I passed his station. He eyed my boots, I caught his glance. He was looking down at them disapprovingly. I proceeded past him to the coffee bar, ordered a latte, and considered a shine. My boots were awesome but they definitely needing some TLC.
Latte in hand, I walked back to his shoe shine station. “Hi, how much is a shine?” “8 dollars.” “ I caught you staring at my boots like 'Girl, you should let me shine those for you!' Right, isn't that what you were thinking?" I climbed up into the chair, placed my vintage tan Acme boots into position, and knew that I was in the right place. I then proceeded to find out as much about him as I could in the length of time it took him to return the luster to my boots.
Simmie, short for Simeon, was born and raised in Minneapolis. His uncle was a preacher. He is twice-married and has six children total, a bunch of grandchildren and great grandchildren too. Simmie worked for the Minneapolis Transit Authority for over 25 years, driving a bus, and now rides the Light Rail for free to his job at the airport.
He is semi-retired and works Monday and Tuesday. It’s a 12 hour shift that begins at 5:30 a.m. He works in the G gate, toward the higher numbers. The best part of the job is the different people he comes across. “I always ask their names, like I did you,” he says.
He first learned how to shine shoes in 1963 but didn’t practice the craft much until 7 years ago when he started with one of two companies that rent airport stand. On an average good day he will shine 35-40 pairs of shoes. Sometimes more. Morning time seems to be the indicator of a day’s success.
In Simmie’s ungloved experienced hands my tan boots started shining like caramel. “What’s the most important part of the shine,” I asked him. “The cleaning. The shoes have to be cleaned,” he answered. Once cleaned, Simmie puts life back into shoes via a process that includes conditioning, applying color, and then going over the hide with repeated soft brush strokes and a few professional snaps of his cloth. For the finale, he deepens the color of the sole. This he assured brings out leather.
“You’ll be walking better and smiling,” Simmie predicted. By Jove, he was right. I had happy feet and was contented knowing that I treated my boots well. I smiled all the way back to the gate. And people smiled back.
Thank you Simmie!