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Open Barn At 30,0000 Feet
They’re always with a kid, the vile and manners-free, taunting you with the fact that they've reproduced themselves so others can carry on for generations in their ill-mannered ways. This man, seated next to his young daughter, treated me to a 30-minute free show of his dirty-soled bare feet. Mmm-mmm good!


Luckily, my photo is a bit blurry, so you may find hard to see the little landing strip of dirt imbedded in his sole, just right of center, just down from his, ugh!, bare toes! But, it gets better. At one point, he started fondling his filthy sole!...petting it with his hand, back and forth and up and a lover! He eventually put this masturbated foot flat on the floor, but both of his feet remained uncovered for the rest of the four-hour flight. (There's a reason, even with all the bankruptcies and cash crises in the airline industry these days, that airlines continue to put a barf bag in every seat pocket.)

Clearly, there’s never been a better time in history to be a woman, yet it’s episodes like this that make me long for time-travel – back to the days when people dressed up to fly. Those who do dress are sometimes rewarded. I got Gregg this fabulous English fur-felt fedora last year for his birthday, and I’m pretty sure it had something to do with his getting a free companion upgrade for me so we could both sit in first class together when we went in for Elmore’s birthday. People always treat me differently -- better, that is -- when I'm wearing some big, glam hat. Unfortunately, even that seems unlikely to inspire the violently uncouth to shoe up.

Posted by aalkon at December 5, 2005 9:56 AM

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When my father-in-law was in hospital, my 20-year-old son was in barefoot mode, and was required to "shoe-up" as you put it before he was allowed to visit. I couldn't see why: it wasn't any more or less sanitary than shoes. No so long ago, being barefoot was the norm - think of Tom Sawyer. Can't see as it did any harm, and it's better for foot health, I believe.

So how come you have a problem with this, Amy? Something in your past? :-)

Posted by: Norman at December 5, 2005 1:40 AM

I grew up in Hawaii. We were allowed to go barefoot to school! One DID, however have to have some kind of footwear in restaurants.

I don't know what the rules are now, but that's HAWAII for heaven't sake.
Taking one's shoes off in a airplane is icky.
Amy, when people dressed to travel in airplanes, there was room to manage your clothing, and room to move around in the cabin. But these are the sardine-can days of air travel-- and dressing "up" can make a 5-hour flight excruciating. Not that I would wear sweatpants or anything.

Posted by: Deirdre B. at December 5, 2005 3:56 AM

Norm, I don't want to see men's bare feet on planes. They are ugly. As is masturbating one's dirty bare feet in public. Do I really need to explain this? Shoes are a mark of civilization. Bare feet belong on the beach or in the shower. If you are not civilized, you should stay home contemplating a vasectomy.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 5, 2005 6:00 AM

I too remember dressing up as a child to fly, in dresses with stiff petticoats, patent leather Mary Janes and white gloves. But as Deirdre mentioned, the seats were roomier then.

A couple of years ago I ended up in Business class seated next to a well-dressed and polite European gentleman, who smelled like he hadn't bathed in days and reeked more than faintly of urine. It sure made for a long LA to NY flight.

Posted by: deja pseu at December 5, 2005 6:40 AM

The girls behind me on the plane started opening some stinky perfume on the plane. I had to turn around and pretend to be one of those people who's allergic to everything but oxygen. I mean, how hard is it to figure out that you're in a tight environment where your smell is everybody else's smell, too? Apparently, very. Nailpolishers are the worst offenders. Experienced a few of those before. Then I scream for the flight attendant to come with a fire extinguisher. Not really, of course. But, it's tempting.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 5, 2005 6:51 AM

Yes, nail polish on a plane is horrible--this should be banned.
Another part of a man I don't want to see naked in public unless he's playing basketball: his chest.

Posted by: nancy at December 5, 2005 8:40 AM

One of my least favorite photo cliches (needless to add, you can find it in the LAT all the time) is showing the subject barefoot, in a situation that doesn't call for it. Which would be about any time, 'cept at the beach or, evidently, in an airplane.

I think it's supposed to invoke informality; all I can think is "Well, at least they aren't showing him/her with a telephone at their ear" -- which was the cliche a decade or so ago -- "or seated in front of a computer," which is still the standard shot for writers. In the unlikely event I'm ever photographed for the Times, I shall insist on being shown barefoot, in front of a computer, and holding a telephone receiver.

Posted by: Todd Everett at December 5, 2005 1:42 PM

OOOhhhh! That poor poor man! He clearly had no choice! He had to choose between buying a plane ticket and buying those cute and very comfy little cashmere airplane slippers. He must be laid off from his very good job as a GM auto designer. On the skids. Oh that poor man. Amy, you probably walked right by him in the airport when he was panhandling trying to raise the $280 for the slippers. Tsk, tsk.

Posted by: Harris Pilton at December 5, 2005 4:14 PM

Nancy writes:

Yes, nail polish on a plane is horrible--this should be banned.
Another part of a man I don't want to see naked in public unless he's playing basketball: his chest.

Not even if you're having sex? Does a guy have to wear a shirt if he's bedding you?

Seriously, you wouldn't like living in Florida. Especially during the summer months, men go shirtless all the time. You can see them walking down the street, shirts draped over the shoulder, or hanging like a dishrag from their hands, then when it's time to enter a shop or a restaurant, the shirt goes on. I'm a little more forgiving of this trend. A simple walk from grocery store to your car in the parking lot can have you drenched in sweat.

Posted by: Patrick at December 6, 2005 4:42 AM

I dunno, Humphrey Bogart always managed to look pretty put together in the tropics. Oh, am I confusing movies and real life? Well, isn't that how it should be?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 6, 2005 4:55 AM

And some people should have sex fully clothed and in shoes to avoid frightening the person who's charitable enough to sleep with them.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 6, 2005 4:56 AM

Amy- I'm first to agree that clothes make people more acceptable to look at - myself thoroughly included. But whether feet or anything else are ugly is entirely subjective. I accept your right to call them ugly and to ask the man to put his shoes on, but also his right to say no. He's not doing you any harm, just upsetting your sensibilities. And you can't literally masturbate your feet, at least I don't think you can, so you are just using these words because you are seriously upset by what you saw.

The trouble with your argument is that there's nothing specific about feet in it. And it's just your opinion - which you're entitled to, of course, but it's not holy writ. Not so long ago in the US, you could have objected to the sight of a black man in the seat. "I don't want to sit next to a negro on the plane." Why? "Do I really need to explain this?"

Shoes are not a mark of civilization; they are a mark of fashion and of dirty streets in dirty cities. If bare feet are so objectionable, why allow them on the beach? You can get little waterproof bootees to cover up their unpleasantness. Why don't you advocate that? Why is beach foot-nakedness acceptable?

"If you are not civilized, you should stay home contemplating a vasectomy." A bit of a non sequitur. :-)

Posted by: Norman at December 7, 2005 5:39 AM

PS a sexist non-sequitur at that. Or is it only men who are not civilized?

Posted by: Norman at December 7, 2005 5:40 AM

Patrick: the last time I had sex in public was 1997, in a dark park in Savannah. He wore his shirt.

Posted by: nancy at December 7, 2005 4:53 PM

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