My dad had a manly tradition that I fondly remember from my childhood. Maybe yours had the same one. One Saturday every month, my dad would pull out his wooden shoe polish kit packed with tins of KIWI shoe polish and take all his boots to the den to polish them. He usually watched In the Heat of the Night or a football game while he did it. He had a personal technique, as I’m sure most men do, to get that perfect shine. The warm smell of shoe polish and leather filled the entire room, and it would usually linger there for an hour after he finished.
The tradition in my house was a little different: it was a chore stuck on either myself or my kid brother. My dad was (and my brother is) a policeman, and he was a stickler for highly shined shoes until much later in his life when he had to switch to softer shoes that sadly never took a good shine. I spent a few years in the Army, where I became intimately acquainted with the nuisances of keeping these bastards looking like a mirror:
These are HH Jump Boots, which I always found to be a little easier to shine than their most famous cousins, the Corcoran Jump Boots. I spent too damn long of my youth trying to keep these spit-shined, but I recall a similar experience to the author’s: after a while you use that time to meditate on whatever is bothering you, since the task is pretty much mindless and mechanical.
And for the record: I sucked at it, I was terrible and could only get them shiny enough to pass an inspection (yes, they did look like a mirror, but only until you compared them with an older soldier’s pair of boots with a few years of polish in them). There were plenty of old timers around that had boots that looked like black glass, I have no idea how the hell they did it, but it was a completely different league.
The other tradition that I remember is that for as long as I was in training in the Army, there was one constant chore that had to be performed religiously: the cleanup of black scuff marks from the floors. Every place I ever worked at, except one specific exception, had floors that were obviously designed to show every stupid little scuff mark. We would have to retouch the wax at least once a day, and strip with a buffing wheel and re-wax at least every few days. The exception? We had a whole building in Fort Gordon, Georgia that had no-wax, nonslip plastic flooring. And yes, we waxed the damn things too, but it showed a lot less scuffs than any other flooring I ran into for as long as I was a soldier.