"Hey, your shoes are untied!"
I hear this constantly, from friends, students, and perfect strangers. It's not my fault. The great minds who run the shoelace industry have conspired over the last decade to create shoelaces that don't stay tied, a matter I find incredibly frustrating. I wear sneakers or hiking boots every day, including the days I teach, and my shoelaces are always dangling and flapping as I walk. These modern shoelaces are pretty, I admit, and they are strong, but the damned things do not stay tied. Yes, I've tried the doubleloop technique that seems to work for my friends. It does not work for me.
My students are always yelling at me to tie my shoes. But what's the point? They just come untied again. I refuse to keep tying them every five minutes, just on principle. The entire purpose of the shoelace to tie the shoe. Why would anyone start making shoelaces that untie as you walk? It's like making a clock that doesn't tell the correct time or a microwave that doesn't cook food or a jack-in-the-box that doesn't pop out of the box.
Back in the day, I told my students, we had shoelaces that stayed tied. They were flat and cotton and sometimes they broke, but at least they did the job.
Of course, I've sort of regarded the warning, "you are going to trip," as some kind of urban myth. No one, I thought, really trips on shoelaces. I mean, it's annoying to have them flopping around my sneakers, but I never thought that the untied shoes were dangerous.
But then last week, I was on an outing with my students. I was walking along a sidewalk, talking happily, gesturing with my hands the way I do when I talk. My left foot stepped down, and my right foot, trapped by a shoelace, stayed tethered to the ground when I tried to pick it up, and in an instant, I went crashing to the ground, falling headfirst onto the sidewalk. My knees, palms, and ego scraped against the asphalt.
My students could have said, "I told you so," but they didn't. They checked my cuts to make sure they were clean, and then one student said, "You know, they still make the old kind of shoelaces. You need to buy some and replace these laces that won't stay tied."
As usual, my students were right. I found flat, cotton shoelaces at the grocery store. I was so eager to buy them that I didn't even stop to see if they had any color but white. I'm thinking black would have been a better choice. But of course, I am not out to make a fashion statement. I'm just happy to have laces that do the job.