Joco 913

After nearly 50 years, he’s perfected the art of tying shoes. Next up: navigation

Behold, the modified surgeon’s knot.
Behold, the modified surgeon’s knot. Special to The Star

My kids went back to school this week, news I bet my friends greeted with relief.

Now when it comes to bragging to them about who’s learned what lately, my focus can be on things the kids picked up in class, like a normal parent, instead of the childhood skills I mastered.

But I think I deserve some slack for all my bragging this summer. You see, I — an adult who’s been using footwear for nearly 50 years — have finally learned to tie my shoes.

I mean, sure, I’ve been looping my laces and pulling them tight just like everyone else since I was kid. But a couple months ago one of my friends taught me a trick that made sure they stayed tight.

The secret, he said, is to swap out the standard bow knot for something he called a modified surgeon’s knot.

That sounded arcane enough to get my attention, but it’s actually simple: Start with the usual bow knot, then make two loops at the step where you’d normally make just one, tuck them under each other and pull tight. Google “Ian’s secure shoelace knot” for a well-done step-by-step of the same knot going by a different name.

Whatever the knot’s called, I’ve been a missionary for it since I first realized that the laces on my hiking boots and sneakers were no longer working loose halfway through the day.

I’ve been hit-and-miss at converting folks, though. Part of that’s because I may not be the world’s best teacher. But it’s also a fact that not everybody likes to learn a new way to tackle a familiar task.

I know I fall into that category sometimes.

My wife tells me I take the long way to several of the places we drive to a lot. Because she’s a smart woman who has to drive more than I do, I know intellectually she must be right. But I don’t listen because people get attached to their regular paths. Or maybe I’m uncommonly stubborn.

Thing is, interesting things can happen when you try out a new path to the same old place. You might even learn something.

I stumbled across one of those paths many years ago when my wife and I were packing for a flight with our first baby. The kid has since turned into a pretty independent teenager, but back then he was just a year old, and babies need to travel with a lot of gear — at least babies of new moms and dads who have yet to discover how relaxing a more laid-back parenting style can be for the whole family.

On a whim, I put aside the family’s big diaper bag and instead filled the pockets of a fishing vest with everything the kid might need over a few hours on a plane. A pacifier, bottles, diapers, toys and even a couple books all fit, meaning I didn’t have to fight what’s essentially a big, ugly purse full of baby gear down the aisle to my seat.

The discovery was so liberating that I never used a diaper bag again, just filled up the vest with anything a dad might need to hand his baby every time I took him out.

Ever since, that new-parent trick of ditching a diaper bag for a fishing vest is something else I go on about like a missionary.

Nobody listens to me, though. I’m like my wife pointing out what I’m sure is a better route that will nevertheless go unfollowed.

That modified surgeon’s knot got me thinking, though.

This summer I looked down at my boots with this unfamiliar knot still holding tight after a day on the trail and I made a decision: I’m going to listen more when someone tells me about a new way to approach something I’m sure I already know all about, and I’ll see what I learn.

I think I’ll start by asking my wife for directions.

Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at And follow him on Twitter at @respinozakc.