Getting My Feet Wet

I love to swim, and I sail small boats that put me underwater on a regular basis. But I Hate Wet Feet.

(Just to clarify: that’s soggy terrarium feet trapped inside wet socks, shoes, or boots. Not happy bare wiggly toes dipping into a pool or dangling off the edge of a dock.)

SSAfloodI first discovered this aversion to damp tootsies when I worked in boat yards. Rainy days boiled down to one elusive goal; how long can I keep my feet dry? Deep puddles, bad drainage, and canvas shoes that soaked up any damp air and held it against me (so to speak)… by morning coffee break I could already feel the dreaded wet soaking through. My sunny demeanor would dissolve into a growl, especially if I’d forgotten (again) to bring a pair of extra socks to work.

Frostbiting became another wet-foot-avoidance exercise. On winter Sundays, while most sensible New Englanders are sitting inside by a roaring fire, many of my friends race sailboats. (Small sailboats, since the big smart ones are all hibernating under cover.) I used to be an eager participant – and as long as my feet were dry, I had a great attitude. Numb fingers, salt spray in my face – all fine. But if just one drop of water wormed its way inside my boots, goretex socks, and two layers of wool, finally seeping through my thin sock liners … well all I can say is, nobody get between me and the Jamaican coffee.

Damp toes even affected my Olympic training. Most of the big European events are held “ahead of the season,” in order to keep costs down; before the real tourists arrive, hotels and restaurants appreciate any business, even what they get from sailors (who are notoriously bad tippers). But there’s a reason “the season” doesn’t start any earlier; the water is still cold, and rain is usually part of an average forecast. Unlike tennis or baseball, sailing does not do rain delay. By the end of the day, even the best foulweather gear would soak through, allowing said rain to drip down into my boots. Result? Wet feet and an attitude problem.

Now that I work inside every day, rainy days are almost a cause for celebration. (“Great Office Days,” my ever-positive husband calls them.) Even my most despised chore – bookkeeping – is almost a cozy pleasure when raindrops chase each other down the outside of the window. I curl my dry warm toes inside my fleece-lined clogs and savor the warmth within.

This week, I’ve been especially grateful for the luxury of dry feet. With two major back to back storms in the past ten days and over eight inches of rain in the past thirty-six hours, Rhode Island is setting new records for flooding and rain. Many friends and neighbors would happily put up with all those damp socks that used to cause me such annoyance, in exchange for better drainage in their basements, offices, and yards. Bring on the sun, or someone build an ark!