Shoe Shine

Jan. 11, 2005 9:37 a.m.
New York City

I set up my computer in a back office in the basement. Rafferty came down to say hello. Halfway through the conversation I stopped.

"Are those shoes new?"

"No," Rafferty answered deeply. "They're two years old."

Rafferty let the enormity of the statement sink in. The shoes were incandescent.

Rafferty had just gotten a shine. He explained the whole thing to me. It costs $2 for the shine; you pay at the counter, then you give the guy who shined them a $2 tip. Raf usually went with a $5 bill so he was ready. He explained the payment to me again then walked me out into Rock Plaza to show me where the shine store was. It was packed with guys in suits.

I'd gotten one shine in my life, in Baghdad — black mountain boots. What I remember is the kid did the final buff with his hands.

Now it was time for a New York shine. At 4 p.m. they were empty. I stepped up in the chair. There were two metal spikes. I wasn't sure whether to put up one foot at a time or two feet. The man rolled up my cuffs and untied my shoes. Maybe you should relax during a shine, sit back and look in the mirror, but I hunched over watching everything he did.

Two things I liked — the pop of the towel, and the fact that sometimes when the man's right hand was swinging, his idle left hand swung in time. At the end he tied the laces. I thought about stopping him but did not.

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Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.