Sock Theory

February 2, 2015 Post Comment Uncategorised

Idea  Spark

A very good friend posted up
an interesting question on Facebook, which got my mind out of neutral and
heading forth on a magical mystery tour, viz:
“What is the acceptable length of time to hold on to an odd sock in your
sock drawer before realising its partner will never be found?”
Clothing Pairs
Now there’s a curiosity to this
perennial and almost worldwide sock dilemma, for the humble sock has probably
got the highest “pair mortality” rate among all articles of clothing.
Whilst gloves are most statistically nearest in terms of singularity, other things
bought (and sold) in pairs – like shoes, pants, ear muffs, tights, trousers – never
seem to suffer the same fate.

Incidentally, why do we call them “a pair” of pants, tights or trousers?
They are clearly not “a pair” but are
one only item.
“Are you wearing a pant today?” has to be a typical example of verbal
pantagruelism. But I digress …
Most gloves become widowed during
outdoor excursion as we take one off in order to afford ourselves the dexterity
of our fingers. Once home, they are safe and secure – like their culinary
cousins, the oven gloves. Sensibly of course, the oven glove can be bought both
singly and as a pair.
As with pants, we rarely take our socks
off in the street which has to be why they are not often seen on pavements or
at the roadside. Gloves, and less so these days handkerchiefs, are the
commonest lost souls of the wayside. You can almost hear the faint and plaintive
voice of the partnerless glove as you pass it by. “Help me,” it cries, ravaged
by the elements and trampled underfoot.
Wash Hose
Now, for socks, the danger area has to be
laundering, the weekly wash. We wear them as a pair; we take them off as a
pair; and most times they go into the washing machine as a pair. And this is
the point where Cosmic Intervention comes into play.
Rather like the light in the ‘fridge,
once the door to the washing machine is shut who knows what strange alternative
universe our everyday reality metamorphoses into? A wormhole in space, the
rabbit hole in Wonderland – they have nothing on the deep mysteries of the drum
of the washer.
For us, on the outside, it may seem a
tangible reality because we can see clothing, shirts, socks and the odd pant –
all presented there through the Perspex door, revolving before our very eyes.
Yet within – after the initial soaking, the lathering, the rotating this way
and that – the cycle moves into another dimension. If we are still watching the
drum and its contents through the apparent transparent nature of the door, we
are already unaware of our minds being entranced. Our focus gets fuzzy and
distant, our attention wanders into reverie. Whether we are present or not, by
the time this phase of proceedings is reached we can bear no witness as to what
is going on.
You know the quote – “If a tree falls in a
forest and there is no one around to hear it, has it made a sound?”
too is about bearing witness to reality. If a sock becomes lost in the washer
and there’s no one around to hear, has it cried for help?
Once the spin cycle is over and the
Cosmic Sentinel whispers “3-2-1 You’re back in the room,” we
discover that with supernatural efficiency, dark forces have captured a sock.
Were we blissfully unaware earlier
that the Erlking was stood on our
shoulder, watching as we loaded our laundry into the machine. Did he chuckle
under his breath as the garments of our soles were locked inside his lair? Did
we have any cause to be grateful as he let many go, to be worn another time,
and only retained one or two for his own satisfaction? Did we even ask whether
he chose ones that had adorned our left foot rather than our right?
Or is ours the real life, and not
just folk-lore or fantasy. It was not us in that maelstrom, after all; just
some of our garments.
Yet they must be somewhere – surely?
Wistfully, with even a hint of romance,
we might talk of the great sock-drawer in the sky, where each lonely item waits
for its partner to be captured at some future washday and they might then be
After Maths
Of course, in reality, do we ever again
wear those single socks?
If we don’t then they will never
get washed and have the chance to be re-paired with their long-lost buddies,
their soul-mates. So we should always consider wearing the odd ones – and to
hell with what people might think or say. Give them all a chance of repatriation.
Alternatively manufacturers should
sell odd socks, and we should make the wearing of odd socks quite acceptably regular
and normal – instead of being one of the taboos of our social mores.
There are many ways of overcoming the
dilemma for the un-partnered socks – yet there is another thing to note about
them ever getting back together again.
Every wearing, and every wash, will
change the physical nature of the sock. The fibres will wear out and degrade
and the colour, the dye will be altered and fade. For every wearing and wash
that a pair of socks is apart, each will change in a different way. Very soon
there will come a point when they will be no longer recognisable as a pair
anyway. As a consequence in this forest of socks there may actually be none
missing at all – yet our human perceptions deem it impossible to put all the
pairs back together again.

Perhaps it is time to change our
entire view about pairs of socks and realise that a sock is an individual.