Friday, February 28, 2014

Sole Abraders

A lesson in cleanliness.

Call them anachronisms. They are.

But still, I've seen several around here.

Boot scrapers.

They look like ladder rungs, or flat grab-handles, set into the pavement, and they wait outside doors, until someone comes along, soles heavy and caked with gumbo mud, and then they spring into service.

But passively, because they are after all solid iron, and are anchored at each end in concrete, and can't spring. And are now useless, since not only the walkways (sidewalks as we gringos say), but also the streets are paved, and there is no mud to be found.

So it makes a person wonder just what things used to be like, and how long ago they were like that. I certainly don't know.

A local friend, another gringo, knows a woman from up north, who said that when she was a child it was common to see bare feet in Quito's streets — say about twenty to twenty-five years back, which isn't that long ago.

And would be as startling to see today as barefoot brokers on Wall Street.

I have no idea what Cuenca was like twenty-five years ago, but there might have been close-in unpaved streets then, or a little farther back, and these boot scrapers might have been welcome, and frequently used.

Wait. Cancel that — there are unpaved streets around the city's edges today. I know that because I have walked there. These streets may technically be out of the city limits, but if so, that is only an irrelevant political detail — they are easily reachable on foot within half an hour by someone setting out from the city's center, now, today, at this moment, which is what I have done.

Which, in turn, brings history closer. Which puts these anachronistic boot scrapers into a more contemporary context.

They are only slightly out of date.

And can still be used to remove dog excrement, if it should get thick enough, which, in some locales, on some days, it might, because unlike mud, excrement today is both common and ubiquitous.

You don't want that in your house, now, do you?

Mind the scraper then.


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