The following is a special triathlon public service announcement:
“Put yourself in the other person’s shoes” is an idiom.*
It is not a directive nor a suggestion. It is most certainly not a good idea to do at a triathlon.
This past weekend, when I came back to collect my things after a local sprint, I was happy to find my first-timer neighbor cleaning up his transition area. I asked him how he did, did he enjoy his first race?
He looked at me (he was upset). “I couldn’t find my shoes.”
I kept looking at him, not understanding his words. “What do you mean? They got moved?”
Him – “No this guy…took them!”
Me – “Wait, what? Someone took your sneakers?”
Him – “Yes. This guy. The guy who put his bike in my spot.”
Me – “Wait what? Someone took your sneakers?
Him – “Yes.” His wife – “And he was in second place.” Him – “Looking for sneakers cost me 5 minutes!”
Me – “ Wait. You found sneakers and ran in someone else’s sneakers? And finished?”
Him – “Yea. I found his sneakers by looking at his number and finding the same brand in an open space on his rack. They’re older than mine. Mine were brand new.”
Me- “Wait. You guys had the same brand and the same size? And wait, you were going to race in brand new shoes? Maybe he has blisters?!”
Him – “He had to move all my stuff off of my sneakers to put them on. How do you not realize that these aren’t your sneakers?”
Me- “I just don’t know; I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
So, as a point of clarification, no one comes around and cleans sneakers while you’re out riding your bike. Your worn, dirty sneakers will stay worn and dirty. If you come back and they’re clean – they’re not yours. If they’re clean and someone else’s stuff is on top of them, they’re definitely not yours. If they’re clean, have someone else’s stuff on them and are on a towel that you don’t recognize, they’re really, really not yours. Please do not put them on and definitely do not put them on sockless and then go run several miles in them. It’s terribly uncool.
However, if you do take someone else’s clean sneakers from under the stuff you don’t recognize and off the towel you’ve never seen…when you get back to transition and meet the man who’s shoes you are in…please try to put yourself in his shoes and do make a sincere effort with your apology.
*An idiom is a word or phrase which means something different from its literal meaning. Idioms are common phrases or terms whose meaning is not real, but can be understood by their popular use.