The Man Who Wore Snowshoes in July

For the full experience, read the introduction to the collection before meeting The Man Who Wore Snowshoes in July.

Entry #1 Posted on April 24, 2019:

He liked to drink coffee but he wasn’t very good at making it. The proportions of grounds to water simply infuriated him and any method he tried: French press, Chemex, Keurig, the cowboy method, electric percolator, the Vietnamese drip filter, Turkish Coffee… his list went on longer – gave him troubles. He had invested a great amount of time and effort into this problem because he did not like leaving his house. Eventually he gave into the unavoidable conclusion that he simply could not make coffee. So, he came into my favorite coffee/bar/bookstore, Soggy Sonnet, once daily for two twelve-ounce cups of coffee. This order allowed him to drink one immediately and save one properly proportioned cup to microwave later. He admitted that this wasn’t ideal because some amount of water was vaporized in the reheating process, but he still far preferred it to any of his home brewing methods. That explanation provided the perspective I needed to conceptualize how horrendous of a barista the he could possibly be.

This man did not enter into my collection because of his remarkably poor pour over’s, although it might have qualified him on its own. No, this man was odder still. I always know when he enters the Soggy Sonnet based on the recognizable clacking of his modified snowshoes on the tile floor. The owner had attempted to quiet the daily racket by laying down rugs from the doorway to the counter just before the man arrived – always punctually for his 8:05 order – and then rolling them up once he was out of sight. However, the rugs did little to deaden the sound of the shoes and regular patrons had come to expect the clacking sound to break up their morning routine and appreciated the scratch marks on the tile floor. It was easy to tell who was a regular at Sog’s: they were well-trained to not look up at the sound of the shoes. A newbie could be spotted as their eyes shot up in alarm, but inevitably remembered their manners and found something “far more interesting” in their coffee or on the wall. Yes, some ogled, I was more different still: I stared.

I continued to stare until he was forced to notice me. It took close to a year of staring before he approached me; he hadn’t even noticed me for the first six months. He explained that he usually does his best to avoid eye contact, preferring to believe that if he does not see anyone then they can’t see him. He even admitted that he doesn’t know what his regular barista looks like. He thinks she is a girl, but he is only going on her high voice and name tag which reads an exquisitely gender-neutral Sam. Sam is a dude. Sam is also quite oblivious, because he thought my friend in the snowshoes was just really into personal space. Sam had never noticed the snowshoes that kept his most iconic customer from standing a normal distance from the counter. Sam had his order ready before he walked in every morning, but he never questions the odd sound of his shoes. Sam isn’t in my collection though – he is appropriately odd for a barista, but that doesn’t meet the high standard set by snowshoe man and Rent-a-Bob. Back to my friend.

He approached me without making eye contact. I knew it was me he was approaching because he looked at everything but me. When he was a snowshoe distance away from my table he asked bluntly, “Can you please stop staring at me? It makes me uncomfortable.”

I am not proud of methodology. Unfortunately, I have found that it is the best way to collect. So, I made my usual move and promised that I would stop staring if he told me his story. After all, there wouldn’t be any reason for me to stare at and theorize about someone that I already knew. He saw reason in this. Most people would think that snowshoe man completely illogical. He was not.

He couldn’t tell me his story just then, but he promised he would return the next day. He did, armed with a custom seat cushion.

“Magnets, to prevent slippage,” he offered when the cushion clacked upon contact with his chair. I accepted the explanation without question and introduced myself properly. He did too, but I promised not to share his name. He has some concerns that publishing his story might result in him getting turned into some kind of lab rat. I agreed immediately. This one was going to be even more intriguing than the snowshoes had suggested. Stories told under promise of anonymity are always the juiciest, well not as juicy as the ones told under non-disclosure agreements, but is there juice if you’re not allowed to squeeze?

He didn’t need any prompting to get started. He held up one foot to show me the bottom of his shoe. “Magnets too, again, to prevent slippage. They’re a little slick on well-polished tile sometimes, but that’s not the slippage we’re talking about here.” He paused for a sip of his first coffee. “I started off just like everybody else, but I doubt there is anyone alive who has experienced what I’ve been through. I’m a man alone. So, I understand the glances with the shoes. I understand why they couldn’t understand.” He wrinkled his nose and nodded with self-satisfaction. He was silent for a few moments. His eyes were locked on a point a few feet to the right of my head. I almost looked to see if there was something there, but he picked up with his story: “I was born normal enough. My Mom was nurse and my Dad was a teacher. I went to school. I got a job. Everything was normal. That was until I fell through the floor.”

It took me a solid ten minutes to get him talking again and then another ten minutes to determined what he actually meant by “falling through the floor.” He didn’t wear snowshoes back then – before “the incident.” They’re actually meant to prevent a reoccurrence. On March 15, 2016, he stepped out of his shower on the second floor, but his foot did not hit the tile. It passed through the surface and the rest of his body followed. When he recovered from the fall, the bottom floor of his home having caught him, he looked up in surprise to find the ceiling completely intact.

“My atoms passed between the atoms in the floor. They must have lined up perfectly… although I guess I could have left some of me behind in the floor. I asked a guy on the quora message board online and he said that is something like one in a googleplex that this kind of thing could happen,” he casually explained as he stared off into space. He took a sip of his coffee, he drank quite slowly. “It’s good coffee, no? They got the proportions of grounds to water all figured out,” he said while gesturing to his two coffee cups. He still wasn’t done though, he gesticulated wildly as he ranted, “And we just trust this shit. All of this shit. That gravity is going to keep holding us down, that it won’t pull us through the ground, that our vote matters, that science will always work… imagine if it stopped.” He looked around the room before directing his gaze slightly above my right eyebrow; he whispered, “You’d be wearing snowshoes too.”

I nodded. I wasn’t quite sure what to ask or how to respond. I didn’t need to. His old friends thought he was crazy and stopped talking to him. His own Mom wouldn’t visit him anymore and wouldn’t let him in the house with his snowshoes on, so he couldn’t go there either. I think it was good for him to share his story.

He claimed he was genetically predisposed. That it was the only thing that could explain “the incident.” I was going to research the science he claimed complete knowledge of, but I let it be. I figured I might as well be the one person to trust the man in the snowshoes. Can you imagine never being able to trust the ground you walked on? He didn’t make eye contact with me that morning, but I think I’ve caught him glancing my way in days since. There are some days I wish I had my own snowshoes to quell my greatest fear, but I don’t know if snowshoes and magnets are effective against self-doubt. I’ll stick to my tennis shoes, and he’ll keep clacking along in his magnetic snowshoes, and maybe the odds will keep working out for both of us and we won’t fall through the Earth. And, hell, who knows, maybe it will snow in July one day.