Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Solo Shoe: What does it mean?

I suppose, you are like me and when you pass a solo shoe left on the roadside and you cannot help asking yourself, "How did that get there and under what circumstances?"

A colleague of mine from California was staggered to find wherever she went within the city she came across single socks and oranges abandoned on the pavement. Intrigued by the phenomena and after some detective work she soon discovered it was children in a rush to get home from games. Carelessly carrying their sports bag they lost a sock and at the same time jettisoned the ubiquitous orange given to them by mum for after sports treat.

A boot set on top a fence post was an old sign that someone was at home. A little more difficult to explain was the story of the lady’s fashion shoe found 25,707 feet up Mount Everest. In 1960 a Chinese mountaineer discovered oxygen gear and tent poles from a previous climber’s camp. The equipment dated back to the 1920's & 30's and the gear was thought to belong to the ill-fated Mallory & Irvine expedition of 1924. Amongst the effects was a single ladies fashion shoe beautifully crafted in brown leather. No satisfactory explanation was ever given. Experts agreed at these altitudes no climber would dare carry anything that was not vital to the expedition. Perhaps it was the lucky charm, tragically overlooked in their desperate desire to reach the summit.

One other possible explanation for the lady’s shoe on Mount Everest might be it belonged to a transvestite adventurer called Maurice Wilson (1898-1934). Wilson was an eccentric Englishman, who decided to climb Everest solo while recuperating from illness. His plan was to fly to Tibet, crash land his plane on the mountain's upper slopes, then walk to the summit. Wilson had no previous flying or climbing experience and his expedition was doomed from the start. Despite this in 1934, he flew a Gypsy Moth to India and on May 22, 1934, tried to climb to the North Col but failed at an ice wall. He set up camp at around 21,000 feet and nine days later his last diary entry read: "Off again, gorgeous day," sadly ill-fated, because his body was found in 1935 in snow, surrounded by his blown-apart tent. Seems Wilson had packed women's clothes for the expedition.

Ornithologists in the Netherlands and Shetlands monitoring dead birds logged footwear washed up on the shorelines. In Holland more right shoes were washed up, while the Shetlands were inundated with left foot shoes. Stranger still where only soles remained, there were more left-footers on the east coast of Shetland than the west. And just to bring it home, a recent environmental report documented the concerns of a coastal town in WA, alarmed at the pollution caused by abandoned thongs.

For many years all over North American cities, training shoes were left tied together and hanging over telephone wires. These sometimes would remain for years. Many suggestions have been advanced to explain the practice but none were especially satisfactory. Back in the 90s, The Los Angeles Times were sufficiently concerned they brought a group of experts together to try to explain the habit. The general consensus was teenagers were responsible and it was thought an action of defiance. Leaving school, the celebration of a sexual conquest, or the result of a drunken adolescent challenge were the main justifications but experts also considered meaningless copycatting was the real motive. One other sinister possibility was the way street gangs marked out their territory, memorize a fallen comrade or simply torment someone being bullied.

(Video Courtesy: Ramón J. GOÑI SANTALLA Youtube Channel)

More recently aerial graffiti has come to indicate a drug dealer is in the close facility. The type and style of the hanging shoes infers the range of illegal narcotics available to buy.

Reviewed 23/05/2018

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