Tuesday, May 30, 2006

These Shoes Were Made for Breaking the Law

I have been flagrantly breaking the law for almost two years and did not know it until today, when a rather rude and poorly coifed German woman brought it to my attention.

In the midst of one of my terrible Tuesdays, I stopped by my office to drop off some things. After feeding the meter, I was taking a few books out of the trunk. All of a sudden I heard a voice from behind me.

Rude woman: That is not possible! You cannot wear those!

(Claire twisting and turning trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Claire finally spots rude woman. Rude Woman looks very cross and has a hair color that violates the laws of nature. (Seriously, someone told middle-age German women that it was okay to dye their hair fire engine red. I wish that person would shut up.))

I turned to the woman. "Excuse me?"

Rude woman: Those shoes! You cannot wear those! It is illegal to wear those shoes while driving!!

I would like to point out that the woman was yelling across a parking lot and practically spit the words at me. She walked away shaking her head and in a very angry state. From her demeanor, you would think that I had just sprayed "666" on the church wall across the street. This incident left me completely breathless and speechless. Difficult to imagine, I know.

This woman is a perfect example of what I like to call "German-ness." I have addressed this before. Germans are very direct in their opinions. Someone told me that they are just being "honest" (which is much better than superficial Americans). I think it is RUDE! Even if my shoes are "illegal" it is completely inappropriate to yell at a stranger across the parking lot as if they have just had committed a crime against humanity. Dude, NOBODY ASKED YOU! What are you, the Assimilation Police? Are you with the Shoe Gestapo? I don't yell at you about your terrible dye job.

Things like this happen a lot. One woman stopped me to tell me that my clothes were inappropriate (I was in a skirt and it was chilly that day), and a neighbor was almost nose to nose to me and said, "You are too pale. You look sick. Are you sick?" "No, ma'am, I am sorry that my natural skin tone offends you." Come to think of it, only German women seem to say these things to me.

Anyway, I was angry about this woman for hours after this incident. Unfortunately, when things like this happen, I can never think of anything clever to say. I wish I could have stopped her, gotten her phone number and then called her later with a good retort.

After my dressing down, I walked into my office building and asked Media Man if it is true. Are my shoes illegal? Media Man shrugged. My business partner, the New Yorker (who is a very well shod woman herself), laughed, looked down, and shook her head yes.

Would you like to see my illegal shoes?

They look pretty harmless right? Apparently it is illegal to drive in them because if you had to break quickly you may slip out of them and get into an accident. I brought this up to my English students later in the afternoon. They agreed that the woman's behavior was inappropriate, but sadly my shoes are still illegal.

I posed a question: if I was doing the speed limit and following all of the rules of the road and a drunk driver ran a red light and hit me, what would happen. "Claire, it is not good to drive drunk, but you would still get into trouble." This says a lot about the German mind-set.

I came home and took a good look at my shoes. I am still trying to figure out the shoe rules. Is the slide the problem? Is it because they are open toe? Heels are not okay? Can I drive barefoot? Questions, Questions . . .

This pair may be illegal. Although there is a strap and they do not slide off, the heel maybe to high and they are open toe.

This pair is close toe, but has a high heel.

This pair may be okay, but I wear them in winter and not in the summer.

I really do not understand why they sell these shoes, if you cannot drive with them on. What do German women do? And why, why, has my brother-in-law, who is a police office, never said anything? Seriously, he has watched me get out of a car a dozen times in shoes like this. Not a word was mentioned. I just spoke to the German about this, and he has never heard of this rule, but we will call my brother-in-law.

From now on I will put this pair under the seat of my car. Better to be safe than sorry. Also, if another woman yells at me, I am going to shake my shoes at her!!


Anonymous said...

When people tell you it's out of civic mindedness, and respect for the rules, that some folks act like the red haired lady, don't believe them. She's being that way because she likes to be a pain in the arse. (ass to those of you unfamiliar with Irish coloquialisms) Glad to see Aoife is staying in touch!
B & E
PS. The next time someone says that something about you/your attire is illegal, just identify one prominent physical trait, and say "That/those ------ of yours ought to be illegal", and walk off quickly...

Karl said...

