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Tempting to hurl shoes, but not polite

Let me say for the record that in all my years as a reporter, I have never thrown a shoe during a press conference. Not that I haven't wanted to.

Our exiting president was recently treated quite disrespectfully at a press conference in Iraq, which, well, wasn't going to be a trip to Disney for him anyway. As Bush stood at the podium, a journalist winged not one but two shoes in the direction of his head, a great insult in that culture.

To his credit, the outgoing president displayed cagey and admirable ducking ability, followed by helpful commentary: "It's like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers," he said.

The tossing of shoes was undeniably bad behavior, even if you disagree with every single thing Bush ever said, did or thought, down to how he ordered his eggs that morning. (Scrambled? Idiot!) Still, most of us would never think of behaving thusly, particularly those of us who like our shoes.

But oh, just once.

If you are not required to attend news conferences — lucky you — know they do at times feature relevant people imparting actual information. This is the good kind. Others involve some self-important bloviator yammering way past your deadline. Other common occurrences:

• The giant check symbolizing the astonishing — astonishing! — generosity of a donor;

• The giant ribbon-cutting scissors symbolizing — what, exactly? I've never understood the giant scissors, though they look like fun to play with;

• Golden shovels for the "ceremonial" overturning of dirt at some about-to-be development that likely displaced a lot of people or a lot of history, take your pick. This is "ceremonial" because those wielding the shovels generally have never held a real one in their lives, and "gold" because that is likely lining some pockets.

In terms of shoe-tossing, a sneaker, say a wide-bottomed New Balance with some miles on it, would afford the most surface area. A little black slingback with a kitten heel would be your more stylish option, though limping off afterward might lack dignity.

(When I covered the courthouse, I was once mistaken for a lawyer, which I thought a thrilling nod to my wardrobe. Then I realized I had been taken for a public defender, those government lawyers assigned to do God's work and way too much of it, meaning they have about as much to spend on clothes as your average part-time convenience store worker. Ah, well.)

For the record, journalists have also been on the receiving end. Remember back when that Miami Beach official spat on a Miami Herald reporter — twice — and called it self defense? "Nothing made me happier than spitting," he later said. "It achieved all the results I was looking for." Worse than a flying shoe, definitely.

Also the outgoing president's own dog, Barney, recently nipped the index finger of a Reuters reporter, prompting the first lady's spokeswoman to quip, "I think it was his way of saying he was done with the paparazzi." An equal opportunity offender, Barney later chomped the wrist of a PR director, too.

In conclusion, the tossing of shoes is wrong. Better to grab those giant scissors and run. Or maybe use them to cut that stupid check in half.

Tempting to hurl shoes, but not polite 12/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 4:30pm]

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