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Picture of the Day

December 3, 2011

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In her 88-year life my maternal grandmother experienced her share of hardship--Nazi Occupation, war, Soviet persecution, prison, emigration, and a crippling car crash. Her general demeanor shifted between stoic and suspicious but she would sparkle and beam when she spoke of her father.

He was a prominent civil engineer in Prague at the start of the 20th century who directed a staff of 150 as they laid out a modern expansion of the ancient city, yet he bore his heavy responsibilities with a light touch.

His wife surprised him one day with a new pair of shoes. They were every bit as elegant as his usual formal footwear but the heels and soles were made of a new synthetic material which was lightweight and pliant.
He was grateful for the gift and wore them to work the very next day.

Among Czechs it is the custom to remove one's shoes at the door, but this time when he came home for lunch he was so exasperated he could barely untie the laces.

All morning as he made his rounds in his new silent shoes he'd inadvertently caught his subordinates goofing off--papers were hurriedly shuffled, cigarettes hastily extinguished, desk drawers quickly shut.

When he finally got them off he hurled the new shoes away and said simply, "I don't want to catch them at their business!"

He put on his old heavy shoes with the noisy hardwood soles and clacked around the room in tight circles, satisfied that they'd always hear him coming.
Shoeshine -