Boot polish and motivation 

As a recovering former United States Marine, I have a love-hate relationship with Kiwi polish and Lincoln stain wax. My service time began before coyote tan rough leather boots were the only approved utility footwear. My formative days in MCRD San Diego included an expansive amount of time with a can of open Kiwi polish, lid filled with water from my canteen, with a remnant of a white t-shirt wrapped around my finger rubbing away at a jungle boot-just as Chesty Puller intended.

In spite of my best efforts, my boots never quite achieved the glasslike, indestructible luster fashioned by every drill instructor I encountered. For those of you that did not have the pleasure of meeting a drill instructor, it is my firm belief that the mirror-like polish on their boots would long outlast the life of the sole of the boots themselves. It most likely would provide level IV ballistic protection from small arms fire and would certainly withstand a nuclear war. It was as if the boots themselves were afraid of failing their owners.

I tried different techniques in boot camp and beyond, chasing the dream of that illustrious finish. Purchasing Lincoln stain wax as a dutiful boot jarhead was a no-brainer, as the can itself touted the tacit approval of my beloved Corps. I would happily sit and attempt to achieve the shine I desired on my garrison boots, as I was well aware that my techniques would never survive a training cycle in the field.

Polishing boots essentially became a meditative experience. I would literally sit for an hour or more, dutifully chasing that elusive, everything-resistant shine only to have the toe of at least one boot scuffed just prior to a company formation by a careless dipshit who stepped backwards and ruined my perfect finish. Thus, the cycle continued until we were issued our MARPAT digital camouflage utilities and those ill-fitting coyote tan rough leather blister-generating torture devices called boots. I’m certain that Chesty rolled in his grave.

After completing my enlistment, Mrs. Donut, our firstborn sugar donut, and I relocated ourselves to our current Donut County area in order for me to begin anew in my search for that perfectly impenetrable spit shined finish on footwear that were now referred to as “duty boots”.

After having copious amounts of downtime to chase my perfect spit shine dragon while completing training at the law enforcement academy, I reported for duty in an inspection-ready uniform complete with beautifully shined boots. Much to my chagrin, the lovely shine did not survive the foot chase I was involved in on that first night.

Although I did catch our fleeing juveniles who were impeded by their consumption of alcoholic beverages that evening, after they were secured, I took a moment to look at my feet and saw the dirt, scuffs, and gouges in my finish. I resisted the urge to fix my boots during the rest of my shift, but repeated the polishing process prior to reporting back the following evening.

Mrs. Donut would patiently sit nearby as I worked on my faithful duty boots, somehow managing to drop ever so small pieces of polish beyond the newspaper drop cloth onto our living room carpet. She knew how important that spit shine was to me, although she may not have fully understood why it was so. She supported my habit as I purchased the latest and greatest polishing equipment and supplies while shopping at a big box retail store, commandeered her pantyhose for use as an applicator, and held back any sort of complaints as I whipped myself into a polishing trance on a regular basis.

Daily polishing gave way to polishing that occurred before the beginning of a two or three night shift cycle as the sugar donut grew and became more mobile. My focus slowly shifted from a highly shined boot to other things as a second sugar donut was added to the Donut family. Cans of boot polish slowly migrated to dispensers of polish ooze that hastened my efforts.

My poor duty boots were soon relegated to once-a-pay period attention as the sugar donuts grew and began having obligations of their own. My boots remained fairly decent as spit shines progressed into horse hair brush-coerced buff shines at least once every two weeks.

After the addition of the third sugar donut, my attention to a highly polished set of boots waned even more. Polishing boots became a task that no longer involved removing laces and working for hours on end. In fact, the new routine was more of an occasional quick buff while the boots were on my feet before I reported for duty. Although I had been promoted twice by this time, I began to be concerned that my motivation had dwindled and that I had somehow failed my beloved Marine Corps.

I renewed my vigor in the pursuit of a durable mirror finish, I was a Lieutenant now and had to set the example for my officers. As I sat dutifully entranced on the living room carpet re-engaged in my efforts to be a poster child for self discipline and motivation, I worked to fill the gouges and cracks that had formed during my lack of attention.

After I reached an acceptable level of shine and began to clean up my supplies and area, my field of view expanded. I started to notice the normally unseen spots of boot polish stains on the carpet. Their family had grown as well, as they were now joined by faint stains from spilled Koolaid and uncapped markers left on the floor by toddlers with gnat-sized attention spans.

I began to realize that wearing boots that I could see my reflection in had rightfully taken a backseat to the foot mobile, living and breathing reflections that were my quarter-dozen of sugar donuts. All apologies to Chesty, but since then the luster of my boots has faded. They are now maintained as needed, but the time and effort I spent pursuing the perfect finish while off-duty is better spent in other ways.

I haven’t fully recovered from the intensive brain conditioning that began at MCRD San Diego. Once in a while I still relapse and fall prey to the meditative experience that is a righteous spit shine process. The blended odor of Kiwi, Lincoln wax, and the lingering corn chip-like foot odor left behind by long hours of wear still hold a special place in my life, but they no longer demand daily attention. I’m mostly ok with that now, forgive me Chesty.

Well that’s all for now, time to get ready to patrol the Donut.

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About donutcountycop

I am a husband, father, and coach who began a career in law enforcement at a very small agency in 2003. After a deployment to Iraq with the USMC reserve in 2004, I changed agencies and moved to a “donut county” that borders a major US city in 2006. My current agency is composed of about 50 sworn officers, and is the busiest agency in our part of the donut. I am currently a mid-level supervisor who is in charge of a night shift, and serve the department in many other areas that include SWAT, FTO, and primary instruction. I’ve been around long enough to lose the illusion that I have every answer to every problem and now fully understand that my experiences have prepared me for little else than a life of wearing a badge and pistol.
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