March 18, 2008

Shine boy

Shoe shine boy. Well, it's not really a shoe shine boy anymore is it? I have three places I get my shoes shined. Or three guys that do it. One is a hispanic guy that doesn't speak english 'til you ask for change. He doesn't like giving change for a $10 on a $6 shine. Honestly, he's not quite worth the $6 to begin with, but you have to give a tip. Right?

The other two are Doc and John. They alternate at the stand that I usually go to. Doc is probably 65 and shines shoes like no other. Efficient, professional, chatty if you want, silent if you prefer. A nice guy that takes immense pride in his work. He probably makes more in a year than I do. He has very regular clients who drop off shoes by the sackful. Think I'm kidding? Shoes are an investment to be taken care of, not tossed aside after a year. (my dad's philosophy is to toss them - he buys one pair a year) John isn't quite as good, but he works hard at doing a good job. Sweat beads on his brow as he puts the elbow grease into his work.

I used to shine my boots in the army to the point they looked like glass. I was a true adept. I used every technique in the arsenal to get that perfect shine. In bright sun, it hurt your eyes to look at them. I used a lighter to melt the Kiwi, I used alcohol as a light finisher to smooth out the shine. I used to get crap from my platoon in front of the formation, "hey, Munkey, you need to shine your boots." They hated standing there in the afternoon sun trying to look forward and I had mirrors on my feet.

Having done that for years, I loath shining shoes. Having shiny shoes isn't something to take pride in for me. It's not about shiney my shoes are, but that they look kept and neat. That the leather is healthy. I feel like the shoe shine is a throw back to generations past though. Times when we didn't live in a throw-away society. When things were built to last and hand-made meant quality, not expense.


At 5:53 PM, Blogger Schuyler said...

Well, I've seen the shine "Stands" at the airport and train stations, but honestly, can't ever remember seeing someone "manning" them. I've seen people sitting in the chair just taking a break, but they were obviously just travellers. And since little boys don't earn nickels on street corners with their portable boxes anymore, where are you going? (Asks the guy who is wearing tennis shoes with completely worn down tread, shredded shoelaces, stained fabric weave, and scuffed beyond all recognition pleather...) Am I just going to the airport at the wrong times?

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Buffalo said...

I've always enjoyed getting a shine. They don't do the job that I can do, but that ain't the point. It is the ambiance of it all.

And I would put my low quarters up against yours any day of the week, MM my friend. Patent leather had a shoddy shine in comparrison to mine. Melted kiwi to lay the base, spit, lot of time with a cotton cloth and just a kiss of alcohol to top it.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Think Frustrated said...

I shine my own shoes. I use all the tricks you mentioned, but I was never in the army. I was, however, an angst-ridden teenager who owned Doc Martens and liked 'em shiny.


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