Author – GS42
So, here’s a story of my time whilst I was working in France.
The hotel come school activity centre I worked at operated a strict no-shoes policy inside for all children. This meant that just after the reception desk, at the bottom of the grand staircase leading to all the hotel rooms, stood a wall to wall shoe rack, 3ft high, spanning all 3 walls inside the main staircase.
Now, I happened to work as a Night Porter here, which meant I was often the only person awake for the entire night. It also happened that this place, for whatever reason, lacked any form of CCTV.
Now, there were a quite often nights where work was very quiet and easy going, as everything I would usually deal with on a night had already been sorted within the first hour or so of my shift, meaning I had a good 7 hours entirely to myself to do nothing.
I’ve always had an interest in shoes and trainers, especially when they’ve belonged to somebody else prior. So, on quiet nights, I’d often go and admire the hundreds of pairs of trainers that were on offer. Usually, the offerings were fairly worn out, tatty old affairs, more often than not far too small for my UK size 9 (US 10) feet. On occasion though, we’d have groups of teenagers staying. This is where things usually got more interesting. On the weeks where there were older groups, there were once again, many pairs of battered old trainers, that had clearly been loved to within an inch of their lives, however there were also quite often some very smart, relatively new pairs left there for the world to see.
So, when I knew the coast was clear, I would go and browse the offerings with great intent, before selecting a few pairs to sample. I would then head away to somewhere secluded in the hotel and try out my samples. More often than not, I found that they either didn’t really suit me, or that, once I’d tried them myself, they weren’t really to my liking for whatever reason. These samples would then be replaced back on the racks, taking great care to ensure they were left exactly as they were found.
Sometimes, whilst browsing the shoe racks, I’d find some interesting samples, who, for whatever reason, had decided they also needed to remove their socks and leave them either in their shoes, or thrown in a ball on the floor somewhere around the shoe racks. So, these pairs were also taken for testing, along with the socks, and tried for fit. The shoes were then usually returned exactly to where they were before, just like the other pairs, however the socks never made it back. Whenever I found a pair of socks in or around the shoes, after trying them on, I’d put my pair of socks back on over the top, just to hide them away, then I’d continue to wear them for the rest of the shift as if they were my own. Of course, come the end of the shift, I couldn’t think of anything more than clocking off and running away for the night, completely forgetting I was still wearing the socks I’d found earlier in the night. Throughout the time I worked there, I must have collected well in excess of 100, maybe even 200, pairs of socks from all over the globe, much to my excitement.
Now, on other occasions, after sampling the shoes, I would take a liking to them, and so I would stash them away for the night in an area nobody else would either think to go, or be easily able to get to. They were then left there for a day to a couple of days, before I’d return to collect them from their hiding point and take them back to my room. In my room, I’d learned entirely by accident, there happened to be a hidden storage compartment that it was clear nobody knew about. The place in question happened to be the floor of the built-in wardrobe in the room. For some reason, when it was installed, the floor of the wardrobe was never secured down, leaving it able to be lifted up with ease, and providing a massive storage space underneath which worked just perfectly to store my new found treats.
Over the space of 6 months, I’d scored a good 15 – 20 pairs of ‘new’ trainers, varying from Nike, to Osiris, to Adidas, to Vans, as well as a few others in between.
Now, there was one group in particular who sticks in my mind better than all others. This was a group of teenage boys, who were staying with us for 4 nights. Now, usually I wouldn’t have noticed anything different, however it happened that one of the boys had somehow broken his right leg, and was stuck in a long leg cast, generally being pushed around in his wheelchair by his friends. He was mostly incapable of walking, but he did still get around from time to time with a pair of crutches. Wherever he went outside, he would wear either his purple Nike High Top, a brand new looking black Vans High Top, or his red Nike Janoski on his left foot, along with a cushioned trainer sock to cover his right foot. To be fair to him, it was getting late into October, and was quite cold out. Even though he was generally in a wheelchair, meaning his shoe was perfectly clean, he was not exempt from the rule of no shoes indoors. This meant, he too was required to leave his shoe downstairs by the door and move around inside shoeless. One thing I had noticed about this guy was, whenever he removed his shoe, for some reason he always removed both of his socks.
