Jessica and I were walking around the sparsely populated area of Main Street in Sarasota. Our plans were not written in stone, and that is the way we prefer to spend our weekends. Agendas are for weekdays, freedom from schedules is what the weekends are all about. However, we did know that we needed money to embark on our journey, so we stopped to get some cash from an ATM that was located just outside of a grocery store. As Jessica punched in her PIN and waited for the machine to deliver her money, a group of unseemly people emerged through the automatic doors.
They were in mid conversation, and their discourse was an intense one. The furrowed brow of the female orator was matched only by the look of intrigue on her audience's faces. She was speaking with intensity, and at great volume, so I wasn't necessarily eavesdropping, I was just utilizing my ability to listen. The first comment was simple and uninteresting, and had I only heard that part, I wouldn't have even remembered the encounter, but the second line was something that will stay with me always.
She said, “What do you think of these new shoes? They're New Balance, and they're fuckin' comfortable!”
One of her audience members replied, “Yeah, so.”
The woman continued, “Well, I just started going to this new methadone clinic downtown, because we're trying to get clean, so I figured I needed a new pair of sneakers.”
The entire experience lasted only about 10-15 seconds, but its perplexing nature has given me hours of thought provoking questions to ponder. Why would anyone need a new pair of shoes to show up at dawn to a methadone clinic? Did she have to run there each morning to sweat out a night's worth of heroin before she got her daily dose? Was she literally “Chasing the Dragon”, and her old sneakers just didn't provide the cushion and support she needed anymore? Or more comically applicable, was there a dress code at this particular clinic, and her other shoes just didn't meet their high standards?
I conjured up an image of a swanky downtown Sarasota methadone clinic with its patients dressed in what could only be known as “Rehab Casual.” Nothing too dressy, because you'd hate to have a bad reaction to your dosage and end up with vomit or some other bodily secretion on your finely pressed dress pants. But also, this was not your regular dingy, back-alley, run of the pill-mill clinic. No, this place had class. And with that class, would come a dress code.
I imagined this particular woman sauntering down the street in her bright white, unscuffed, New Balance shoes. Her zig-zagging pattern would most likely be due to either drug-induced vertigo or her attempts to thwart the pursuit of an imaginary alligator. Her eyes stayed affixed on the pavement and buildings in front of her, as she would be looking for the red carpet entryway to the upscale clinic where she was going to get her legal daily fix. As she entered the premises, a man would take her coat, and she would be ushered to a waiting room laden with plush leather couches and abstract art pieces. Writers, painters, and real estate agents would sit and wait their turn to get their chance to sip pills from a little paper cup (even classy methadone clinics use paper cups, it's a standard). While they waited for their chemical breakfast, they would sit and scrutinize one another at great length and with no mercy. Ms. New Balance would be the target of most of their ire.
The struggling painter would mutter to himself, “Look at this loser, I'll bet she spends half of her food stamps on Mountain Dew and beef jerky. She probably turned to drugs just to get a welcomed respite from the reality of being poor.”
The son of the famous author and playwright would stare off into the distance and occasionally think, “What am I doing in the same room with these miscreants. I don't belong here, I only tried heroin once or twice to get my creative juices flowing. It was basically a professional decision to further my career in the arts. These people just want to get high to avoid any realization of their plight.”
All the while the “real” drug addicts like Ms. New Balance would be left there sitting uncomfortably in a comfortable chair thinking to herself, “What a bunch of stuffy assholes, do they even belong here? Can't they afford to go to Betty Ford Clinic or have a live-in caregiver tend to them during their recovery? Why do I have to wait in line behind them?”
Ms. New Balance was obviously not your average Sarasota resident. No, she was just an average drug addict, with a taste for heroin and an affinity for comfortable footwear. Her reasoning for buying new shoes to “get clean” remains an enigma to me. However, should any sort of fracas between the elitists and the common folk begin, she will not have to worry about being caught flat footed. Her New Balance shoes have excellent arch supports.