The Case of the Dangling Tennis Shoes

Nick Wiebe/Wikipedia

Traveling through Urbite, on Ometepe Island, I noticed a string of tennis shoes dangling from the electric lines. Were they a sign from a gang of thugs marking their territory like dogs defending their boundaries? Were they a warning for low-flying aircraft or UFO’s? Were they slung by bullies taunting defenseless kids? Francisco, who lives in Urbite, believes they were thrown over the electric lines by naughty little kids seeking attention.

All over the world, people encounter tennis shoes dangling from electric lines. Theories abound about what the dangling tennis shoes signify. No one knows for sure. But, I have a new theory. It hit me like a zap of electricity when our wires were crossed by a large wind gust.

Last week, our electricity suddenly blinked off. Now, this isn’t anything to get excited about in Nicaragua because it happens daily. However, when Marina shouted across the barbed wire fence that our electric lines were tangled together and we were the only two houses that lost our electricity, we had to find a creative solution to untangle the wires temporarily.

With each gust of wind, sparks flew throughout our entire community. Neighbors were frantically pulling the plugs to refrigerators, irons, and electronics. Danellia called the electric company, but they were in Masaya ( on the mainland), so there was no telling how long we would be without electricity.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that an easy way to untangle the two electric lines was to place a weight on the bottom line so they could separate easily. A vision appeared of the dangling tennis shoes in Urbite. Quickly, I grabbed my tennis shoes, tied them together and handed them to Ron. “Here!” I ordered. “Throw my tennis shoes over the bottom wire and the weight will separate the lines until the electric company gets here.”

“You want me to do what?” Ron responded with a puzzled look. “You will sacrifice a $90 pair of tennis shoes?” “Anything for electricity,” I replied frantic with worry. “It could be days before the electric company comes to repair the lines.” “This is Nicaragua,” I stated matter-of-factually. “We have to take control of our own lives.”

Although, the thought of dangling tennis shoes separating the electric lines was good, we couldn’t figure out how to throw the shoes over the wire without causing more problems. Ron’s aim had to be perfect, and there was no guarantee that the shoes would land in the correct spot on the line.

Instead, Ron rigged a long plastic PVC pipe with the plastic hook off of our new garden hose, and carried it up the path to the tangled wires. After several wobbly attempts, he hooked the bottom wire, separating it from the top wire, pulled the wire tight, and tied the PVC pipe to a coconut tree. Voila! Electricity!

The electric company arrived at 4 pm. This simple act astounded me! Same day service? Unheard of in Nicaragua! Unfortunately, the man who carried the ladder to the pole was attacked by Marina’s dog. He threw a large coconut at Tyler. It hit him in the shoulder and he yipped in pain. Marina got into a shouting match with the worker and said she was going to call the police. “There are laws, you know, about hurting dogs,” she shouted to the angry worker. I’ve never seen her so mad!

Well, this would never do! I had to come up with a plan to sweet talk the electric workers…and quick. I wanted to keep them on our side. You see, two weeks earlier  Arsenio arrived on his bicycle to shut off our electricity. We hadn’t paid our bill since the new meter was installed in February. “But, Arsenio, we never received a bill,” I reasoned. “Yes,” he responded with his Latin logic, “that’s because the fat guy on the bicycle quit and stopped delivering the bills.” “But, it’s not our fault,” I pleaded.

After a little sweet talk, he said that if Ron would pay the bill immediately, and return with the receipt, he wouldn’t cut off our electricity. While Ron rushed into town, I gave Arsenio an English lesson on our porch. Twenty minutes later, Ron handed Arsenio the receipt, and all was well in the world of Latin logic.

Out of the three workers who were there to untangle the wires, Arsenio was the most upset with Marina. What could I do? We didn’t have any cash on hand…we used all of it to pay our electric bill two weeks earlier. I ran back to the house and grabbed several packets of Chiky favorite. “I’m sorry about the neighbor’s dog attacking you,” I said. “I really appreciate you responding to our electric problem rapidly.” I handed each of them a packet of cookies and said that I was sorry I didn’t have more to offer for their help.

Henry, one of the workers, turned to me with a big smile and said, “The cookies are small, but your heart is big.” Problem solved. Electricity restored. Everyone, except Marina, appeared to be happy.

So, the next time you see tennis shoes dangling from electric wires, they may have been placed there to restore electricity from crossed wires…well at least in Nicaragua. Case solved.


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