I Can’t Be Trusted With Shoelaces

I’m a senior at Purdue. I’m more likely than not going to graduate school. I get good grades, etc., etc.

So why have shoelaces been giving me all sorts of trouble lately?!

My shoelaces have been launching a two-fold attack on my sanity as of late.

Attack #1:

Once in a while, my shoelaces won’t untie. This is somehow related to the way I tie them, but the trigger is subtle. My system for tying shoelaces is to do the standard maneuver and then tie a half-knot using the two loops. This half-know makes the laces much more resistant to coming untied accidentally, yet still permits them to be untied by pulling on the end of the string.

At least, that’s how it normally works. Once in a while, something goes wrong when making the half-knot. I’m not sure exactly what it is; I suspect it’s related to the positioning of the ends of the shoelace relative to the half-knot as it’s being tied. Whatever it is, the problem only manifests itself when attempting to untie the shoe. Instead of coming free, the lace will get tangled up in some ugly knot that takes a few minutes of careful work to remove.

Anyone who’s tangled his or her laces in a knot knows this can be tricky to undo. The key is to find the one part of the knot that’s slightly loose, and try to work that one free. After a few iterations, enough lace material has been removed from the tangle to allow the rest to come free relatively easily. But executing the algorithm is time-consuming and annoying, and sometimes requires the use of a bent-out-of-shape paperclip to try to force some maneuvering room inside the knot.

Attack #2:

I think the shoelaces on my tennis shoes are a bit long, resulting in loops that are a bit long. These don’t play well with desk chairs with wheels on them. I tend to fidget around a bit while I sit, repositioning my feet under the chair and rolling back and forth a little.

This quickly becomes a recipe for disaster if I accidentally roll one of the wheels over the loop of one shoe. The loop then gets tangled up in the wheel assembly, and only when I try to get up and leave do I realize that one foot has become tethered to the chair. And because of the way that the wheel fits together, the only way to know for sure how to untangle the loop from the axel is to turn the chair on its side (carefully, to make sure the wheel that has attempted to annex the shoelace is on the bottom) and see exactly what’s got tangled where and how many times.

The problem is that my desk chair is of this design, as are the chairs in the campus computer labs, and in the testing facility where I took the GRE. It’s a bit humbling to learn you scored well on the GRE only to find out you got yourself caught on the chair in the process.

The worst part is that I seem to have been encountering these problems more and more frequently over the past couple of months, for no apparent reason. It’s not like I haven’t been tying my shoes the same was as I have for the past decade, and with the exception of getting a new desk chair when moving into my current apartment, my seating habits haven’t changed.

Perhaps as my level of education goes up, my success with shoelaces decreases. Let’s hope I don’t have to switch to velcro after getting my master’s.

4 Responses

  1. Paul Paul Paul…Now I know what I’m getting you for Christmas…VELCRO SNEAKERS… It really sucks when you get caught on the chair…it doesn’t happen to me often though. I tie my shoes just like you and I’ve never had a problem with un-tying them…you just have to undo the knotish thing first. There’s some helpful advise from your sister.

    Just tie your shoes like I do…make them very loose on top and everything so it’s easy to slip them on and off (during boring classes so I can put my feet up onto the back of the desk in front of me) and it has a very little loop. Of course, you walk more than me but I have yet to fallen on all those steps at my school…I have tripped on the carpeting..but never fallen.

    Kisses and love

  2. Wow. I’m getting shoe-tying advice from my little sister. (Not that I didn’t open myself up for it, but still….)

    You do realize it’s bad for your shoes to take them off and on without untying them, right? You’ll stretch things out and then they won’t be tight enough on your feet when you try to wear them.

  3. I am aware that it isn’t good for my shoes…do i care? not really.

    See, you open yourself up, I slip in and make fun of you. haha! You do it all the time to me so let me have my 15 seconds of glory. It’s not everyday that I do that.

  4. Check out my pictures on shoe tying website; it just might give you an insight you’ve never had before. :)


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