Giving Shoes the Boot!

I get a kick out of a computer-generated paper sign taped to the front of the Pilates reception desk that asks all who enter to remove their “foot attire” upon entering the studio. In one corner of the sign is a clip-art depiction of a pair of boots and in another corner is one of a pair of shoes. Just in case there is any question as to what constitutes “foot attire”.
I wondered aloud to the receptionist as to why the sign couldn’t just urge visitors to remove their shoes. Was it because, I posited, that would leave room for surly, semantically correct boot-wearers to point to their feet and say, “But, look, I’m wearing … boots” and indignantly refuse to remove them?
As it turns out, yes. But it wasn’t boots that forced the “foot attire” wording. It was something a little more creative. This is Pilates, after all, which draws a less than conventional crowd. A crowd that fancies itself a step ahead of other crowds. And far more wacky and given to bouts of ebullient whimsy.
As it turns out, quite a few people marched in on snowshoes during the snowstorm a couple of weeks ago and tracked in quite an icy mess that was met with a rather chilly reception. When told to remove their shoes, these frosty folks started to say, “But these aren’t …” and then realized that yes, snowshoes count as shoes. It was then that the masterminds behind the Pilates signage committee knew they had to put up a sign requesting the removal of shoes.
I suppose they should have been prepared for the bohemian caprice of their clientèle. For instance, one particularly clever client sloshed into the studio with two warmed-up Swanson’s Hungry Man TV dinners (veal parmigiana!) strapped to her bare feet, claiming it helped her find her “center”. Another clomped in atop Romper Stompers, the upside-down yellow cups with green plastic tubing popularized on “Romper Room”. Another tottered in with one of her feet Crazy-Glued to a girder and the other to a balance beam. And yet another dragged in two booze-addled, filth-encrusted vagrants who latched onto her feet as she climbed the subway steps and still refused to release them even as she scraped their bloodied heads against an old-fashioned boot-scrape somewhere on 18th Street.
So I suppose it was, after all, necessary for the Pilates people to create a blanket term to cover all tracks, rather than just a simple “Shoo, Shoes!”
I’m just relieved to know they weren’t being pretentious!