Remember to Play Nice

As of today’s date, I’ve only been barefooting for about a month. I’m still not over that fear of being rejected by a store manager but I’m happy to say that it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve visited the regional grocery store chain (Food Lion), Walmart, Target, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, McDonald’s, AT&T Cellular and Old Navy (“Sir, would you like to borrow a pair of flip flops? You’re not required to wear them but I can get you a pair if you feel the floor might be too cold.”) I’ve even picked up pizza from Papa John’s.

The point is, I have been barefooting for about 4 weeks and I have yet to be rejected because of it. I suppose the stigma of going barefoot in the United States will vary from region to region. At the same time, however, I don’t see those “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs like I used to. Perhaps the general public has more things to worry about than a pair of bare feet but I allow myself to assume that I’m free to go barefoot unless it’s clearly posted at the door that I can’t. I admit that there are still a few places where I’m hesitant to trod barefoot but I figure I can play dumb if I should get caught (“Oh! I didn’t see the sign requiring shoes”). My wife and I recently had dinner at an Olive Garden restaurant. Feeling a bit nervous, I walked in wearing flip flops but kicked them off under the table once we were seated. Although I prefer the openness of flip flops vs. a pair of sneakers, my first choice is always to be completely bare.

As it’s already been stated: it is not illegal to walk barefoot in public areas in any state. There is no state in the U.S. that imposes any health laws. A popular barefoot group in the U.S. conducted an experiment where they wrote letters to each and every state’s Health Department to uncover the truth about going barefoot. They received a response from every state and ALL of the state’s Health Departments have confirmed that this is merely a myth and that it is NOT against any health code regulations to go barefoot in public areas–including restaurants and grocery stores. Likewise there is NO evidence shown where it’s illegal to drive barefoot, either! I’m sure there are some police who still believe in the myth; but challenge them to recite a code or regulation and you’ll find them at a loss for words.

The truth, however, is that business’ can enforce whatever dress code they expect from their customers. What they cannot do is have you arrested and thrown in jail solely because you’re caught barefoot! They do reserve the right to ask you to put your shoes on. Should you refuse to comply and create a public disturbance, they could have you arrested for tresspassing. So far I have not been approached by anyone but I leave my flip flops and Skele-Toes in the car–I don’t carry them in hand (“But Sir… I didn’t bring any shoes with me”).

Do I like the idea of of being rejected because I’m barefoot? Of course not! I’m willing to take a chance and bare my feet wherever I feel comfortable. But should I come face to face with the uneducated store manager or that stubborn mall cop I plan to smile and comply. I’ll do my best to educate them but I believe, as a whole, barefooters share a common goal of making friends as opposed to enemies. All we want is nothing more than to be accepted with our bare feet. We all assume the “risks” of going barefoot in public. It’s our choice. We all know that no upstanding judicial system within the U.S. is going to grant us a multi-million dollar reward due to stubbing our toes in Walmart.

Becoming a public nuisance just because we might be asked to put on footwear only perpetuates the stereotype that we’re nothing more than a group of uncivilized, uneducated rebels who don’t deserve respect. Besides, by whose definition of “footwear” are you complying with? A lot of barefooters have discovered creative ways of presenting the illusion of wearing shoes or sandals.

Personally, I don’t understand it… it’s perfectly acceptable for my wife to wear sandals with soles that are a less than half a centimeter thick; but I have to put on shoes because a concert piano might fall out of the sky and land on my toes!

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