A Shoe Drill Dilemma

Living in Hawai‘i means thinking about things differently. No, I don’t mean sipping Mai Tais on the lanai of your mansion and driving around the island in your Ferrari. You can put away your Magnum, P.I. DVDs now. Besides, with the gridlock on O‘ahu’s roads, good luck getting that Ferrari up to bicycle speeds. I mean thinking differently about really basic stuff.

Like, shoes.

You mean to tell me that people wear flip-flops, those miserable little pieces of so-called footwear with the thong between your toes, because they’re comfortable? I tried it. Once. Five minutes later, my feet were so cramped up, they may as well have been amputated. I spent the rest of the day walking on my hands because it was easier. Besides, I’m a scientist (really), and sandals in the laboratory are verboten. Only real shoes need apply. There is a reason for this. You only have to drop a test tube full of hot acid on your bare toes once

No. People ’round here don’t wear flip-flops because they’re comfortable. They wear them because of shoe drill.

Most people from the U.S. Mainland know nothing about shoe drill. They just come barging into the house with whatever they’re wearing on their feet. Sometimes wiping them off, sometimes not. The person responsible for cleaning the floor complains, but the worst that can happen is that the offender gets handed the mop or the broom. Most of the time, however, the grit just gets left for the next floor cleaning. However often that might be in your house.

But most people in Hawai‘i aren’t from the U.S. Mainland. They aren’t even Hawai‘ian natives. They’re Asians. Mostly from China, Korea, Japan. And they brought shoe drill with them.

Trust me, Yank. You do not want to go blundering into an Asian person’s house with your shoes on. The looks of shock and horror that accompany any such attempt put the puny screams of today’s frontline horror movies to shame. As does the sight of a grandmother, all 4′ 9″ and 80 pounds of her, prepared to unload on you like a blitzing middle linebacker. And if that doesn’t work, the Ninja pop out from behind the Japanese screen in the living room and cut you to ribbons. No. First they carry you and your offending footwear out of the house. Then they cut you to ribbons.

What you’re supposed to do is enter the vestibule of the house and take your shoes off. This is shoe drill. In Asian households, the homeowner often provides sandals for people to wear in the house. The in-house standard here in Hawai‘i is bare feet, or at least it’s been bare feet in the places I’ve been so far.

This is a great way to tell the malihini from the kama‘aina at a party around here. Those in the know are already at the bar sipping Mai Tais while the rookies are still in the vestibule untying their sneakers. One thing about flip-flops. They come off quickly and easily. Thank goodness.

Now, the very existence of shoe drill makes a statement about the cleanliness of the house that practices it. Not to mention the safety. Let’s face it. In mainland America, given both the frontier mentality and the climate, you need to wear shoes in most houses. To protect your feet from whatever the previous sets of shoes have tracked in. Plus the temperature of the floor (hot or cold, depending on where you are and when). Plus whatever verminous things like ants or wasps or snakes have snuck into the place when you weren’t looking and are lying in wait for your unshielded tootsies.

Shoe drill states “you don’t have to worry about those things here”. Which is a fine statement for the homemaker to make. As long as the verminous things are listening …

So nowadays I come home and, because “when in Rome” and all that, I take off my shoes. Most of the time, I’m doffing sandals (not the flip-flop variety), but sometimes real loafer-type shoes. Last night, it was the loafers I had just taken off when I looked up, and there was a centipede crawling across our floor.

Now, Quilly and I have been telling you all about the flowers of Hawai‘i, and the birds of Hawai‘i, and the mammals of Hawai‘i, on our blogs. None of these creatures have actually been native to Hawai‘i. This was our first look at real, honest-to-Mergatroyd Hawai‘ian native wildlife. Though we would have preferred it if this particular species of wildlife hadn’t spent the last several years watching the Crocodile Dundee movies. Especially the second one. The one where Paul Hogan’s character went to New York? Y’see, U.S. Mainland centipedes are pretty puny, maybe an inch (25 mm) long, most of ’em. The Hawai’ian ones looked at these things, got themselves to the gym, bulked up, and scoffed.

That’s not a centipede.”

Hawai’ian centipedeThis is a centipede.”

So here’s this thing, as long and big around as a pencil, scurrying across my living room floor and headed for the kitchen. And they bite. Which would be bad enough by itself, but centipedes bite with a venom that is similar to the one found in bee stings. And if you have an allergy to bee venom … like Quilly does …

Hawai‘ian residents, I’ve since learned, attack invading centipedes with flamethrowers, bazookas, or machetes. I didn’t have any of those things. Or a lot of time, either. What I did have was …


Which I promptly put back on, strode brazenly across my sacred floor, and stomped the intruder into mush. (It took awhile.)

I’m just glad I didn’t have to cope with blitzing Asian grandmothers too.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.


  1. I was standing at the kitchen stove. OC says, “Watch out for the centipede.” I said, “What centiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiy!” and let out an honest-to-goodness real girl-type shriek. I have never previously heard such a noise escape from me. I also considered climbing the counter, but my hero saved me.

  2. Ewwww…..I hate all creepy-crawly things. Maybe I’ll change my mind about envying you in Hawaii.

    I make family take off their shoes in my house, but not guests. It really makes sense. Why track dirt in?

  3. Ewwwww! I’d be for leaving my shoes on. And how high can they climb? I’d be for a nightly inspection of the domicile before retiring for the evening, too! (at which time I would take my shoes off)

  4. I don’t know where in the US you grew up, but *MY* centipedes get to be 4 – 5″ long!!! Maybe not QUITE as long as a pencil, but nasty nonetheless!! lol

    Way to go on protecting Quilly, OC!

