My endodontist’s office is on Mass Ave, next door to a big old house that’s been divided into multiple apartments and across the street from a small strip mall with a realtor, a dry cleaner and a veterinarian. With the window blinds up, I am on display to anyone who drives by or looks up as they pass on the sidewalk. Much as I like company and eschew privacy, in this particular situation I would like less of the former and more of the latter. The upside to the arrangement is that if they can see me, I can see them, and the voyeur in me appreciates the quid pro quo.
On my last visit, to assess yet another tooth gone bad, I noticed a pair of sneakers in the upstairs window of an apartment in the house next door. They were arranged toe to heel on the sill. Even with the screen, they seemed precariously balanced, as if at any moment they could plummet to the ground, three stories below. I pointed them out to the assistant who was busy laying a lead apron on top of me. She followed my finger and said, “Goodness, why would they do that?” To air them out, although it is not something I’ve ever seen done around here.
Once, when I was young and carefree, I stayed at a fancy hotel in London while on a business trip. I entertained a gentleman caller one evening and when it was time for him to leave, I saw him retrieve his shoes from the roof outside the window. In truth, gentleman is a bit of a misnomer in this case. He was neither of good family, breeding, or social position nor was he sensitive, civilized, or educated—all dictionary definitions for gentleman. He was, however, in this particular instance, a well-mannered man. A scrapper from Notting Hill (before gentrification) by way of St. Vincent, he had never had occasion to be in a nice hotel, much less a posh one like the St. James’s on Park Place. He was clearly impressed and determined to treat it with respect. I didn’t see him remove his shoes or put them outside the window so I can’t say whether or not they needed airing out, but I appreciated the gesture nonetheless.
In more recent history, my mother-in-law took us to Paris for vacation, and we visited family friends at their apartment in St. Maur des Fosses. The friends, a Japanese woman and her French husband, live in a fifth floor walk-up with their youngest son. The apartment is quite small; their bed is a loft platform reached by a ladder with no railing, and the son’s room is barely big enough for a twin-size futon. In order to accommodate visitors, most often her parents from Japan, they purchased the apartment next door, which can be accessed through a door in their kitchen. While touring the empty apartment, I noticed several pairs of shoes lined up on the windowsill of an open window, with no screen to prevent them from taking flight.
My next visit to the endodontist is coming up soon. I am curious to see if the sneakers will still be there. And now I am even more curious about who owns them. Are they from another country; England, France, Japan, or St. Vincent? Or is the owner more pedestrian, a local teenager with stinky feet? Perhaps musing about that will distract me from my root canal. In any case, if you’re in the neighborhood during my appointment, please keep your eyes on your feet until you’ve passed by. Maybe, if you think you need to, it will remind you to put your shoes in the window when you get home. I’ve heard it helps.