Experience 2015! Number One: Shoe Shine

Superior Shine Sign

Women report that menopause emboldens them, making them brave, brave enough to try new things. So, I thought this year, we’d experiment on me (and hopefully you’ll join in with some experiences of your own).  I’m going to call this blog project “Experience 2015.”

Here we go with Experience Number One:

I was at the airport, enroute to visit my mom. I looked down. Yuck! My klunky winter walking shoes looked awful. Airports have shoe shine guys! I’d seen them all my life. I turned a corner and there he was. Would I feel shy sitting up in that big high chair?

I stepped closer.

“I don’t do ladies,” the shoe shine man said.


He grinned. “Just kidding, ma’am.” He offered his hand and I climbed up.


“Why are you taking photos?” he asked, noticing the click of my phone a minute later.

“I’m going to blog about this. It’s my first shoe shine. May I take your picture?”

“No, ma’am. I don’t mess with the Internet.”

In Process

I turned the conversation away from blogging and asked shoe shine questions. We talked about shoe shining techniques and the fancy shoes that business people wear. I glanced at the sign. “So you do tennis shoes?”

“Nah,” said the guy. “That’s not our real sign. Best to put your tennis shoes in the washer.”

I didn’t quite get how it wasn’t their real sign but decided not to ask.

Shoe shine Kit

I loved peering into his shoe shine box. It reminded me of my dad’s, who did his shoes at home.

“Beautiful,” I announced, poking out a finished foot. Then the shoe shine man offered me his hand to climb down.

Shiny Shoe

That week, when I told friends and family that I’d gotten my first shoe shine, most seemed underwhelmed to learn of my new experience. ” *

But not me!


I spent four days in Baltimore admiring that superior shine.

Lesson Number One: A lot of problems (like yucky shoes) can be solved quickly.

Lesson Number Two: Treat yourself! Let others help you. Thank them with enthusiastic words and a good tip.

(In all truth, I had the shoe shine at the very end of 2014, but since it sparked this blog idea, I’m counting it for 2015).

*Shout out to my friend David, who told me he loves shoe shines, and that sadly, it’s hard to find shoe shine guys anymore. Must be like maps. On our recent trip to Charleston, Cliff and I learned that you can’t bop into a gas station and buy a map anymore. Gone are those days…

30 thoughts on “Experience 2015! Number One: Shoe Shine”

  1. I’ve never had a shoe shine either. In fact I rarely shine any shoes. Guess I have too many tennis type shoes. And even some of my non-tennis shoes can be thrown in the washer. Glad someone is still providing shining shoes to those of us who need them.


  2. Thanks for your blog, what a great idea. My New Year Resolution is almost the opposite, although they could complement each other. I have decided to read at least a chapter of a classic novel every day. You know the ones, they are the ones you say you are going to read but never get around to. Such as Dickens and Wilkie Collins and Jane Austen. I decided to seize the day and start now.


  3. So fun! I so remember my dad shining his shoes. I even think Martin has some shoe shining supplies here at home. I bet the shoe shining people meet some interesting characters…like you!!


  4. Good example of trying something new! I’m glad it was a good experience. I put shoe shining supplies in my 23 year old son’s Christmas stocking since he is now working full time and needs to look professional. He didn’t have a clue how to use them!


  5. My dad had a drawer in the bottom of a kitchen cabinet for shoe shining supplies and he sat there every morning of his working life shining shoes. We have shoe shining Nd at a ur house and it comes out for special occasions – weddings and funerals but I wish I had a picture of my dad to go with memory.


      1. Yes and I remember he polished our school shoes too. I took that for granted and I bet I never thanked him.


  6. There was lots of polishing and shining in our house over the years. Being an “old school” nurse I had to keep my shoes perfectly white, and my military husband had to have a permanent gleam on his shoes and boots. Oh, you are so right the smell does bring back fond memories 🙂

    Never had a professional shine though ~ sounds like fun!


  7. We always polished or shined our shoes growing up. Back then adults wore the same dress shoes for years and kept them looking good by polishing them. I wore saddle oxfords for a lot of my elementary school years and had to always polish the white part. Then we always polished our black patent leather little girl dress shoes with Vaseline to shine them all up. When my husband had to dress up for work everyday, he would polish his shoes every couple of weeks. Good to keep those shoes looking good! It was fun for you to try it out from a professional shoe shiner.


  8. ii’s amazing what a shine will do for a pair of shoes.I remember the days when we wouldn’t leave the house without shining our shoes. Still have dried out shor polish in every color.


  9. How great that you simply decided to try out this experience of the shoe shine! Not something women have historically done, it seems! Oh, and your shoes look great!!

    Here’s an interesting article from the NY Times talking about changes in businessmen (primarily) who use the shoe shines published a few years back: Yes, as you said, there may be less of this iconic shoe shine service available now and in the future.

    I remember the days of little round tins of very strong-smelling polish (can’t say I miss that odor). But, I also remember, how fun it was to take the shoes that had been coated with the thick colorful paste from the tin, and once “set,” then buffed to an amazing new brilliance!

    Haven’t done that in years! Is it just that the shoes we get these days don’t “need” polishing?

    Guess I have to ask you, with this interesting experience, what did it feel like to have your shoes rhythmically slapped to a shiny perfection? Looking forward to your next “Experience 2015”!


    1. Interesting article. Thanks for the link. I loved having my shoes done! Made me wonder how else I can spoil myself in simple ways. I get frustrated with manicures because they never seem to last.


      1. You know, after sending you the link to that article, I got to thinking. It isn’t a bunch of “fat cats” on Wall Street who are going to “make or break” the shoe shine industry – or, at least, it shouldn’t be! We need the “road warriors” (as in those hotel chain commercials – those more common business folk who might perhaps indulge in a shoeshine on their way to their destination while lugging their PowerPoints and memorizing their presentations. I think that these people are the ones that don’t seem to be around as much right now in our society. So, these more commonly experienced shoeshine destinations (those outside of Grand Central Terminal, for heaven’s sake!) are seemingly less used.

        I congratulate you, Barbara, for using the shoeshine with the most practical motives and the most appreciative sentiments! Let’s hope these times will come back to America.


  10. Thanks for inspiring me to reminisce about shining shoes with my father! I wore loafers to school for years and used his shoeshine box weekly. I was so pleased that one of my brothers wanted to keep the box when my parents sold their house. I was however, always horrified by the polish color called “oxblood!” It looked so real! By the way, have you read Shoe Shine Girl by Clyde Robert Bulla?


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