My beautiful wife won’t let me wear slippers to Dillons on Grocery runs. It’s puzzling; before our wedding she was very concerned about my cold feet. Now she tells me it is improper and will lower other grocery shoppers’ opinion of me. But in order for slipper-wearing to stain my good name among the other cart-pushers, those cart pushers have to do two things, in succession: 1. Notice me in the first place 2. Judge my slippers. I’m just not sure that's happening.
One of the valuable lessons I learned while living in England and traveling on the European continent was this: The vast majority of human beings I encounter don’t notice me. I came within feet of thousands uppon thousands of people in airports, train stations, tourist traps, sidewalks, subways and gyms from Krakow, Poland to Bordeaux, France and only two strangers spared an extra glance for little old me—and both were slightly off their European rockers. But I find myself noticing (or not noticing) the same thing in Newton. I don’t remember the name or the face of the Kwik Shop clerk who printed me an extra receipt the other day, and I would suspect she (or he, that’s how little I remember) has forgotten me just as thoroughly. I couldn’t tell you how many people walked by me on main street as I drove to the Rec Center this afternoon. If logic and science allowed us, just once, to notice all the people we don’t notice (don’t try to think about that too long; you’ll never make it out) seeing a movie at Chisholm Trail 8 or waiting for a train on main, I think we would be shocked at the number. We spend our lives, even in Newton, Kansas, overlooking people and being overlooked. And that’s okay. Imagine being a celebrity and having thirty pale-faced, Cheeto-stained, celebrity-buzz bloggers informing the world every time you wear slippers to pick up milk at Meridian Grocery.
To be fair to my beautiful wife, I do see many people I already know at the store, and they notice me. But that’s just the first step. Next, they have to judge my slippers. And if someone is going around Newton judging slippers all day, I’m not sure if I want their good opinion.
In the end, as much as I kick against the goads, my wife is right. It is best to look presentable in public. But, just so you know, if I see you wearing your slippers in Dillons or anywhere else, I’ll understand.
R. Eric Tippin
In The Study on 8th Street