Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
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January 10th, 2016 by John Lehet

There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else” – James Thurber

Although it was an easy two hour trip, I rarely visited New York City. However, each time I did, I found it more and more interesting. I too have found that “interesting” is an interesting word, but that’s another story. In any case, it had been years since my last visit. This year my wife wanted to see a Christmas musical, so I succumbed. The musical was showing at the Garden Theatre at Madison Square. I had never been to Madison Square Garden. However, I was familiar with the many events it has hosted over the years. I’m familiar with mainly the sporting events – the Knicks, the Rangers, St Johns basketball, the NIT – the list goes on and on, yet I had never been to any of them. I have to admit, I was pretty excited to be going even if it wasn’t a sporting event.

When we arrived at the Garden, a large crowd was already assembled. They were funneled through the main doors and then through four security checks. Security checks always made me antsy. I’m not sure why. Thoughts of someone covertly slipping drugs in my pocket or a weapon in my bag flashed through my mind. “How absurd” I thought as I discreetly checked my pockets and bag one last time, just in case. As we approached, there was a large placard listing prohibited items. It’s was good to see that someone was concerned for my safety. The list was very long and detailed. At the top of the list was “weapons”. Sarcastically I thought to myself, “no duh”.

My wife quickly made it through the checkpoint unscathed. My time had come. I placed my bag on the counter. It contained only a sweatshirt and a paperback, so I was confident of it passing. In my pockets I had a cell phone, wallet, keys and eye-glass case – nothing too threatening. I removed these from my pockets, placed them in the provided tray and handed it to the security officer. With a quick nod from the officer, I started through the check. As I was just under the gate, I heard to my left someone say “shoelaces, sir”. Not realizing that I was being addressed, I just continued to slowly pass through the check. Immediately, a guard stepped from my left directly into my path. He looked me straight in the eye. Pointing to my shoes, he said “No shoelaces sir.” With a confused look, I slightly tilted my head and knotted my brow. I replied questioningly “shoelaces?” The guard replied “Yes, shoelaces sir. They’re not allowed in the theatre. They’re considered a potential threat, you know, a high PTI.” With my still tilted head and confused look, I replied “PTI?” Immediately he retorted “Potential Threat Index, shoelaces have an index of 4”. That’s what he said and that’s what I heard, but what I saw was his face asking me “do you live in a cave?” Again I replied “shoelaces?” much like the last time, just a bit more confused. As I was saying this I scanned the crowd in front of me. I quickly went from person to person, from foot to foot. It was a sea of loafers. No shoelaces. There were the occasional high boots, a Velcro clad child here and there, even the occasional sandal (“in December?” I thought), but no laces. I turned and looked behind me. Loafers – a virtual sea of loafers. Then I saw it, in front of me. A little girl, already through the check, with laces. I was saved. I pointed and said “What about her”. The guard turned towards the girl and looked down at her shoes. Turning back towards me, he replied “less than a foot, sir”. Upon hearing this, it didn’t quite register. I glanced back at the girl’s feet and thought “less than a foot?” I counted and thought. “Yes, she had two feet.” I replied questioningly, “less than a foot?” The officer realizing my confusion replied in a staccato, emphasizing each syllable “the shoelaces, sir, they can’t be more than a foot in length. Hers are less than a foot.” I slowly nodded in agreement and thought “Now I see, you idiot”. I asked him “So, what do I do?” He replied incredulously “remove your shoelaces, sir”. Hardly believing this, I slowly raised my left foot and removed my sneaker. Putting my left foot down, I repeated the performance with my right foot. Holding the pair of sneakers in my hands, I handed it to the officer and asked “How do I get them back after the show?” With a not too happy look, he replied, “Shoelaces sir, not shoes. You have to wear shoes when in the theatre – state health code.” He pushed the shoes, which I was still holding, back towards me. With my still confused look, I asked “So what do I do?” “Remove the shoelaces, sir and put the shoes back on your feet.” “Remove the shoelaces?” I asked in a tone of disbelief. “Yes sir, that’s what I said, Remove the shoelaces.” So, I unlaced both sneakers. Holding those pesky and potentially dangerous laces in my hands, I placed my shoes back on my feet. I handed the laces to the officer. He just looked at me saying “Don’t you want them back?” I replied “Want them back?” With his incredulous look, he replied “yes sir, after the show, don’t you want to retrieve them?” “Of course. Can’t I just pick them up here after the show?” Shaking his head in disbelief, he replied “Sure, I’ll be waiting here just for you. Do you want me to hold up a sign with your name on it?” Sarcasm. I knew sarcasm when heard it. I refrained from replying to his sarcasm with a sarcastic response. Experience told me that sarcasm would do little good for my cause. I just replied in that familiar way, “so what do I do?”. He looked and pointed behind him “Over there is the security office. You can store your laces there during the show. They will give you a ticket, just like a hat check. You can retrieve your laces after the show, just show them the ticket.” Relieved, I asked “So I’m free to go?” Also relieved, he replied “Yes sir, you’re free to go”. He handed my laces to a subordinate and told me to follow her.

I was escorted to the security office by this other guard. She carried my laces ensuring I wouldn’t make a run for the theatre. As she opened the security office door for me, she said “Right in here. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry”. I thanked her for her assistance and words of wisdom. In the security office, I checked in my laces. In return, I received a claim ticket. Knowing my laces were safe and more importantly the audience was safe from me strangling each and every one of them, I made my way to the theatre. Upon seeing my wife, she looked at me as if I was an idiot for wearing laces to the show and an even bigger idiot for now wearing sneakers with no laces. For me a lose-lose scenario, one with which I was very familiar. We made our way into the theatre and found our seats. The show was very enjoyable and it was nice not to be constrained by those laces. After the show, I bee-lined for the security office to retrieve my laces. To my disbelief, there was a line already forming. Two others arrived at the office before I did. It was actually comforting to realize that I was not the only fool. I quickly glanced at their feet. Both were wearing loafers. Possibly I was the only fool. The first guy retrieved a backpack the size of a small clothing store. The second guy retrieved a Swiss Army style pocket knife. “What a rookie!” I thought. “Does he live under a rock?” Even I know not to bring a pocket knife. Finally it was my turn. I stepped up to the window and handed the guard my ticket. He returned with my shoelaces, both completely intact. I went out of the office door, sat down on the floor and immediately laced my shoes, tightly tying them both. My wife, looking at her watch (always a good sign), looked at me and asked “All set?” I replied “Yup” and we were on our way. We turned a corner as we were about to depart the Garden and I joked with my wife, “Now we’re all ready to rob a bank. I’ve got my laces cleverly hidden in my shoes. They will never suspect a thing!” As the sarcasm spewed from my mouth, a guard turned the corner from the other direction. As we passed, she gave me what I took to be a very suspicious look. Within seconds, I heard those familiar words from behind me “Sir, your shoelaces”. It was the guard we had just passed. “No” I thought, “Not again!” I turned around to explain to the guard, but before I could get a word out she said “your shoelaces, sir, on your right shoe, they came loose and are untied.” I looked down and sure enough, my shoe was untied. I thanked the guard and knelt down to retie them. The guard said “Just wanted to let you know sir. It’s better to be safe than sorry.” She turned and walked away. In response, I double knotted both shoes just in case. As we were finally departing the Garden, I said to my wife, “How about we look for a pair of loafers.” She agreed.