I’m sure you’re all aware of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She’s that sweet lady who helps people in times of trouble. If you have a problem, all you need to do is call Dr. Laura’s show and she’ll spread you like a layer of peanut butter all over the continent. Because Dr. Laura is national, you see, and is the author of books such as The Proper Care and Feeding of Myself.
So I had this guilty conscience going on because my Saucony shoes had gotten far more worn out than I should ever have let them get. And it was bugging me because it made me feel like there was some deep character flaw driving my behavior in wearing those shoes from August through December without casting them off like a pair of, well, Old Shoes.
I was thinking perhaps that I was reverting to (shudder) conservatism, which is rampant in people who don’t like to change anything. But even I knew that my mind would not resort to anything so dark and subversive as that.
And then I realized with another shudder that it was perhaps my liberalism gone amok that caused me to refuse to change those Old Shoes. Perhaps I was nothing more than an aging hipster, aching for the time when running shoes were by nature thin and unsupportive. That’s how liberals think, after all. They care about the past only in that creepy, “Give me back my socks woven from Worm Skin” kind of way.
Or God Forbid, maybe I was falling into that desperate Middle Ground with people who like both the Lord of the Rings series and that awful but funny comedy Bad Teacher, in which Cameron Diaz plays a spoiled skanky bitch who through her own path to Self Discovery turns out to be a really great Middle School Guidance Counselor. Wait a minute, I thought. She’s just like Dr. Laura Schlessinger…
So the whole psychology theme was working as I tapped in the number for the Dr. Laura Show on my cell phone and waited anxiously for the Program Director to answer my call. Quite suddenly, a stern voice came on the line and said, “No Dr. Laura does not sign nude photos of herself for fans. What else do you want?”
“I want to talk to Dr. Laura about keeping my Old Shoes,” I confessed, wondering if the call was already on seven-second delay. Is this the Program Hotline?” I asked.
“Everything about Dr. Laura is hot,” he informed me. “But what’s this about your Old Shoes?”
“I wore them too long,” I said, with a shaking voice. “And now my Achilles is starting to hurt.”
“Hold on,” he barked. And then the Hold Music began to play. It was that annoying but beautiful song MacArthur’s Park sung by Richard Harris. “Someone left the cake out in the rain…” he sang in that quivering falsetto..”I don’t think that I can take it…cause it took so long to bake it…and I’ll never have that recipe…agaiiiinnnnn….Oh Noooooooo!”
And like a Magic Spell from Heaven, suddenly I was talking with Dr. Laura herself.
“Tell me again how long you’ve been clinging to these Old Shoes…” she instructed me.
“They are Saucony ISO Triumphs,” I muttered with a quivering set of lips. “And they still look brand new. And I ran a race in them last weekend. And they have no cushioning left. And my legs feel awful today. And I think I hurt my knee.”
“Of course you did,” she snarled. “That’s your mind’s way of lashing out at your body. You can’t accept the fact that you’re addicted to running.”
“But I’m not,” I insisted. “I can quit any time I want. In fact, I quit almost every day.”
“Let’s talk about that,” she jumped on my sign of weakness.”It sounds like you’ve been a quitter all your life.”
“Well, not really,” I told her. “I actually used to win a few races. But then I got older and slower, and it made no sense to torture myself trying to keep up with runners 10 years younger without a job to hold them back. So I quit competing to raise a family.”
“But there’s your problem right there,” Dr. Laura commanded. “You’re blaming your shoes for being old when actually, you’re the one that can’t accept reality. This is a clear case of projecting your problems onto other people.
Are you by any chance a…Liberal?” she inquired.
“Well, yes,” I admitted. “But I don’t see how that has anything to do with this…” I protested.
“And did someone hurt you as a child?” she wanted to know.
“Tons of people hurt me as a child,” I informed her honestly. “I grew up in the sixties. My parents and siblings and playground friends all beat the crap out of me. Pretty much I walked around hurt 24 hours a day. I got sick of watching people inflict pain on each other. But being a bleeding heart liberal is in my veins. I still believed Lance Armstrong was not a doper. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I’m so sorry now. It turned out he was inflicting pain on everyone he knew…”
“And, he confessed to that fraud Oprah,” Dr. Laura hissed. “That woman doesn’t deserve the fame she’s gotten. She couldn’t psychoanalyze a frog if it crawled out from between her butt cheeks.”
Sensing I’d hit a sore spot with Dr. Laura about the whole Lance Confessing to Oprah Thing, I remained silent for a moment. “Listen,” she told me with her practiced charm and grand imitation of faux concern. “This thing with wearing your Old Shoes simply has to stop. What are you going to do about it?”
“I already did,” I brightened, thinking she’d approve of the Proactive Me. “I ordered new ISOs from the Saucony website. They were only $105.00. But I didn’t pay for Express Shipping. And I didn’t buy this pair local. Is that bad?”
“It shows you’re not entirely committed to healing yourself,” she said, her lips aurally curled around the phallic metal protrusion of the microphone. “I think you need to go online right now and buy my book. Because I’m sick of people like you not having the guts to really make a change. In fact, you’re what’s wrong with our whole country. I bet you don’t even agree with the Justice Antonin Scalia’s Originalism interpretation of the Second Amendment, do you?”
“Well, no,” I admitted. “I think Constitutional Originalism is as bad as biblical literalism. Together they’re the source of all of America’s problems,” I contended. “It’s like our whole country is pretending anything old has to be better than anything new. Oh My God,” I blurted. “Does that mean I’m really a…conservative?”
“I bet you secretly have all your Old Shoes hidden in a closet somewhere!” she hissed. “You can’t bear to throw them out and you’re secretly blaming them for all your problems. I think you’re deeply conflicted,” she accused.
But at that moment, the traffic light changed from red to green. I’d been sitting alone in my car without moving through two full cycles of the turn signal, which now showed a bright green arrow. I smiled at the sight and responded: “Dr. Laura?” I said.
“What…?” she remarked in that authoritatively cynical voice of hers.
“Do you know what tarsnakes are? It’s when something you think is a problem turns out to be nothing at all. You just have to move on past it…like a pair of Old Shoes.” But she had hung up the phone. Dr. Laura was gone.
I pushed my foot on the gas pedal and rolled on through the traffic light. Just then the voice of the Program Director came over the speakers of my car. “Do you still want those autographed naked picture of Dr. Laura?” he wanted to know.
“No,” I told him. “You can keep them.” And I glanced back at that pair of Old Shoes sitting on my rear car seat. There’s nothing quite so cathartic as being able to leave your past behind.