Tuesday, July 14, 2009
You see them in most cities, large and small, and I suspect everyone who encounters them wonders the same thing: Who tosses all those old, tied-together pairs of schoes onto power lines and telephone wires, and why????
I will admit up front that I don't have a definitive answer. No one does. Like most people, I've noticed the darned things dangling way up there on utility lines over virtually every neighborhood I've ever lived in, and always assumed they were artifacts of one of those adolescent male challenges or rites of passage most of us are party to during our youth — e.g., let's see which one of us can fling a pair of old sneakers over the highest wire.
It is popularly believed that tennis shoes hanging from utility wires designate "gang territory" or a location where one can buy street drugs, but that version of events would not seem to apply to the hefty percentage of shoes seen dangling over non-gang neighborhoods and quiet streets in rural towns where there's little or no gang and drug activity to be found.
Another folk belief holds that teenage boys who've just "scored" for the first time — i.e., lost their virginity — are wont to heave an old pair of sneakers over a power line to celebrate the moment and proclaim their conquest to the world (who says teenage boys aren't romantic?).
The long and short of it is that everybody seems to have a theory but nobody knows the answer. Maybe there is no answer; maybe sneakers hanging on power lines don't have any particular meaning at all.