Waiting for the second shoe to drop

“There’s this guy, and his neighbor that lives above him. And every day, the neighbor that lived above him kicked his shoes. One shoe, two shoe. And he couldn’t sleep until both shoes were kicked off, but he anticipates them and normally it happens, so he just deals with his annoying neighbor. But one day, he only heard one shoe drop. And the anticipation was killing him, because the second shoe never dropped. So it’s just about anticipation, I guess. And we incorporate it into phrases. Like, ‘waiting for the second shoe to drop,’ I guess that comes from there.”


This phrase is common across cultures, but this was the first time I had heard it explained in terms of a story. My informant wasn’t entirely clear on the moral of the story; she knew it had something to do with anticipation, but she wasn’t sure what exactly. Perhaps it illustrates a situation in which someone is so wrapped up in waiting for others to act that they are unable to live their own lives. It could be a cautionary tale about making your own decisions and not waiting for outside circumstances to fall into place before you act. At any rate, it reflects a culture where apartment living is common; in a detached home, it wouldn’t matter if the second show never dropped, because no one would hear it except the person to whom it belonged. In order words, this story clearly comes from a culture where people live in close quarters, both physically and emotionally.