Max Elliott, Playstation Programmer / Mad Scientist
It was 1986. I was living in Germany at the time. Sent there by the company I worked for. I had no friends or relatives nearby, and could barely speak the language. I was very lonely.
Being an anonymous human being in that situation was strangely exhilarating, but also terrifying. I felt the world was full possibility, and yet I was quite invisible in it. I was an outsider. That first year, the winter was brutal. Sometime around Christmas, I was sent to Italy to visit some customer or another. The drive was long and difficult(and scary). I was feeling particularly depressed. Somewhere along the way, maybe Stuttgart, I suddenly had this crazy idea: "maybe it's my clothes". Yep, that was it, I thought. "I'm still wearing American clothes and that must be what's keeping me from assimilating!". So, pulled off the Autobahn and found a department store, intent on buying some "local" duds. When I saw these shoes in the window, I thought "well... those are about as un-American as you get! Only somebody who is actually somebody would wear those!". So, I bought them.
I guess they helped me feel a bit more confident, and over the next few years I managed to make some friends, and ultimately ended up knowing just about everyone in my neighborhood. I even became part of a "Stammtisch" in the local pub. I've since grown out of the shoes, but every time I pull them out, I remember what Schnitzel tastes like, and what freezing rain will do to your emotional state. I think I'll keep them forever.