    We take our shoes off in the house also…if the men forget, I become a 4’9, 80 lb. Asian Grandmother 😉

  5. The shoe drill isn’t unheard of on the mainland. I once had a discussion with a lot of women from the US and Canada on this very topic. With the southern women, shoes stay on in most houses. They are there because it is hotter than hades outside, and everyone is worried about potential sweaty foot odor. Ewww. With the northern women, shoes came off in most houses. Lots more snow, and the snow is never as clean as Norman Rockwell would have you believe. Nobody wants that tracked throughout the house. With the Canadian women, shoes almost always came off.

    That centipede is beastly, but I’ll take it over a spider anytime.

  6. The shoe drill has been alive and well in my house for the last 30 years. It came out of necessity. I worked, I had five kids, all their friends and all their friends, friends. I met them at the door and said, please remove your shoes, if they asked why, I said, “it is our religion.” they often asked, “what religion is that, and I would reply, MY Religion of religiously taking off your shoes. It has saved me from car grease, dog poop, gum, all kinds of things that should stay outside. Occasionally I have a kid who has socks dirtier than his shoes, and I offer him clean socks. I don’t care if I hurt someones feelings, if they don’t like it they can stay home. Funny, they don’t stay home, and they don’t seem to mind. I have them all trained, and they take off their shoes at the door. I often have 7 to 12 pairs of shoes out there. Works for me…….besides two of my sons have oriental wives now, so it worked for them also…..

  7. You did the right thing by “stomping the intruder into mush.”

    At our place we have a policy: Never ever let a centipede get away. Kill the bugger by whatever means you have available — shoe, rock, butcher knife, or whatever other weapon you can quickly lay your hands on.

    (This sounds extreme only to those who have never suffered the agony of a centipede bite!)

    Aloha from the Big Island.

  8. Just had to comment on a brilliant post. Well written and scary. Popped over from my friend Quilly who, as you will know, linked this in her current post!

    Off to read the rest of hers now – and congrats on your anniversary.

  9. I rather live in Hawaii and have a centipede crawl on me than live else where and have “who knows” a snake, bear,etc… Born and raised hawaiian

  10. And futher more, we take our shoes off because were not pigs, try doing it , you house and rug would smell extremely clean. why pick up after your guess

  11. In AZ we had to watch out for scorpions. In fact we had to check out shoes first before putting them on. I guess now is not the time to tell you the crushing a centipede to death causes a smell signal that invites others into the home?That’s why the machete and the flame thrower. First you slice it-then you fry it. No smell left.

  12. OJM, I remember the scorpion hunt, from a field trip to the Caribbean many years ago. One person on that trip spent a restless night because he kept feeling these pinpricks. The next morning he shook a shirt-button-sized scorpion out of his sleeping bag.

    We never did see another live centipede in the place, so the smell must not have been enough to counteract the shoe-borne “not welcome” mat.

  13. I just logged on for i hate those critters, just tried killing one in my garage. “what the is he doing in my garage” i sprayed it with morteen about 20 times. I think i temporarily gave it a paralising effect. Wanted to know more on how to kill them. Thank God i didnt get close enough and mush it. For i would hate to invite other unwanted guests.

  14. I’m happy to know that I’m not the only one living here in Hawaii and seeing these things! I woke up to find one curled up on my floor. Thinking he was dead, I did the exact same thing you did- but I used a quarted – placed it beside him and took a picture. Wanting to make sure he was dead, I took some ant and roach killer (the other thing that is going to sink this island) and sprayed him. Sure enough, that thing started busting a move across my carpet in snake fashion. Ahh! I’m not looking forward to a bite from this thing in the middle of the night. First thing -I google searched centipedes and found you.. hoping for an answer, but found comfort knowing I’m not alone!

    and just to throw in my 2 cents on the shoes – I’m from the south, and we left our shoes on – but I’m following suit here and removing my “slippas”

  15. Being from Hawaii I can tell you that the best weapons are big barbecue tongs to grab them with and a ball-peen hammer to hit them over the head, as they are almost impossible to kill. Or you can cut them in half with a machete or shovel, but be careful, because both pieces will continue to move around for several minutes and the head can still sting you until it finally dies.

      • I’m happy to have found this side – so far I felt a bit funny since every page talks about the nice centipedes… I’m in Seychelles and just had a little confrontation with – we call it – a centipic. And since I was told that it hurts a lot, when they sting – I could not let it survive! But how come that you cannot read about these biting centipedes?? they seem to come in the house, when there is a lot of rain…. do you know about the bites – how they look and what can be done????
        Kind regards from the Seychelles

      • Edith, if your “centipic” looks like this, it’s actually a millipede, not a centipede. The “come into the house when it rains” behavior sounds more like “millipede” to me than “centipede”. Also, the only reference to Seychelles centipedes that I could find indicates that they’re less than 2 inches (50 cm) long, and such a small centipede is unlikely to inflict much of a bite.

        Millipedes move slowly, eat plants, and do not bite. Centipedes move quickly, eat insects and other small animals, and bite with a pair of modified claws that inject a venom similar to the one in bee stings. Only the larger centipedes have claws that are large and strong enough to break human skin.

        Because of the venom, a centipede bite will look and feel much like a bee sting, and the treatment is similar.

  16. I was sitting at my computer desk, I was watching youtube videos, I look up on my livingroom wall by my front door. I jump up
    and I saw a centipede crawling on my wall.
    I took my shoe off and I open my front door
    and knock it out the door..

    • Amoeba you are welcome.. I like to go to diffrent websites and read about alot of diffrent things..



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