Walking Cross-Town. Untied. Unhinged.


Eyes are closed. Water spills over shoulders. Steam spills over the top of the shower curtain. If there is a God, this is his Temple. One of life’s simplest and most magnificent pleasures.

I turn up the heat, and just stand, arms down, shoulders curled and leaning forward – I breathe.  Snippets of Mary Oliver leak in…”But mostly I just stand…in the middle of the world, breathing in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name but breath and light, wind and rain.”


I step out. Towel dry.  One eye is on the clock. Can’t miss the 6:16 to get to an 8 am meeting in Midtown.

I pull on knee length socks.  It was less than 30 seconds, 30 years ago, but his words still bite.  The wound still fresh, the cuts over something so small yet replayed thousands of times since and triggered each morning when I slide on my socks. “Over-the-calf socks are crude,” he said. “One shouldn’t see the hair on your legs. And polish your shoes.” Crude.

I button shirt. Slide on pants. Loop belt. Tie tie.

I grab shoes, set them down and lean over.

I pull on both ends of the laces on the left shoe.


6:03 am

Replace lace? Never find a replacement in time.

Swap to different shoes?  There’s another pair waiting four feet away.  Do it Dave, do it.  For some inexplicable reason, I can’t do it.

I tug on the ends of the laces to get them even. One end of the shoe lace has a plastic aiglet, the other does not.

6:04 am.  7 min walk to the station

I begin to thread the aiglet-less end through one hole, then the second and get to the third.  It won’t thread. I twist it and try it again. No go.

6:05 am.

I wet my finger, twist it again, and I’m able to thread it. A sweat bead accumulates on the brow.

I have less than two inches of lace on each side.  I’m careful not to rip what’s left – I gingerly tie my shoe.

I look down at my handiwork, there’s a nice bow on the right, and something resembling a newly hatched larvae on my left.

6:08 am. Gotta go. Gotta go.

7:20 am. I’m walking to the office cross-town. I’m off, my equilibrium is off kilter. While the right marches forward, the left foot is sloppy.  Brilliant.  And then Genius, what if the lace rips again, then what?

I favor my right foot, being careful not to put undue pressure on the lace on the left.

I limp across town.

8:58 am.

I’m wrapping up the breakfast meeting, it’s with a group of top performers.

Before we break, I’m posed a question about the business: “Dave, what are you most worried about?”

I pause, wiggle the foot in my left shoe under the table, and smile…

If they only knew….



  1. All I can say is, I’m glad I’m not the only one this kind of thing happens to! Once I went to work with one high-heel black shoe and one flat navy shoe. Sigh

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “…something resembling a newly hatched larvae on my left.” Such a visual. I can’t decide which I enjoy more, pal, your walking across town posts or your running posts. Both put me in the moment…masterful!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. my shoe broke on the first day of school, right as i was about to give my presentation and welcome to my new families. i went barefoot. as for your shoes, isn’t it funny how a tiny thing, like a shoelace, can cause so much worry? p.s. are those your shoes in the photo?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My father never discussed socks, but those shoes…better be polished. It mattered. I miss him.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If they only knew. . .

    I have been a “Franklin Planner” guy since 1992 and there are always an extra pair of shoelaces in a little pouch in my planner, along with a few bandaids. It has served me well over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah pal, what you do to yourself…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hhhmmm…
    Few weeks ago, as soon as Esam came in from work, he immediately proceeded to take his pants off.
    “These need to be fixed, please! ”

    I looked and there were 8 large size safety pins all along the crotch line.
    He said it happened early during the day.
    I don’t know how he was able to function with 8 large safety pins down there.

    He works at Bloomingdales, they have an alterations department, he could have bought something, but No!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I too was taught that you can learn a lot about a person by their shoes but I think the poetry one thinks about in the morning is a far better measure.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Lol…so funny, the thoughts in our heads that REALLY matter. As for the “wound still fresh”, it’s funny how that all works. Some of life’s greatest lessons lie there though, at least for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Say it out loud haha! ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. LOL! Love the ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I enjoyed this excellent post. Will he make it? The pressure’s on! A universal theme, well-written. I love the punchline.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post. Reminds me of my workplace a bit.
    I work with a lady, I call her Ruthless, that anytime you start to explain why you did something she starts shaking her head “no” before you get three words out of your mouth.
    Then the boss, Dan-O, he’s a basket case all the time, and when confronted with a little pressure he starts scratching his head.
    So we had some Upper Management people in, and it was high anxiety around here, and the Regional VP asked me some non-consequential question about how I do my work. I looked past the VP, and Ruthless and Dan-O are standing there behind him with terrified looks on their faces, Rachel shaking her head “no”, and Dan-O scratching his head with BOTH HANDS.
    It was too much and I just cracked up, and the VP asked me why I was cracking up and I just went ahead and told him just what I have told you here.

    Anyway, that was three years ago. Things have changed a little. Dan-O is cooler, and doesn’t scratch his head hardly at all. Rachel seldom shakes her head “No”, and the techs in the shop that told me on my first day at work 10 years ago “we dont say good morning here”, all say good morning now.
    I got a promotion this week. I’ve somehow managed to change the whole culture of our office here, and I did it from the very bottom of the food chain. I’m proud of that.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Such a human story! I think if we even began to know what people were worried about, we would all realise how insane our minds are! I have a new saying, “I am not my mind, I am not my body.” Believing this is the hard part. 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I don’t notice people’s shoes very much, but it’s amazing how we can get stuck on something like shoelaces when we have an important meeting or interview coming up. It might be an attempt to feel like we have some control in life. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I saw the photo and thought DK’s, socks and shoes, NO Way…cause I know you aren’t a Sock Rebel…I do recall a previous post of yours when you mentioned a colleague’s saying some biting words, 30 years ago when you were starting out in the business world and that it still stings…and I mentioned something about haberdashery in NYC…sorry the caustic words creep in at times…hope that on the weekends your black socks are out of view, tucked away, hibernating in their sock drawer…and some fun socks grace your feet.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. PS: the shoe’s threaded laces in the photo are non conforming to the color of the shoes…and now I think of a scene from the movie “Sixteen Candles” and Sammy Baker Davis Jr’s grandfather Fred standing in her room, wearing his underwear including socks held up with ‘Sock Suspenders’ etched in my minds eye is that image and that of Fred Mertz, Lucy’s neighbor with his high waist-ed pants…

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Brilliant David! I think we e all experienced anxiety over a broken lace. I was limping along with you.
    Great ending 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I just read this quote: “If any two people could ever really get inside each other’s head, it would scare the pee out of both of them. ” John D. MacDonald

    Or maybe laugh the pee out of both of them…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Carolann. Yes. Reminds me of:

      what I’m trying to say is that your way of experiencing the world is subtly and vastly different from mine or the strawberry-eating doctor’s or the high-fivers’, and that these alternate realities—the world seen through the muck of billions of different brains—encompass much of the wonder and freakishness of being alive.

      ~ Peter Orner, from “Chekhov’s Way of Dying” in Am I Alone Here?: Notes On Living to Read and Reading to Live (Catapult, 2016)


  20. When we worry about the newly hatched larvae on the left foot, there is a good reason to be grateful – nothing bigger to worry about. This was a smile hatcher, David. Definitely.

    Liked by 1 person

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