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Weekly Column: On Shoes and Police Booths


Some of you may have seen a shoe perched majestically at the top of the hill in my front yard. If not, I’m enclosing a picture as an introduction. We named it Fred. Say hello to the people, Fred.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “You named a shoe?” Well, why not? We always name the strays that end up hanging around our house. Last fall we named the mice that set up housekeeping there, even as I tracked them down and did a Dirty Harry on their rodent rears.

One day I got home and Fred was simply – there. I live on a main street, and lots of young people (read: litterers) go by, so a certain amount of trash is expected. My neighbors have been doing renovations, and whenever a stiff wind pops up some of their waiting to be disposed of debris will take up shop around my house. Just a few days ago I found the remains of a light bulb scattered across my porch. Who knows about that? Maybe somebody had an earth-shattering idea.

But a shoe?

That’s not an object easily blown around, especially to land at the top of an embankment. No, it had to have been thrown there. If so, it was an exceptionally artistic throw, as the show landed upright, proudly showing its profile to passers-by.

I’m generally annoyed at litter, but in this case I confess to being rather bemused. So bemused, in fact, that I left the shoe there, wondering if the owner might show up to claim it. Maybe it was tossed there by some clownish “friend” who thought it would be funny to see his buddy stumping around in one shoe.

But no one claimed the poor little orphan, so I felt I had to name him, and picked Fred out of thin air. How do I know it’s a male shoe? How many girls do you know who would throw away a perfectly good shoe? I rest my case.

Later I told my daughter that Fred could stay until lawn mowing time, and she informed me in turn that I could simply mow around it. How, Jillian asked, could I just abandon Fred? I thought she was going to sock me. (Get it?) Her passion left me tongue-tied. (Get that one?) I appreciated her sole-searching, but couldn’t build Fred his own room -- not on my shoestring budget. (Okay, that’s enough.)

For now, Fred stays. Maybe his other half will show up, and they’ll get off on the right foot with some other owner. Hm. Come to think of it, I wonder if they’re elevens?

Now, I told you that story to tell you this one:

The Town of Albion is preparing to decide, as part of the Courthouse Square Improvement Project, whether to remove the half century old police booth on the southeast corner of the square. All of us will have a chance to voice our opinion, but as a town councilman I may be one of the five to decide the matter. No pressure, there.

Now, I was ambivalent about the issue (that’s my word for the week). It’s not really needed, and rarely used. On the other hand, it does have historical value, and I think it adds to the atmosphere of our downtown. In general I’m in favor of keeping historical buildings, unless the structure’s condition makes the cost of maintenance and renovations outweigh the value.

On the third hand, the police booth is very small and has been well maintained, and the cost of slapping on some paint and roof shingles would surely be low. Low enough to justify its aesthetic value? It’s not my money, after all.

Jillian settled this question for me: “You are not going to let them tear that building down! You’re keeping that building!”

This is the same kid who still pines for the time and temperature sign taken down years ago from the bank across the street.

“You’re way too young to be nostalgic,” I told her. But it runs in the family, and her sister is also in favor of keeping the booth. I know when I’m outnumbered, and I don’t want to worry every morning about whether I’m going to wake up with my hair shaved off, or “History Hater!” painted across my back. So I’m weighing in on the side of keeping the police booth.

But Fred’s gotta go.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC)
If something is done with the police booth to actually make it look historic--or relevant, I would be all for keeping not (not that my opinion matters in the least).

But if it's just going to sit there, as is... meh. Trash it.
Mar. 17th, 2006 09:10 pm (UTC)
It actually does look historic -- like a 1950's police booth. :-) Historic is in the eye of the beholder, of course.

Yes, your opinion does matter -- that's the whole point of this. We're trying to get as much sense as possible of how people feel about the booth, go or stay. Very, very few members of the public come to town council meetings, and when they do, they usually have an ax to grind -- so they're not a reliable measure of public opinion.

So far you're in the minority of the people who have talked to me, but the other council members run in different circles and may be hearing a far different story. Before making a decision, we're going to compile all those opinions. We have the responsibility to do what we think is best for the town, even if it goes against public opinion, but at the same time public opinion is one of our most important tools in making decisions like this -- especially since it's not really going to do much harm either way.

So, how did you like Fred?
Mar. 17th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
you should take fred inside. he must be getting a bitter cold.
Mar. 17th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
Er, I'm a little worried about what might come out of Fred when he warms up. After all, I don't know where he's been, or what's been inside him. :-(
Mar. 24th, 2006 12:31 am (UTC)
You could enshrine Fred in the police booth. Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. (I couldn't think of any shoe metaphors.)

I like your new icon!
Mar. 24th, 2006 08:12 am (UTC)
Fred in the booth
Why didn't I think of that? Gee, now the shoe's on the other foot.
Jan. 14th, 2007 11:24 am (UTC)
at first I was way impressed with all the shoe metaphors, but right now I can't stop thinking "where did the third hand came from?!?"
Jan. 15th, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
the third hand
My my little dose of whimsy! There's a science fiction novel in which the third hand of the galaxy's only alien species, called the gripping hand, is critical to the plot, and that's probably where I got the idea from.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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