For the entire time he was there, I was always done with my required work very early into the shift, so each night I would go and investigate whatever shoe he had left, as well as his socks. It just so happened that he too was a size 9 shoe, and they fit me absolutely perfectly. His socks were also amazing, always soft and plush, occasionally slightly sweaty from the day’s activities. The socks, naturally, were always tried on, and as before, forgotten about and kept by me. It also just so happened that one of his friends was also a size 9 shoe, and had left a great pair of well worn, but still very neat blue Adidas Gazelle trainers on the rack. These were also tested, and then stored away in my secret collection, along with the white and red Bonds trainer socks he’d so carefully placed inside his shoes.
On the 3rd day of their stay, I’d noticed that broken leg guy hadn’t bothered to wear his shoe at all, choosing to be pushed around in his chair wearing just his socks on his feet. I assume it was because, for once, it happened to be nice weather outside, and he decided his non casted foot was too warm. I’ll never quite know why he did it. I had only noticed this, as he happened to be wearing bright orange Polo Ralph Lauren trainer socks, which stood out very bright against his purple leg cast.
That night, having completed my workload, I went to again investigate the shoe racks, and noticed to my surprise, that he had once again left his pair of socks from the day downstairs. So, naturally, I tried them on, and upon realising how nice they were, put my own socks over and carried on with my shift. That night though, I decided I would become a lot more daring than just taking his sweet socks. I decided, for some unknown reason, that I would take all 3 of his left shoes that had remained on the rack downstairs, knowing that they would be leaving that morning, and would likely have no time to attempt to find them. Having stashed away his shoes, I thought I’d best leave him something in return, and so instead took my own pair of socks from my feet, and carefully placed them back where his shoes had once sat. I then stuck my shoes on, still wearing his beautiful orange trainer socks, and carried on my shift as if nothing ever happened.
The morning came, and I saw the guy, sat in his wheelchair in the reception, looking very confused. He came over and said to me that his shoes were missing, and he couldn’t understand where they might have gone. I explained to him that I too was unsure what may have happened but would ensure I passed the issue onto management for them to look into. Whilst I was talking to him, I did however, notice that he clearly didn’t have any other socks to wear, and in place of his shoes, he had chosen to put on my pair of socks I’d left for him during the night. For the rest of the morning, I saw him from time to time, wheeling around with his mates, wearing only my socks on his feet, complaining to his friends that someone had stitched him up, and they’d better admit who had done it. Just before I headed back to my room to sleep ready for my next shift, I noticed the group getting back on their coach to leave. The guy in question was still wearing only my pair of socks on his feet, obviously having no other option available to him to resolve his lack of shoes.
The next night, having completed my work, I sloped off and collected my new winnings of 3 left Nike trainers, all of which were amazingly comfortable, and headed back to my room to stash them away with my other ‘new’ pairs. Come to think, I don’t think I ever did report his missing shoes to management…
Still to this day, I wear his amazing socks (they were always some nice, fairly new, branded cushioned trainer socks), and his left shoes. His red Janoski soon became my new favourite, which is by far and away still the comfiest shoe I own, even though it’s now considerably more worn. I’d love to know quite what he’d done to that shoe to make it just so comfortable, but sadly I know I’ll never find out the secret. I still frequently wear the left shoes from all the other pairs of shoes I collected whilst working there, nearly 10 years on (If you don’t know why I only wear the left ones, read my previous story). In fact, I’ve barely purchased new shoes since working there, as I’ve had so many to choose from at any given moment. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this guy, and just how cute he looked wearing my extremely well worn, sweaty socks, paired with the lack of a left shoe, whilst hopping out to his coach on his crutches to leave, knowing he was likely never going to see his shoes again.