet.  I always take my glasses off in the shower, so I rarely see them.  I muttered under my breath, “All I need now is toenail polish.”

Jackie looked at me and said, “What?” but didn’t wait for my answer.  She dragged me off to find a couple of pairs of shorts.

I looked in the mirror and saw the real me, an older man with legs the color of bathroom porcelain and a glint of blue at the bottom.

I told Jackie, “The air does feel good on my feet,” and I wiggled my toes

By the time the sun went down at Disney World the next day, I realized I forgot to protect my skin from the sun.  Of course, Jackie’s feet and legs were the color of toast, and she never used suntan lotion.  I looked at my rosy, pulsing feet and said, “Look at my feet.  I’ll have to keep wearing sandals for a while.”

I bought some suntan lotion, which Jackie carried for me in her purse.  I applied it religiously at Epcot, at Cape Canaveral and on our trip north to St. Augustine where Jackie’s sister lived, and my feet healed.

We went to the beach there, and I exclaimed, “It’s really great having sandals.  I can walk right into the surf.”  And then I felt a sharp sting on the arch of my right foot.

I was squishing a small jellyfish with every step and it was protesting.  I removed my sandal with one quick flip of the Velcro, and freed the critter.

Jackie laughed and said, “I’ve heard that you’re supposed to pee on stings,” and I winced.  Then she took a bottle of After Bite from her purse and applied it to my foot.  She said, “It contains ammonia like urine does.”

“How did you know I was going to get stung?” I said with amazement.

“We sandal wearers are always prepared,” she said, “But I thought that the After Bite was for mosquitoes.”

We went back to Wal-Mart, bought some surfing shoes that covered the entire foot, and continued enjoying the beach.  Jackie volunteered to carry my surfing shoes in her purse.

Next, Jackie and I headed up to the Okefenokee Swamp.  The airboat skimmed across the water, around the cypress trees and swamp grass, stopping periodically to view the alligators and birds.  Inch-long deerflies swarmed over the boat every time we stopped, and since we hadn’t thought to apply bug repellant, the deerflies preferred us to the better-prepared passengers.

My arm muscles were sore from shooing flies by the time we returned, and I had several large bites on my legs and feet.  I muttered, “Long pants and tennis shoes would’ve saved the day.”

Jackie looked at me and said, “What?” but didn’t wait for my answer.  Jackie trotted off to the park store where she bought two tubes of a combination sunscreen and bug-repellant lotion.  She stuck them in her purse and pulled out the After Bite.

As we again headed north on our tour of AAA Gem Attractions, I felt confident that Jackie was prepared for every eventuality.  Well, not exactly.  One of the straps broke, but Jackie knew to take the broken sandals back to Wal-Mart and get a replacement pair for free.

We passed Savannah, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, and finally Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where we saw the docents at Old Salem do early American crafts.  I was especially interested in how pewter spoons were cast.  I watched a man pour a steamy, silvery liquid into a mold, fill it to the top, and splash little sparkly bubbles all over the floor.

Then I felt a burning sensation between two toes.  I was on the floor in an instant, pushing people aside.  I flicked the Velcro, removed my sandal like a pro, and dug out a little metal ball.  I smelled the burning flesh, but I now knew that no great harm was done.

Jackie and I rented a motel room in Raleigh the night before our return.  There was not much room to move with all the suitcases and souvenirs, and I stubbed my little toe on the bedpost.

“Oooh that hurts,” I complained, and I took off the sandal and rubbed my toe.

Jackie looked at me and said, “What?” and then added, “Poor sweet baby.”

The next morning the toe was red and swollen.  The only thing I could do was to squeeze it into a tennis shoe and fly home.

At home the doctor took an X-ray, and sure enough the toe was broken.

The doctor said, “I see that you know enough to protect your feet with sturdy foot ware like your tennis shoes.”

The doctor taped the little toe to its neighbor.  Then the doctor stopped and bent forward.  “What’s this, this large sore between your toes?  How did this happen?”

“You really don’t want to know,” I replied, “Believe me.”  I was worried about what I was going to tell Jackie, who was waiting outside to go shopping for leather sandals that I could wear in the city.

* * *

Last updated March 23, 2006

HTML 4.01