Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I don't know and the cobbler didn't really seem interested in speculating. To him it was just another job, and evidently he could tell by looking at the shoes that it wasn't going to be a tough job. He did mention I'd applied too much polish. I'm not sure if he was suggesting that had something to do with my little problem or if it was just a general observation. To fix the problem all he did was wax and polish.
I'm not sure what brand wax he used or how he did the polishing, but it sure worked! By the time I picked the shoes up the owner was long gone and some teenaged hipster wannabe was minding the store. I usually don't even bother attempting a conversation with such creatures so I didn't ask questions.
It is funny how my wife expects me to drop what I'm doing when she want's to know what earrings to wear even though you can't see them from more than about 5 feet away, but when I have a catastrophic footwear event she couldn't care less!
I asked because I can absolutely see that situation happening to me (followed by a frantic attempt to fix it). If you ever do find out what it was (perhaps the next time you talk to your cobbler) PM me as I'd like to know what to do should I create the same problem for myself.
As for your wife, that is pretty much how it works: diamonds versus sapphires is a life or death decision, but your jacket catching fire is barely noticeable (yes that really happened to me - burned a hole in my dinner jacket at a party that, according to my wife, "nobody can even see").