Three weeks before the start of our trip, I was summoned by my wife to the spare room to start packing. Since our marriage, I have relinquished all packing responsibility to Ana, as she completely rejects my traditional packing system (developed and perfected in the bachelor days), which is to assemble your requirements exactly one half hour before leaving for the airport, usually in a state of hangover. If you can’t find a suitable luggage, it’s perfectly fine to use a plastic grocery bag, just make sure you tie the handles together so nothing falls out. Now the rationale behind this is simple – when you are packing under pressure, you will ensure that you get everything you need for the trip. Packing in advance of this only results in over thinking your requirements and trying to take along everything you could ever want. But like many other bacheloral standard operating procedures, I’ve found that in marriage it’s better to just give up and give in, so you can get back to watching tv instead of scrapping with your wife and save yourself a whole lot of stress in the process.
One of the decisions I was asked to make was which shoes to take. Now Ana had run every possible Azorean social circumstance she was likely to encounter through her mind and come up with the exact five pairs of shoes she would need to satisfy the requirements. The way I saw it, the majority of the time would be spent drinking and eating with family, and I could definitely remain shoeless for that. Getting to and from the airport would require some sort of foot wear, as would any serious walking excursions. I wasn’t planning on attending any formal occasions, so my requirements boiled down to one pair of running shoes and one pair of sandals. I only have one pair of running shoes, so that was easy. I own several pairs of sandals so I now had to narrow those down to the right pair. I wanted to take my Pakistani chappals, but Ana said they were too heavy for the luggage. Another pair I have are quite comfortable, but often fall off when walking, plus they make me trip, so those were out. Flip flops are okay, but not good for longer strolls, because of that plastic stopper between the big toe and second toe which will eventually slice through your skin like cheese. So I was left with my all time favourite, multi-purpose, twenty dollar, ten year old Payless Shoes sandals. They were comfortable for walking, airy, broken in, proven effective, and in the past, had got me through everything from wedding receptions to all night drinking parties to concrete work to soccer games to ten mile jogs. When I found them in the garage they were caked in mud from the last building project we did in our backyard, but Ana did agree to wash them and give them an inspection, which they somehow miraculously passed, though I had to do a lot of convincing. I did know that the Velcro fasteners were full of fuzz and didn’t really work anymore, some of the threading was coming out, and they were pretty close to falling apart completely, but I figured they had at least another 18 months of life left in them.
Well, yesterday, my sandals were declared dead. On the way home Magnus was convinced I had stepped in bird poo, so I had to show him the bottom of my shoes to prove this was not so. The left one looked fine, but there was definitely something wrong with the right one – half the sole had disintegrated. That explained that strange hollow feeling I was starting to feel in the middle of the shoe, plus the small bits of rubber tia Ana had been finding on the floors. Fortunately, this was a simple fix, once we arrived back at tia Ana’s house she got me some masking tape and six winds later the sole was successfully repacked and reattached to the sandal, and they actually stayed on better too so I thought the problem was solved. Well, Ana banned the sandals from leaving the house, though I was still allowed to play soccer with them, although I must admit feeling a bit of doubt creep into my mind when, after a huge kick, my left sandal flew off and nearly cleared the fence into the neighbour’s yard, which is inhabited by three vicious dogs who would have eaten it.
After this I pleaded with Ana, “Please don’t turn this into a shopping mission. I know what you’re like, you’re going to drag us to the shops and force me to buy new sandals. I don’t want new sandals. I’ll just wear my running shoes, I really don’t care. Honestly.”
We spend a nice evening back at tia Ana’s house and I tested out the new footwear in a rollicking soccer match in the backyard. I did lose by one goal, but the sandals stayed on my feet the entire match so it was a great success.