Kicks just keep gettin’ harder to find

So many questions

Is this what the kids today do when they get a new pair of shoes? Or when they’re moving out? Perhaps it’s a ritual reserved for graduation. Must the shoes be white? New? Clean? Honestly, is this what they learn in college? The engineering students must be horrified. Or perhaps they are the worst offenders.

Most importantly, has DTE ever investigated whether there is a cause-and-effect link between these shenanigans and the persistent power outages so many Ann Arbor residents complain about?

Kids will be kids, I guess, until they realize how much those sneakers really cost.

Throwing Converse to the wind

Book cover with a hot air balloon in the shape of the Earth.My half-baked internet research using the Google machine reveals the global shoe-tossing phenomenon is steeped in many supposed origins, from marking rites of passage to sending gang messages.

“I thought it means, ‘You can buy drugs here,'” said one parent of an alumnus child.

Now, that is even dumber than tossing away a perfectly good pair of shoes.

On a sunny day when the cynicism is at bay, the sight of all those swinging sneakers can be a playful reminder to free ourselves of adulting’s excess baggage. To fling our cares into the abyss (or at least onto a telephone wire). To be childish and rebellious one last time before the diploma is in hand and the “Man” calls for us to join the “real world” once and for all.

But if we follow the advice of this month’s podcast guest, Colleen Newvine, MBA ’05, we can keep our laces tied, work a lucrative day job, and nurture the creative spark and human connection that made college life so memorable. Even when we’re old! Newvine, a journalist, marketing consultant, and life coach, is the author of Your Mini Sabbatical: Quit Your Life Temporarily. At a time when the business headlines are crowing about CEOs who demand their workers return to the office, Newvine, a veritable queen of the work-from-home phenomenon, is advocating the opposite.

Do you feel lucky?

Newvine dispenses with the myth that sabbaticals are the exclusive realm of academics in ivory towers. Her mini sabbaticals can work for almost anyone and can be customized according to budget, leave policy, family situation, or travel preference. From bosses to parents to children to budgets, she has an answer for any obstacle one can imagine. More accurately, she has a question for virtually any obstacle you can imagine.

“It’s all in your control,” she says.

Just probe the possibilities, she suggests. It’s not as mysterious or complex as you may think to, say, live in a Costa Rican surf town for several weeks, take a third-floor walkup in New Orleans, or even house-sit in A2.

“One of the the big transformations for me in becoming someone who has regularly done these mini sabbaticals is appreciating the power of being someone whose default is ‘yes,'” Newvine says.

It’s a lesson that works whether you’re into mini sabbaticals or not.

“When a serendipitous opportunity comes along, take the ride,” she says. “If you’re rigidly attached to your expectation of how life is going to be, it might be safe, it might be comfortable, it might be predictable, but it’s probably not going to be lucky.”

I wonder if that’s what motivated the first kid who flung a pair of high-tops onto a power line.

Editors’ Note 2/26/24: Since publishing this piece, I have heard from two sources who tell me this practice memorializes a person who died in this location. Both were offended by my tone-deafness about such a serious matter. If this is the case at the University of Michigan, we have a real problem on our hands. There are several locations across town — multiple sites on one street, in fact — where this is a routine sight year-round. I sincerely apologize for offending any readers with my cavalier take on this practice, particularly in the case of a memorial. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one commemorated at any such location.


  1. Peter Caplan - 1976

    It’s been a long time since I was in college, but in my day tossing one’s shoes over a power line was a sign that one had lost their virginity.


  2. T B

    This article really trivializes the practice and chalks it up to a silly thing to do. Hanging shoes on lines is a thing done in black and brown communities in America to commemorate someone who was killed in that area. The cost of sneakers means nothing when a life was lost, and people dying should not be marked as a playful reminder. Things like this showcase why it’s important to look through the cultural lens of a practice instead of accepting the top search results or popular opinions of people who don’t live in these communities.


    • Deborah Holdship

      Thank you for the insight. I appreciate it. Deborah


  3. Karen Shill - 1971, 1974, 1979

    Having grown up in Africa where many could not afford shoes, but needed them to be able to interview for or take a job, I find myself most distressed by the many pairs of sneakers hanging from the wires. Donating shoes would be a far more meaningful tribute to honor someone who has passed – if that is the reason they are hanging there, unused and deteriorating. This display demonstrates that people are sufficiently wealthy and short on exercising judgment in regard to waste and how no-longer needed items are treasures to others. There are so many constructive and sensitive ways in which to draw attention to or emphasize a point.


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