At work in 1999, in a lonely, distant alcove of our break room, my friend ABP huffed, “If you don’t take care of your feet, they can’t take care of you.” I nodded. Her tone changed to a groan, “I messed up by wearing stylish shoes my whole life.” She told me how in the 1970's, she hobnobbed through dozens of Philadelphia-areas discotheques in "fuck-me pumps." Then she lamented, “And now with this job, I’m paying the price twenty-five years later…my feet are killing me.”
I said, “Sometimes my feet hurt too.” She took off a shoe, massaged her foot and said with a sigh of depression, “No. I have real problems and keep putting off surgery.” I said, “Sorry to hear that.” ABP said, “I have ugly feet with bunions and my gnarled toes are a million times worse.”
ABP was an especially good-looking woman. Even in her forties, if she put her mind to it, I'm certain she could make a decent living as a model. To boost her morale I said, “I’m sure nothing about you could be ugly.” She said, “You’re sweet. But if you saw my hammer toes and clawed toe…you’d barf.”
|A HAMMER TOE (MIDDLE TOE) IS A DEFORMITY THAT PERMANENTLY BENDS THE TOE (RESEMBLING A HAMMER), AT A JOINT. SIMILAR PROBLEMS INCLUDE, CLAW TOES AND MALLET TOES.|
My hammer toe curiosity got the better of me. Besides, ABP opened the door with what sounded like an invitation. So I innocently said, “Okay, let’s see.” I guess the poor girl had been hit-on a gazillion times. She growled, “I’m not taking off my pantyhose in front of you!” I knew my friendship was devalued to “coworker” as she stood up and silently hobbled away.
Other than the obvious sexual lesson I learned, I found out the importance of taking care of your feet and legs, (especially in casinos where many of us spend the vast majority of our time on duty, standing up). In my particular case, the risk factors are heightened because for over fifteen years, I have been an avid power-walker. Yes my calves (only) are so well-chiseled that Michelangelo’s, “Statue of David” is jealous.
|I SUGGESTED POWER-WALKING TO BIG DAVE, BUT HE'S BEEN STUCK IN THE SAME RUT AND HASN'T MOVED FOR QUITE SOME TIME.|
ABP’s words of warning have remained with me. So, I panic and stress over the new creaks, leaks and squeaks of old age that prey on my lower body. You never know, one of them might signal a debilitating problem that could prematurely end my livelihood or even cripple me.
A perfect example of a sudden new physical problem invading my body, occured two years ago. That's when my son Andrew started university life. His school, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is near Trenton. At ninety-minutes away by car, he is close enough for visits and far enough that he (and we) feels like he’s away.
On one of my visits during his freshman year, about halfway up, I got a severe, knifing pain, in my right, upper-most thigh. It felt like a cramp, so I tried to flex, within the confines of the car, but I got no relief. Soon the radiating agony expanded down my leg, to the arch in my foot. I pulled over.
I used to get leg cramps when I played high school football, so I did some of our pre-game leg exercises. I got immediate relief. But forty-five minutes of driving later, the intense stabbing pain returned.
The same symptoms afflicted me on the way home…and still do whenever I drive longer than forty-five minutes. I told my doctor. She never heard of such a thing? She said, “If it only affects you on long car rides, you’re lucky…when you need to stretch…stretch.”
Damn, when it rains, it pours. Then, about a year ago, I developed another new, sharp pain, in my right heel. It felt like I had stepped on a rock in bare feet. I’d have good days then it would return. I waited until my twice-a-year check-up to see my doctor. She didn’t hesitate to make a diagnosis, “You have plantar fasciititis!” She recommended some home remedies that included stretching, icing it down and massage. I got a degree of relief, continued power-walking and never missed a day at work.
Incredibly, soon my other foot acted-up. On the outside edge of my left foot, I thought I had a painful wart. It was at an odd angle, so I never actually saw it. A month of wart removal treatment didn’t help. I bought bigger shoes, wore thicker socks and started wearing gel-pads. I felt better but not good. At their worst, both feet were killing me simultaneously.
One of my customers saw the anguish in my face and sympathized for me. During a lull, I told her my situation. She said that she used to be a bank teller and that she got relief by getting clogs that nurses wear.
