The Seven-League Boots

Among black blocks, carnival blocks, public authorities, private initiative, street vendors and hermits, there is at least one consensual point: everyone will agree that public transport in large cities is very deficient before the population’s displacement needs, to use terms mild. Unfortunately, the consensus breaks down in pointing out the problem, with terrible disagreements about its cause and possible solutions. This includes items and variables as complicated as sustainable development, family planning, traffic engineering, individualism, civil rights, organic solidarity, patriarchal society, subway, bicycle, Nike Shox, old model Havaianas (with white soles and yellow straps)…

As in so many other aspects of life, there is an enormous need to complicate matters for which the solution may be much simpler than we think. Old technologies fall into obsolescence for several reasons, and when trying to rescue them it may not be that simple – remember the embarrassment when they tried to build caravels on the 500th anniversary of Cabral’s arrival? Despite the innate risk of rescuing a past stage of development (certainly the measure implies adjustments to be made), I believe that the benefits of the return of the seven-league boot far outweigh any inconveniences brought about by this resumption.

In the low middle age, the seven-league boots were an invaluable adornment, being the domain of their making exclusive to very few artisans. As happened later with Stradivarius violins, the rarity of the boots brought an intense mystique to the product: copies were lost, forgeries (some of excellent quality, reaching up to six leagues) began to circulate in fairs, murders were committed to obtain a seven legitimate leagues. The importance of footwear for the period is immortalized in Perrault’s literature, in tales such as “Pequeno Thumbe” and “Gato in Boots”. Imagine, at a time without rail, automotive or aeronautical transport, without the morning-after pill and without Instagram, the value of a shoe that allowed footsteps of almost fifty kilometers!

Unfortunately, the greed of mercantilism and the great navigations brought inconveniences to the use of heroic boots. Wanting to explore more and more distant regions, those who wore their boots often ended up stopping in inhospitable regions, suffering violence; others got lost, never to be found again (google maps and GPS hadn’t been invented yet, believe me), perishing in uninhabited lands or having the common end of so many explorers of the time: salty death. Any ten-degree error and you were giving an account to God instead of starting business transactions with the Indians; there were still a few, confident in an incipient cartography, who tried the maritime “great leaps”, ending up with the donkeys in the water, literally.

In this way, many original seven-league boots were lost, and the nuances of the craft were diluted in subsequent generations. The industrialization process, with the arrival of the railway networks, meant that the “dangerous” boots were retired for good.

With the literary indications that we have and with the remains of boots kept in museums in Europe, however, it is possible to build new examples on an industrial scale, improved with the recent discoveries of technology. The new boots would not necessarily need to operate with steps of precisely seven leagues, operating at adjustable distances (even steps of a league still make the use of the shoe economically advantageous); the displacement of boot wearers could be monitored by satellite, with routes regulated in command towers, just like aviation (so overloaded these days!).

The seven league boots (version 2.0) are safe, economical and comfortable, not harming the environment. They can be of invaluable help for both urban transport and medium- and long-distance commuting. Anyone who wants a quick and cheap solution for public transport has to believe in seven-league boots.

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