Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Socks: Lessons Learned

Lesson One: Socks ought to be suitable for both the washer and the dryer. Forty little drip-dry socks can be the straw that breaks the camel's back for even the most cheerful and helpful Laundry Manager.* I know this through painful personal experience. It is only recently that my Laundry Manager has softened his stance after The Great Laundry Rebellion, and been lured back to the job, and even then only with promises of dryer-safe socks. Yes, they do seem to fade and shrink more quickly, but domestic harmony is pretty much worth it.

Lesson Two: Each member of the household should have only one kind of sock. For ultimate efficiency, see if you can get all the feet in your household into matching socks, or at least into as few Sock Teams as possible. You no longer have Pairs of Socks, you just have Socks. They exist in bulk, like orange lentils at the health food store. This makes washing, sorting, storing, and wearing socks a matter of almost zero annoyance. There's never a stash of odd, mateless socks lying listlessly in the drawer, waiting for their other halves to find their way back from the crawl space under the basement stairs so they can both get back into, ah, Sock-ulation (heh).

This Unified Sock Theory means, of course, that you must pick a style of sock that comes as close as possible to the Platonic Ideal Sock, and so will always be available when you need a few more. It would only lead to heartache if you were to choose brown and yellow striped socks with small purple flecks, because in addition to being terribly ugly, they would be difficult to find again, so you would have to commit to buying a whole lifetime's supply at once. I'm not sure that many brown and yellow striped socks with small purple flecks even exist. Much better to go with something basic that you can supplement as needed, and the style of Basic Sock you pick should be the one that's most useful to you: The White Tube? The Ribbed Black Cotton? The Navy Knee High? Pick something like that, and get a whole flock of them.

The result of this smart and efficient system is that your laundry process becomes streamlined and your socks become boring. Really, really boring. I didn't fully realize this until, in a moment of madness, I bought a pair of red socks. Later, as I was wearing them, I happened to catch a glimpse of my own ankle. I was tickled beyond all rationality to see that bit of red instead of the ubiquitous Black Rib. It put a spring in my step, and I might even have started whistling.

I draw two opposing conclusions from my experience. You may select the one that makes you feel most at home, and proceed accordingly:

1) Bulk Socks are an unnecessarily grim exercise.

2) Bulk Socks both streamline your laundry experience and give you the opportunity to experience delight in a place you never thought to look for it.

I, personally, find it worthwhile. I have a bottomless vat of black socks that match well enough for everyday purposes, and when I do get all overexcited and buy non-standard socks, I buy two matching pairs, so that I can lose three socks before I have a mateless one.

*Titles are good for morale--mine are Groundskeeper, Senior Dietician, and CEO of Textile Division. The Laundry Manager is also Head of Tech Support, DJ, and Director of Publications. We share the jobs of Library Acquisitions, Facilities Management, and Interior Architecture, and yet we still manage to live happily together.

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