During and just after college, I worked in a sporting goods shop in a small mountain town in Colorado. In hindsight, the experience from this shop has been a huge benefit. I’m a strong introvert by nature, so the ability to talk with people without stumbling all over myself is priceless.
But that’s not the topic for today. Today is about socks, sandals, and pine straw.
Back to the shop, the hardest thing for us to order happened to be clothing. All of the company reps suggested certain styles that their sales data told them sold well. We’d order those items, hang them up, and they’d sit, and sit, and sit.
When we finally asked a rep about it, she admitted Colorado, and the mountain towns in particular, were a hard nut to crack. It seemed the people living in those locations weren’t concerned about fashion in any way, shape, or form. When she said this, I looked down at my socks and sandals and realized she was right, it wasn’t fashion people were shopping for, it was a measure of function.
Socks and sandals were a part of my everyday life and I wasn’t the only one in that town who often wore them. This wasn’t because I wanted to make a statement and show off my awesome socks, but because where I lived the temperature could start at 32 degrees when I left for work and reach 80 by the time I came home. Considering that I rode my bike to and from work, it wasn’t reasonable to carry an extra pair of shoes, but a pair of socks that kept my toes warm in the morning and that I could strip off by midday was easy. I also learned the socks and sandals thing for hiking.
I’d climb a peak in my hiking boots and then, for the journey down, I’d switch to socks and sandals so that my toes wouldn’t hit the front of my boots and bruise. I have small feet, you see, and it’s hard to find boots that fit right. But with sandals, I didn’t have to worry about this. Plus, the socks helped prevent blistering around the straps and under my soles.
This sort of logic drove our sales at the shop and it made total sense to me.
Then we moved. One day my husband and I walked into a creperie that boasted a sign above their register. It said, “If you look down and you’ve got socks and sandals on, we’re closed.”
I knew it wasn’t a fashionable thing to do, but I’d never run into someone who felt so strongly that they’d make a statement like that.
But then, the creperie was in a location that didn’t have huge temperature swings or large mountains to hike either.
Not long after that, the sandal ended up on the other foot – pun intended. A truck was driving around the neighborhood full of pine straw. They were going door to door to see if people wanted it added to their garden beds like wood chips.
Now keep in mind, in Colorado, pine needles matte the ground like an added layer of grass. In fact, it often replaces grass in people’s front yards because it’s a lot of work to rake it up and get rid of it.
In my mind, I’m thinking, “Who in the world would pay for this stuff?! These people are crazy.”
Come to find out, it makes total sense. The bugs here, particularly the palmetto bugs or roaches, love wood. Add a little rain and they’ll happily make themselves at home in your garden, which is right next to your house, and then a little down the road, your house looks like a great home for the bugs too.
But pine straw’s acidic and doesn’t hold moisture like wood chips do. It’s an easy way to spruce up your garden without inviting in the yucky bugs. In fact, it goes a step further and helps keep the bug population down in the first place.
How many times, I wonder, have I judged another person’s choices without understanding his or her reasons?
This is part of the reason I write. I want to understand people. Through reading, we get to glimpse other people’s worlds, their struggles and joys and weird quirks that aren’t as strange as someone looking in from the outside might think, without having to move to another state to experience it. Maybe it helps us to have compassion and a little understanding for the man who sits down beside us with his bright white socks peeking out the toes of his Chacos or the woman buying bales of pine straw instead of wood chips to put under her azaleas.
P.S. HMII is currently with Alpha readers for the month and Zap Dragon is with Beta readers. It’ll be a few weeks before I receive feedback but we’re on track for both books to be published this year. =)
P.S.S. I’ve been informed that for some readers, the comment box is a ghost. Err. Not sure what WordPress is doing but I’ll see if I can figure it out.