Of The Shoeshine Gang

If shoes could talk, oh the stories they could tell… You would think it were a whiskey advert.. keep walking..

keep walking silhouette

I think we would walk comfortably through life if we stopped trying to walk in other’s shoes and concentrated more on our own shoes.

They say before you try and judge someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes, that way you will be a mile away from them and you will have their shoes… Keep walking

Policeman's Shoes
A Police Officer’s shoes

Smart inotangira kutsoka (Smartness starts in the feet…)  So goes a line from a catchy song by dancehall artist Enzo Ishal. It doesn’t have to make sense or be literal like the old Shona Proverb Chitsva chiri murutsoka which translates to If you want to experience new things you must travel… Keep walking.

I grew up in a very small town and wanted to experience Harare the city that never slept, where the lights were bright and the dreams big. The night sky, was never dark, with the orange glow of sodium vapour street lamps, stitching the darkness to light. The nights are dark now, between vandalism, disrepair and load-shedding the bright city lights have gone out.

I remember when I first got to Harare, before I had figured out how the streets were numbered and would navigate by triangulating with the Reserve Bank Building; just walking up and down the First Street, watching the hustle and bustle.

Then there were the street hustlers trying win over your attention, be it the street preachers who would preach from pulpits of the street or the street performers on the stage of street who would, for little bits of change, perform comedy, sing or daring acrobatic feats and illusions.

Street performer

They performed for anyone who would watch, anyone that is, except the police. Crowds would gather to watch and one had to be careful as your pockets easily got picked in crowds..

After a hard day out city watching, while waiting for the traffic lights to change, a scruffily dressed gent, with an assortment of shoe shining gear; drew my attention to my scuffed shoes and then pointed conveniently at how he had an array of shoe shining paraphernalia.

I wanted to walk away, but my good manners betrayed me, I was supposed to be respectful to my elders so I complimented him on his gear and he beckoned me for a closer look. He proudly told me how his stuff was imported and just one brush stroke and a shoe would be restored to good as new. As he said this he had run his brush across my right shoe and now it looked absurd, with a shiny streak running across the otherwise dusty shoe.

“That wont do..” he exclaimed as he proceeded to shine and polish the whole shoe… To his credit, it did look as good as new but now the contrast between my two shoes was ridiculous, it seemed like I was wearing mismatched shoes.

“What about the left shoe?” I had enquired

“Well the right one was the a demo, but if I do the left shoe you will have to pay” He answered, while poised ready to shine my other shoe.

How expensive could shoe-shining be I wondered as I signalled for him to shine the other one… In hindsight, I should have established the price first or just kept walking…

When he was done shining my shoes, he casually told me a ridiculously absurd figure. I don’t remember how much he wanted, but adding a bit more to it would have been enough to buy a new pair of shoes. I had laughed thinking he was joking.

He was deadly serious, menacingly serious, scarily serious, seriously serious… Vice like grip on my ankle to stop from leaving serious.

I told him I did not have that kind of money and he said, in that case, I would be returning home, barefoot; as he tightened the grip my ankle and started unlacing my shoe…

Eventually he settled for all the money I had on me, which was my fare for the commute home and some change. Welcome to Harare.

He waved, as I begun to walk home.

~B

24 Comments

  1. I can relate, those guys who polish shoes in town, can be very dramatic. This other time i was waiting for my friend by 1st street, i was standing close to him, he offered to polish my white sneakers, i refused, and he was like its just a demo, when he finished , it looked liked i was wearing two different pairs, and the price he charged for the other shoe was the same price of buying a new pair. He became violent demanding his money , and had to be rescued by this police officer who was passing by.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those guys are just extra!!! Lucky thing there was a police officer passing.
      These days I always make sure I stay away from the shoe shine gangs and if they call me I pretend to not have heard them… I will keep my dirty discolored shoes just the way they are thank you very much
      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Manila is very much popular among Filipinos because of things like that. 😂😅 And I always have to be assertive and wise if I go to the city or else I wouldn’t survive. Gladly, I don’t go there that much. And I learned to clean my own shoes. My dad taught me how to do it. Haha thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have always cleaned my own shoes haha!!
      I guess these cities are all the same if you are not careful someone is always waiting to cheat you out of your hard earned money
      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Laugh with me!!!
      Of course I wasnt laughing as I walked home not to mention how dusty my shoes got after the long walk home you would never know they had gotten such an expensive polish and shine.
      WE stay learning
      ~B

      Like

      1. I can imagine but it was quite an experience. I always saw those guys on roads and always wondered who ever stops to.have their shoes polished you proved me wrong

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a story! In NYC – the USA, they used to have breakdancers that perform on the streets and usually draw a decent crowd. While everyone was watching the entertainment the bad guys would sneak around and pickpocket and steal things out of ladies’ handbags. That was a long time ago and I doubt it happens much now because of the virus. Plus, they have probably graduated to a higher level of crime, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. not in the least bit, I am not too sure but I might have even come very close to crying and I definitely didnt tell anyone.
      we stay learning
      ~b

      Like

  4. I remember these guys!!! My grandmother never liked them 😂😂

    Oh but they were good until “everyone” started doing it then it was a hurried job …also the polish used was being tampered with as time went on

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh yes these days they use tampered polish if they polish your white sneakers and they will turn grey or yellow hahaha if you lucky they will use corrosive substances and you shoe starts cracking up
      best to just stay away
      ~B

      Like

  5. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I vaguely remember assuming something to be cheap that turned out to be expensive. Ever since then, I always ask. SOmetimes people have weird ideas. The fact that he was ready to take off your shoes – insane. But I’m surprised her did 1 shoe for free. Well, “free,” but not really, in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ever broken something labelled if you break it you pay for it in a those curio shops ? Either its irony that the expensive oddities are easy to break or something odd is going on there too.

      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

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