As I noted before, I’ve decided that I’m going to go barefoot a lot this summer, and not exclusively outdoors, either. I noted that, in fact, there is no Health Department regulation whatsoever that prohibits you from going barefoot inside a restaurant or similar establishment. I know this because I found a website where a couple guys wrote letters to the health Departments of all 50 States asking if there was a law. They all wrote back saying there wasn’t, and he posted all their letters on the website. So, legally I ought to have no trouble. Of course, establishments are still free to set a dress code that you have to follow if you want to enter; this usually goes along the lines of “No shirt, no shoes, no service” on a sticker on the door. They could require you to wear pink hats, if they wanted to. I read that example on a website and I liked it enough that I always say pink hats now.
I haven’t gone into enough places to get a broad range of reactions, but I’ll tell you a few things that have happened.
I’ve gone into Walgreens several times without incident, probably because they haven’t even paid attention to my feet.
I’ve gone into Graeter’s – for you out-of-towners, that’s the best ice cream company in the country – a few times. Only once did I get a reaction. That was when the manager and an employee were chatting by the door. As soon as he saw me come in, he said, “Shoes???!”
“Why?” I said.
“We just had a big health inspection! I can’t have anything happen!”
At this point I whipped out a printed copy of the Health Department letter, because I knew it would come in handy for this sort of thing. “Well, actually,” I said, handing it to him, “That’s not a law.” He glanced at it and said, “Okay. You’re free this time.” A pretty jerky way to put it, but I can understand, what with health inspections.
I also went to Skyline the other day. Out-of-towners, it would take too long to explain, so go do independent research. I had flip-flops in my pockets. (Cargo shorts.) When I walked in, the manager lady said, “Sir? You have to have shoes on to eat here.” So I shrugged and flipped and flopped into them, and ate. When I was done, I talked with her. “When I came in, as you noticed, I didn’t have shoes on. I’m wondering, Why can’t I eat without them?”
“I don’t know, it’s a Health Department rule,” she said, shrugging it off.
“I thought it might come down to that,” I said, and showed her the letter. She looked at it. Then she said, “Well, it’s our policy. I don’t know.” So I said, “Well, in that case, let me ask you – I put on these flip-flops. How exactly does that make my feet less objectionable?” She said, “I don’t know. It’s just a policy. I don’t know.” I couldn’t argue with “I don’t know,” so I said okay and left.
And finally, I went into UDF yesterday. Out of-towners, it’s a gas station and convenience store. I was getting laundry detergent. There was a managerial-looking guy, about 60 years old, and I asked him where it was. He pointed me to it, and then, suddenly noticing, said, “You have to have shoes on to come in here.”
I didn’t handle this one as articulately as I needed to. “Oh. Is – is – is there a sign on the door?”
“It’s a Board of Health regulation. You have to have shoes on.”
“Well, actually, ther – ”
“Actually, sir, you have to have shoes on,” he said, completely cutting me off.
“There is no Board of Health regula – ”
“Actually sir you have to have shoes on.”
“Because there’s food in here! Use your head, sir!!”
“Okay, look. I’ll put my sandals on and – ”
“Okay then. All right.”
I walked out toward Mom’s car where I had my sandals. Then I reconsidered. I opened the door and hollered, “Actually, considering that reception, I’ll take my business elsewhere!”
This guy is the worst reaction I’ve gotten so far. He wasn’t even trying to be civil about it; he was just an out-and-out jackass. However, I’ll address one thing real quick. “Because there’s food in here! Use your head, sir!!” Well, if he had used his, he’d notice that what he said didn’t make a whole lot of sense. All right, I’m barefoot. So shoes are cleaner than feet? I wash my feet daily. I’ve never washed my shoes. What exactly does he think is going to happen, anyhow? If I’m carrying any diseases, he should require me to wear a mask, because the mouth is germs’ primary escape route to the air. So, now we’ve got that cleared up.
After the UDF jackass incident, I told Mom about it and why I didn’t have any detergent. So we went to a different convenience store. On the way, she asked me why didn’t I just wear shoes. Well, because I don’t like to. She cited the familiar ghost Health regulation, which I promptly dispelled for her. So she argued differently. She says it’s a cultural thing. It’s polite to keep you shoes on here, just the same way it’s polite to take them off in Japan. Okay, so people like you to have your shoes on. Since when is it a right for people to have everyone do exactly what they want? I don’t think that one was in the Bill of Rights. I’ll give her that it’s polite. But I happen to think it’s uncomfortable. Isn’t one of the goals of a consumer establishment to make a customer comfortable? Someone lost sight of that. So now Mom tried a different tack. She said: “There are just so many more important things in the world.”
Agreed! To name just three of them, there are millions starving and being killed in Darfur, the South Koreans live under a madman, a quarter of the globe is under the totalitarian control of communist China. [Note from 2017: Wow, okay. Yeesh.] All this is tragic, and there’s no way to argue otherwise. It would be a triumphant victory for mankind if just one of these three problems were solved in the next few years. But no one can claim to think solely about those things. We have our own lives, too; we’re not completely diffused into the total Earth society. Duh. Thus, in my own life in the here and now, I’m taking on my trifling crusade to be allowed to go barefoot in public places. Why not? I like to. It’s comfortable. I can take the flak from overzealous manager types. And jeez, it’s summer.
P.S.: Another objection is that it’s a liability issue if a store lets someone in barefoot. Two rebuttals: If a store says this, they’re basically admitting that they create a dangerous environment for customers. And people need to get out of the litigation mindset; I won’t sue for anything reasonable that happens to me that wouldn’t if I had shoes on. (I would sue if an overzealous manager type came at me with a dinner knife, for example.) I’ll tell as much to anyone who comes at me with a liability concern. P.P.S.: The website I mentioned is www.barefooters.org. It’s very good.