By Maggie Blanchard, Valencia Community Contributor
Jury duty; not something I look forward to, but it is my duty. I dig through my closet and find my only remaining work attire since my retirement 3 years ago; comfortable slacks, a conservative blouse and a light sweater; appropriate for court. My black shoes are hanging on a rack behind the closet door. I haven’t touched them in 5 years. “Come along old faithful pal,” I think to myself. I carry them downstairs and slip them on before heading out the door.
My shoes are still as comfortable as the day I bought them 18 years ago. They did a lot of trekking around Europe and a lot more trekking through the halls in the large facility I once worked in. I look down at my feet and realize how outdated they are. Maybe it’s time for new shoes, but they’ll do for today.
I drive to the San Fernando courthouse. Traffic is so heavy that the navigation tool has me take surface streets the entire way. “I never knew that the Old Road becomes San Fernando Road,” I think to myself. I park the car in the appropriate lot and walk the half block to the courthouse doors.
The shoes are more comfortable than I recall; a bit of a slant in the heel, like the earth shoes I wore in the 70’s. I don’t remember making that connection the last time I wore them. I am surrounded by other people heading into the courthouse. There is a line out the door, waiting to pass through the metal detector. My shoes are really comfortable, like squishy comfortable, but only the left shoe. I look down and realize that the rubber sole is disintegrating! I take a step forward and a chunk falls off the bottom of my shoe just outside the door. I kick it to the side like an old piece of dried up pine bark. Walking on the ball of my left foot, I gingerly make my way through security. I’m flustered and don’t see the sign for the jury waiting room, so I duck into the restroom to assess the situation. It’s bad. The remainder of the left heel looks shredded, but I don’t want to be late. What am I going to do? Why now? Is a shoe blowout a valid reason to be excused?
I continue my toe-heel/toe walk to the door of the jury waiting room; 50 people; multiply by 2; 100 eyes staring at me. I switch to a tiptoe walk and slink to a seat in a corner. Another assessment; left heel has vanished. I check the right shoe. The rubber sole is squishy. I silently vote to take it off. The others are too busy watching more people come through the doors. With an air of nonchalance, I pull at the loose pieces on the right heel. It falls apart, like hardening putty, in five chunks. I neatly lay them next to the chair leg. Will anyone notice my missing heels? I find myself focusing on everyone’s feet. No one else is in my predicament. The space under every chair is spotless.
I am so thirsty. My foot predicament will be fully exposed to 140 eyes now, if I attempt to cross the vast room to the drinking fountain. At 10 a.m., a phantom voice comes over the loud speaker, “Break time; please be back at 10:20.” I pick up my pile of rubber beneath the chair, slip it into an empty trash can and stay at the back of the crowd as we make the mass exodus out the door and up the stairs with over 70 others. I look down to see crumbs dropping off my shoes.
On the main floor, I press the button on a fountain, and a dribble of water emerges which would require me to suck on the end of the faucet in order to get any water. I make my way into the restroom. I look down and see crumbs around my feet as if I’ve been eating blackened tortilla chips.
There’s a cafeteria on the main floor, so I head there for a bottle of water. Standing in line at the register, a 2-inch chunk of sole breaks off. The toes are starting to go! I kick it closer to the counter, like a dried up Debby’s Brownie that they sell in the display case. At least I have an entire bottle of refreshing cold water.
As I head out of the cafeteria and down the hall, to my horror, I discover I have left rubber crumbs in my path. Is this a script for a comedy show? Hansel and Gretel would have been safe if they had these shoes. By this point, I am reliving the 70’s in full-blown crumbly earth shoes. I follow my crumb trail back to the room. I haven’t tripped over any of the chunks so I guess it could be worse.
Quietly, I sit in my corner and wait. 11:30; the phantom voice comes over the loud speaker. “Lunch break, please be back at 1:30.” “1:30!” I have time to find a shoe store, but first I join the 77 other people on the exodus up the stairs. I don’t have sense enough to move to the back of the group. Too many gentlemen and I’m caught in the middle. I know my shoes are kicking up rubber like a race car spinning its wheels. I hope no one behind me loses an eye.
I make a hasty retreat to the car so I can find the nearest shoe store. I return from lunch, walking with renewed confidence, in my new shoes. As I survey the courthouse floors, I realize that I truly left my sole within those doors; at least until the cleaning crew arrives.