I actually have heard of that rule before, from my wife. That just means I can't drive with my Birkenstocks something which many other men in our village do especially when just running an errand somewhere close.

Haddock said...

Oh shit, now its the Shoe Police as well that I have to loook out for. It too wear my Birkenstocks when driving sometimes. Its much more comfortable. But I guess its ok to drive wearing Jack Boots though! :)

Amd what is it with the middle aged women with fire engine red dye jobs. I see loads all the time and it looks terrible. Maybe they are all colour blind! :)

Lisa said...

Why... I'll just take one pair of all of those little Ms. Good-Taste-In-Shoes. :)

Seriously, let me tell you a tale. Long time ago I was driving in shoes quite like the first pair. I was alone on the highway and my foot slipped off the accelerator and the front of my shoe got hooked over it, wedging my foot between the side of the pedal and the floorboard, and the accelerator was stuck almost to the floor.

I wasn't doing anything out of the way. Wasn't even speeding or being lax about looking what I was doing. The shoes were new, the bottom of the shoe was slick and it just happened.

In my shock I pulled my foot back hard but it took a couple tries and I suffered a big scrape down the side of it. While I was doing this pulling I was forced to take my eyes off the road because at first I didn't know what'd happened, and secondly I was shocked when I heard the motor rev up so quickly.

I was really lucky. I wasn't going fast to begin with, I was on a lonely stretch of highway with no other drivers and no one was hurt.

Since then I understand that law. It sounds like an infringement on your rights but I wonder how many women had something happen just like that and maybe rammed a tree and died. You know those unexplained car accidents you hear on the evening news.

I'm on your side but please darling Claire-dude, be careful. The world would be considerably more dull without you in it.

P.S. Next time you go out be sure to carry a can of Bitch-B-Gone in your purse. You just never know when you're going to need it.

Expat Traveler said...

Now that was funny! Ironically, I am honest too, but not rude. Although I've had too many rude encounters lately which I wish I could have done more...

I think the shoe thing is just a safety issue. I remember them always saying flip flops aren't for driving...

Oh and the kitten - well it's not mine but maybe we will get one in due time.

Mike B said...

Yes, the "Das kann nicht sein!" line ...I had that kind of conversation too, with an older women who saw my Teva sandals, which were very securely attached to my feet.

If they weren't so busy watching our shoes or our garbage sorting habits, imagine the real harm our neighbors could be doing.

And the captcha (word verification) for this comment is "ecow", as in Claire is having an e-cow about her nosey neighbors.

christina said...

Whoah, her delivery was WAY out of line. I don't know why people here cannot stop butting into everyone else's business in such a rude, tactless way. Did she ask you if you were wearing clean underwear too?

I heard stories in Canada about it being illegal to drive either barefoot or while wearing flip flops or slides, but I think it's just that it's not recommended precisely for the reasons that Lisa mentioned - too easy to injure your feet or get your shoe stuck under the accelerator/break pedal and cause an accident.

Anonymous said...

It's illegal in California to wear flip-flops or other "slip-on" shoes while driving because of the reasons mentioned above. I always take my shoes off when I'm driving...but I think that might be against the law, too. Hmm.

swissmiss said...

Well...driving barefoot is illegal too...indeed :-( ...they say you might slip off the pedal...sad but true....

casimir said...


See the above link and find out there are no laws against driving barefoot in the States.
The same in Germany.
If you wear footwear though it has to be appropiate.
It is not another persons duty to tell you if she thinks your shoes are not OK.
Why can't people mind their own business.

christina said...

Just came back for a minute to look at your shoes again, 'cause they're so cute (if I wore shoes like that around our town I'd wipe out on the cobblestones) and to say:

"In Germany, everyone's a policeman."

(I just made that up, but don't you think it's true?)

Anonymous said...

I totally sympathise with you Claire - that woman was totally out of order - why didn't she just walk over and advise you instead of making a show of herself and you in the parking lot. They have no shame!! I couldn't cope with the stress of living there again!! Come to Ireland all is forgiven. A

jen said...

That woman was insane.
You'd never get into real troble for your shoes. Unless you wear clogs, that is :).

- Sparky