In high school, my friend Devin Shoecraft made an interesting argument: every profession has people who hate them except cobblers. Every other profession – tech workers, doctors, police, firefighters, salespeople, taxi drivers – will be disliked en masse by someone. Cobblers may not be liked by everyone, he proposed, but it’s going to be virtually impossible to find someone who dismisses the entire profession of cobbling. The fact that he put so much thought and effort into systematically trying to determine the most amiable profession to enter was just one of the reasons I loved, and still love, him.
(I should note that he is now a lawyer.)
His argument had an enduring impact on me, and, as I’ve moved around over the last 20 years, I’ve been blessed to have known several good cobblers – David the Russian in Lyndhurst, who always worked on my dress shoes; Rick at the Union Club of Cleveland, who fixed the soles of my cowboy boots; and now Eddie, of Kuching, Malaysia, who I will forever look to for my running shoes and Tom’s to give them a new lease on life.
Kuching is absolutely one of the best places we’ve visited. It’s extremely walkable, the hotels are top-notch, everyone speaks English, it is clean, safe, friendly, and accessible. The public transportation is cheap and good, and if you need to cross the river, a boat taxi will take you for one Ringit – about $.30. The food is delicious, and there are layer cake stands EVERYWHERE.
And of all the things that seemed remarkable to me, we kept passing a lone cobbler working on the street. He was always busy, with piles of shoes that he was gluing, sewing, or hammering, and he often had people sitting near him chatting away; his radio often blasted Boyz II Men, which reminds me of Bianca Jarvis and my youth. And when, five months into the trip, both pairs of my traveling shoes needed fixing, I thought of him.
He fixed two pairs for 18 Ringit, or just about $4. He did it in three hours. And my shoes have a new lease on life. And it made me think: if you can find a good cobbler on your travels, it’s well worth it, because as Devin noted twenty years ago, they’re good people, nobody hates them, and they can help you.