Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Alex the Shoeshiner

Originally uploaded by lools.

Small things can make a highly stressful New York workday a little less manic. On Wednesdays I relieve my boots of all the soot and grime collected over the week by getting them shoeshined at my own desk. Now that's a luxury only Manhattanites probably experience given our obsession with grooming!

The shoeshine boy who does the rounds of our floor every week is a Brazilian chap called Alex who has been in the States for almost ten years now. He came as a tourist and upon the recommendation and connections of a friend decided to be a corporate shoeshiner - that's his profession now! And he gets enough business from the entire building of one big Madison Avenue agency and a few floors of another Park Avenue South one to eke out a living in the Big Apple. Wow, pretty impressive, huh? You look at him and you'd never guess that he shoeshines all day.

While Alex polishes my boots, I listen to stories about how he wants to go back to Brazil soon. He jokes about becoming the next President of Brazil like Lula given his shoeshine background! The primary reason Alex cites for returning home is the brutal New York winter. We chat about the cold and how depressing it is. My office has no heating this week so I'm really feeling the pain. We exchange stories about the hot summers and extremeley mild winters in Brazil and India. Before I know it my shoes are shiny and I'm at least smiling thinking about ice cold caipirinhas and beaches having momentarily forgotten about my jammed inbox and all the emails requiring attention. Sigh, back to work I guess. What a luxurious distraction that was.


Blogger rums said...

i once got my boots shoeshined in a hotel lobby in cleveland once and the guy even sang to me because i tipped him generously! i really enjoyed the experience. but the mention of shoeshine brings backs memories of VT, you will never meet a busier bunch of shoeshiners than the ones outside VT station in b'bay.

8:22 AM  
Blogger gs said...

i was almost born and brought up in kolkata.and at that time there were no shoepolishwallas on calcutta streets.when we came to mumbai in 1959 we lived in the fort area for about 2 years before moving into our present residence at churchgate.i studied in st.xavier's college and i would walk the distance of about 5 kms every day to my college.the sight of boot-polishwallas sitting in a straight line on sir pm road was something fascinating.for 25p i would get my shoes polished every alternate day and what a shine the polishwallas gave.those days sometimes there even used to be a queue!.the guy would sing or start up a conversation to make those 10 minutes lively.i thought then this was an occupation only in 1994 when i was travelling in usa i was surprised to see shoe polishers at chicago airport in the terminal building itself.the guy was an american and for a moment i thought i got some vicarious pleasure getting my shoes polished by a fairskinned socalled superior person!.actually while studying in mumbai,i had got into the habit of polishing my own shoes after one day my father pulled me up for wasting money by getting the job done outside.that habit has stuck.while reading this posting,i was reminded of an incident in the life of abraham lincoln. when he was asked while he was polishing his shoes,"do you polish your own shoes,sir",he replied,"whose shoes do you polish"?.

8:06 PM  

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