“Free drinks and they gonna act retarded,” said Jaida Gonsal. “Stand around here not movin’ all this time.” Gonsal was talking about the crowd milling in stasis around the door next to her shoeshine stand on the Fifth Floor of the Fleet Center. This was the Loge area, the level with booths for the networks, the André 3000s, and DNC finance people. It was crowded and well-appointed, an important-seeming place. At one end was the Premium Club, where the rumored complimentary bar awaited special ticket-holders, and next to it, Gonsal’s stand. “They stand up here for half an hour, waiting for something to happen — and then nobody gonna get a shoeshine.”
The first three days of the convention, Gonsal said, were good business, but the exciting conclusion was a letdown for her. “It’s been slow,” she said. “And let me tell you, nine out of 10 of these shoes in here need shinin’! Some of them is crying, okay? Dusty, scuffed, all marked up — on they last legs.”
Gonsal, whose father has shined shoes for 25 years and operates four stands around Boston, is working the Fleet as a summer job during college. “But I put my heart into it, you know,” she said. If she’s not sweating at the end of a shine, she declared with a wide smile, she’s missing something. “And I’m good enough to make an old pair of shoes look like they’ve been worn once. Not to toot my own horn, you know, but — BEEP BEEP, o-kay?”
The nicest shoes Gonsal saw all week were some ’gators, but she doesn’t pay attention to labels. “All I know is if they need a shine.” And Gonsal is surprised how many crisp suits are accessorized with poorly maintained shoes. “They let ’em get ashy, you know. These shoes need lotion, and that’s what I got. All dressed up, but with ashy shoes. Oh snap! — there go some right there!” She pointed at some wingtips a few feet away. Wingtips aren’t as hard to shine as you might think, Gonsal said, but tassels are tough, because they get caught in the rag. And piping is a pain in the ass.
Gonsal is studying film, and plans to come to Hollywood. But on the Loge, Hollywood may be coming to her. The place was full of stars, including Puffy, who had just been slowly navigating the halls ringed by a circle of six bodyguards. “I’m hoping Puffy sits up here,” Gonsal said. “Because Puffy’s not cheap. I know he’d leave a good tip.”