Four months ago, (April 2014), on my most painful day, I gave in to the torture of my feet and went to a medical supply store. The clerk said their shoes were sold through mail-order only. I didn’t want to wait. She suggested Allen’s Shoes.
The salesman at Allen’s thought I had plantar fasciititis in my right foot and speculated that I had tendonitis in my left foot. He tried to sway me off the clogs. As per my customer’s advice, I tried them on anyway. They were butt-ugly, felt weird to walk in and didn’t make my feet feel any different…plus were twice as expensive as any shoes I ever bought.
I tried on a pair of New Balance shoes. In three strides, it was like a friggin’ miracle. If it had been a cloudy day, the sun would have burst through the overcast to the tune of heavenly harp music. My acute pain (in both feet) turned off like a light switch. I walked through every corner of the store expecting the relapse…that never happened.
Luckily, these shoes don’t have that Frankenstein orthopedic look and immediately felt like ordinary shoes, (yes they were more expensive than the clogs but in exchange for greater support, one can’t have everything…can one)?
I stopped complaining about the cost by the third day. Mainly because after work, I take my shoes off at the front door and throw them in the dark garage, (years ago, I tracked automotive grease from the casino parking lot through our living room…and never heard the end of it from my wife Sue). Of course now Sue gives me a hard time for bitching about the price of my princely shoes and then throwing them willy-nilly like they were shit and upsetting the pristine orderliness of our storage facility).
My new shoes are so good that when I was on vacation, I was reminded how important they were. Five days into my time off, I’d get achy tendonitis twinges. The return of these subtle ouchies meant the problem still exists but once back to work, my great footwear make life livable.
Unfortunately, getting older means, if you manage to defeat some stray physical obstacle, there’s always another to carry the torch of trouble, misery and hurt to another part of your body. That’s why I was so pissed-off coming in to work this past Wednesday (August 13th).
The walk from the employee parking lot to the break room is two city blocks. From the second I got out of my car, I had an intense pain in my left pinkie toe. At first, I imagined that my sock was bunched up…but a blister couldn’t go from “zero-to-sixty,” in mere seconds. Like the stubborn schmuck that I can be, I decided to keep walking (limping).
I dwelled on negativity and I convinced myself that something like a hammer-toe could spring-up from out of nowhere. It was disgusting how I pictured my wee digit being dark purple, swollen and with pus oozing from under the toenail. I was remembering that ABP said that the convalescence from her surgery would have her off her feet for months. That’s when I was thinking that amputation might be necessary if I wanted to avoid time lost from my job.
I headed for the union men’s room. Inside, I sat on a bench so I’d get a good look at the malevolence growing out of my little toe. I took off my wonderful New Balance shoe and carefully set my cherished hero down. I peeled off my unbunched-up sock and was shocked to find my beautiful foot…and suddenly pain-free pinkie...in perfect condition. I shook out my sock…nothing! My golden-boy shoe was next. And aha, I heard something rattling around. I sensed it couldn’t be a pebble because it seemed too light but it had to be somewhat sizeable to get wedged in and cause me such aggravation.
Oh how I felt like an idiot when I discovered a single M and M-sized dog food nugget in my shoe.
|I FOUND OUT THE HARD WAY THAT DOG FOOD SHAPED LIKE M AND M's DON'T MELT IN YOUR HAND, MOUTH OR SHOE!|
I tried to think back and pictured throwing my shoes in the garage and toppling the forty-pound bag of dog food. One piece found its way into the shoe and like a perfect storm of circumstances, the one nugget got lodged well enough in, to crush my cute and defenseless little toe. Yay me, another edition of "Edelblum Mystery Theater" has been solved.
Yes it’s true, I gained another little victory…but life is usually reduced to the temporary joy of little victories. It sucks to think about it but we never know when the ugly head of catastrophe is lurking around tomorrow’s corner. I say, what separates the well-adjusted people of world from those who get caught-up, is how we play the bad poker cards of life, we are dealt. Just remember, there's no business like shoe business...and as Ethel Merman used to say; let's go on with the show.
So to side-step many of life's miseries, always keep your head, be prepared to bluff and check for dog food in your shoes.