Everyone has a story about how they got where they are, and probably even have some mementos that they’ve collected over the years. Mine includes this ratty old Converse high-top. I keep it with me as a reminder of where I have been and what I’ve learned along the way.
I first saw this shoe during my second season working at Canobie Lake Park. It was dark blue and looked as if it had just come out of the box. I was running a ride called the Paratrooper (like the picture below) and it was close to closing time. I happened to notice one exuberant youth who was actively kicking his feet back and forth – almost as if he was trying to kick his shoes off. I started to bring the ride down, and the next time he came around I noticed that he was missing his left shoe. He hobbled over to me when the ride stopped.
“Dude, I lost my shoe. I think it’s stuck up in that tree.” His shoe was, in fact, perched on a branch in a tree behind the ride, about 30 feet in the air. “I’m sorry”, I said, “But there is no one here that can go up there and get your shoe right now.”
“But dude, my Mom is going to kill me if I don’t come home with both shoes – she just bought them today!” And then it happened… I heard myself turn into my Dad.
“Maybe you should have thought of that before you tried to kick it off your foot”, I snickered.
Maybe I was a bit of a young punk, too, but I was trying to make a point that you have to live with the consequences of your choices. (Little did I know that that would be a big topic for me later on.)
The story of the shoe does not end here. It actually stayed up in that tree for seven years. Seven years… through the wind, rain, snow and anything else Mother Nature had in store for southern New Hampshire in the 1990’s. I used to refer to it when I trained new operators on that ride. “See that shoe up there? That’s what happens when people kick their shoes off.”
It became part of my collection when a friend that works in maintenance called and said they were cutting the branches back and the shoe would likely be coming down. Of course I ran down there as fast as I could and got the shoe. It has been with me ever since… in every office, cubicle, or workspace I have inhabited.
Over the last 20 years, looking at the shoe has reminded me not to take myself too seriously and that at some point, like it or not, we will all turn into our parents.
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