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#1841… Wearing sandals around campus when you shouldn't be wearing sandals. AWESOME!
I went to Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. It was a town that got hit hard by weather extremes.
In the fall, summer winds would quickly cool and sharpen, ripping into your cheeks on your way home from Stauffer or Alfie's, leaving them red and finely shredded, like you’d just applied blush with sandpaper.
In the winter, the sidewalks along University Ave. would be covered in piles of wet slush, little bombs of slippery ice-dirt and road salt that would explode onto your pants and shoes and leave nasty stains when they dried.
In the spring, the snow would melt away, leaving soggy grass through City Park, Tindall Field, and that random park nobody knows the name of at Alfred and Brock Street. You would see that grass and think it was pretty solid, but your foot would just sink into it, cold little mud bubbles rising around your shoe from all directions and soaking right into your sock. It felt like you were walking on a peat bog covered in smushed worms and last year’s dog poo.
No, it wasn’t pretty. My roommates and I were left with just two choices:
- Try to predict and adjust for the weather. You know, wear lots of layers, carry umbrellas on sunny days, build a collection of waterproof boots, and start using phrases like “bunker in” and “venture out.”
- Ignore it completely.
Well, we chose to ignore it. And we faced the consequences, let me tell you. We got wind burn and had sleet slip down the back of our T-shirts. We got massive dirt soakers and permanently stretched our socks peeling them off our feet at the front of our door. We got dry legs, we got bone chill, and brother, we got rain hair bad.
And eventually, we got good at ignoring it all.
My roommate Dee was the master of ignoring the crazy Kingston weather, the biggest proof being that he wore sandals year round. Wind, snow, rain, it didn’t matter. “The toes need to breathe,” he’d say sternly, “breathe.” And he’d emphasize the point with a sturdy lip and a firm strapping of the Velcro. Then he’d slap on his heavy backpack, give you a wink, and trudge out into a blizzard, navigating the unsalted ice patches and hidden slush piles on Princess St. like a pro.
Sure, there was the occasional Bad Day that came with being chronically unprepared for Mother Nature’s worst blows, generally involving a dirty-puddle splashing all over your feet from a passing StuCon SUV or maybe being unable to feel your toes until you put them on your clangy radiator for 20 minutes. But we made it through.
And come on, there is something really nice about wearing sandals when you shouldn’t be wearing sandals. It’s liberation from shoe shackles, freedom from the oppressing sock, and a violent rebellion against those frostbite warnings on the weather channel.
I also like to think that it's a part of being at Queen's. It's a part of Kingston life, it's a part of Gaelic tradition, and surely... it's a part of us all. AWESOME!
In his 2010 breakout bestseller, The Book of Awesome, Neil Pasricha listed all the little things that make us smile every day. His 2011 follow-up, The Book of (Even More) Awesome (Penguin Books, $16), is now available in paperback. In April, after four years of posts, Neil posted his #1 awesome thing on his blog 1000awesomethings.com
Do you have an “awesome” memory of Queen’s? Let us know at email@example.com