I think I'm not alone when I say I depend on my things to look after me.

I think I'm not alone when I say I depend on my things to look after me.

By "things," I mean my possessions, of course -- my small appliances, my personal items, my car.

Unlike younger population groups, I haven't always relied on my things to keep me healthy, safe and on time. Back in the days before, say, seatbelt buzzers -- in fact, back in the days before seatbelts -- we were expected to look after ourselves. None of this namby-pamby "recalculating" business for us when we got lost. When we wandered off the path, we stayed off the path. It was the American way.

In the 21st century, though, the way is to rely on our things to keep us headed in the right direction, not to mention on time and on task.

Take my car, or any car, really. When something's amiss in a car's inner workings, an all-points bulletin goes out to the driver: Trouble under the hood! Dashboard lights flash, buzzers buzz. At the very least, a person sees the annoying "check engine" light. Even if she chooses to ignore it.

Inside the house, we rely on smoke alarms to tell us the couch is on fire, carbon monoxide alarms to tell us why the dog's been asleep for three days, and an angry shrieking sound from the washing machine to tell us the load is unbalanced. If for some reason the washing machine fails to shriek and merely jerks and jumps and jostles itself all the way into the living room where we're trying to watch "Jeopardy!" our first instinct is to whine "It's supposed to shriek! How should I know something's wrong if it doesn't shriek?"

This brings me to my running shoes.

Running shoes aren't embedded with warning lights -- yet -- but most runners believe shoes should be replaced every 350 to 550 miles. Worn-out shoes are supposed to cause injuries, and certainly I could be the poster girl for that tenet. I've been a runner for more than 20 years and I still believe, deep down, that a person shouldn't have to buy hundred-dollar shoes any more often than she buys a refrigerator.

Because I put off shoe-shopping as long as possible, I have accumulated ample evidence to support the belief that old shoes cause injuries. Time and again, I've worn shoes until injuries cropped up in my toes, my heels, my ankles, my shins When they reach my knees I begin to think, grudgingly, of shoe shopping, and when a twinge in my thigh makes running impossible and causes me to walk like Walter Brennan, I hitch myself into the shoe store and make my purchase.

That's what I usually do, anyway: When my shoes all but cripple me, usually about 500 miles after buying them, I get new ones.

But not this time. This time my shoes failed to do their part. I wore them for months and months, for miles and miles, and never experienced so much as a mild case of plantar fasciitis.

I was glad, at least at first. I wasn't injured, and I wasn't spending a hundred dollars. Let's all dance! But soon my very health began to creep me out. Wearing the same shoes for -- what, a year? More than a year? -- just doesn't happen. I began to wonder if, by continuing to run in these shoes, I was engaging in some kind of pact with the devil.

Finally, when holes appeared - holes! That never happens! - in the shoes' mesh uppers - I cracked. Without even the slightest limp in my step, I turned myself in at the store and bought new shoes.

It's been how long? someone said, as a police officer might say "You committed how many murders?"

But it wasn't my fault! I whined. Can I help it if my shoes didn't warn me?

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. E-mail mbartlett@ thisweeknews.com.