When we first moved to Washington, D.C. from Nebraska we lived on Capitol Hill near the Eastern Market Metro train stop. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill lived two houses up the street from us on Independence Avenue SE.
Since we were poor students we shared the worst house on the block with three out-of-work actors, a lesbian girlfriend of a dentist and a stringer for an Irish newspaper who spent her days sitting in the living room writing nothing.
Our roommates would yell at us every day to “stop stomping your feet when you walk” as we strode across the floor or ran up the stairs. Midwesterners, we discovered, have heavy feet even while walking barefoot, and when you share a house with floors and stairs constructed of wood, every step you take is like a hammer on a bass drum. We wanted to fit in and we wanted to get along with our new roommates so we adjusted our walk and for the past 15 years we now walk swiftly and quietly like cats skittering along the clouds.
When we moved to New York a year later, we discovered no one here cares one whit about heavy feet because the world is cursed everywhere with the booming sounds of shoes against bass drum wooden floors and stairs.
Women in high heels are especially hard on the ear and when you live in a big building where all the floors above you are constructed of wood. You have an all-day cacophony of banging drums and it makes your ears sore! Why do people refuse to walk with a lighter step? Why do people stomp their feet so hard on a set of wooden stairs as they race to their fourth floor apartment that the entire building shakes?
Are people so unaware of how heavy their feet are on the ears of others? Is there a polite way — without Washington, D.C.-style yelling — to ask someone so unaware to become aware of the clomping of their feet?