Arlo Mudgett: The View from Faraway Farm | Solitary shoes

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Several thoughts go through my mind when I see a lone shoe lying on a highway. What happened? Was anyone hurt? Was there an argument in a car and a shoe was thrown in anger? Did the shoe fall out the back of a garbage truck on its way to the landfill? Was it possibly a suitcase in the bed of a pickup packed so full that it split apart after hitting a bump in the road and the shoe fell out? Was the lone shoe the result of a car/motorcycle/bicycle/human impact? How does that sort of shoe-impact-ejection thing happen anyway? So many questions, especially for a motorcyclist. Motorcycle vs. car impacts almost always result in the loss of footwear, but that's another story altogether.

Loss of shoes by an impact is a very common occurrence. Even shoes that are tightly laced up will come flying off a body that is heavily impacted by a car, truck, or the road surface. A human body is a squishy kind of thing and when incredible G-forces are applied to it, it distorts. Like the last kid on the end of a chain of kids on an ice rink playing snap the whip, taking all the energy when the whip cracks. The energy distorts the body to the point where shoes, gloves, and hats come off. In the parlance of a snowboarder, it's an instant garage sale.

Have you ever come upon an accident scene where everything has been cleaned up but maybe a bit of gasoline stain, a small pile of granulated glass, and a lonely shoe? It is rather disturbing. In the heat of the moment, it is doubtful that first responders are thinking about shoes. They have far more pressing matters to deal with, like saving a life. Saving a shoe is at the very bottom of their priority list. So there it sits, a stark and sometimes heartbreaking reminder of what happened there.

Have you ever lost a shoe from a sudden impact? Say, a hit on the soccer field, a bicycle accident, a roll down a steep hill in a wide-open field? It takes a big impact to knock off your shoes. It also depends on how the G-force is administrated. Riding a roller coaster subjects the human body to a little over 6 Gs. The way you receive those Gs makes it survivable because they are received intermittently. Fighter pilots are subjected to G-forces as high as 9 Gs. Those forces are mitigated by pressure suits that regulate the effects and help keep pilots from losing consciousness from lack of blood to the brain. An Air Force officer demonstrated that a human can survive a force of 46.2 Gs or the equivalent of weighing 7700 pounds for just an instant. The report I read didn't say anything about the fellow losing his shoes. I probably would have lost my lunch.

The Mythbusters of television fame once conducted a segment to see what it took to blow your socks off and proved it could not be done. Fans protested en masse claiming the use of elasticized socks was unfair. They did a new segment with hand-knit wool socks. After hitting a dummy with all sorts of simulated punches they finally resorted to suspending the dummy a few inches off the ground. They extended a steel beam horizontally off the side of a steel hauling flatbed truck. They ran it up to highway speeds and clipped the dummy at mid-section with the steel beam. It blew the wool socks off.

All of this seems like a lot of trouble to prove that side impacts will blow off your shoes and in some cases blow off your socks. A pedestrian takes at least 30 G's in one of those impacts with a car. The fact of the matter is that not all shoes lying on the side of the road were the result of a tragic or near-tragic impact. Sometimes the solitary shoe simply ends up by itself on the side of the road with no explanation available to the observer.

The Morning Almanac with Arlo Mudgett can be heard Monday through Saturday mornings on radio stations Oldies KOOL FM 106.7, 96.3 and 106.5 and over Peak-FM 101.9 and 100.7. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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