• Footwear gone wild
    April 22,2013

    Spring in Vermont. Much in the manner of Punxsutawney Phil, it is time for the residents of the state to emerge from hiding and briefly squint at the sunlight before we return to our bunkers and hunker down for another 10 months of winter.

    During our short-lived spring/summer, it is important that we look good. This means temporarily retiring the long johns, flannel shirts, hats and gloves and breaking out more appropriate clothes for the season which will highlight our pasty pallor and farmers’ tans.

    It is very difficult to switch over from wool to cotton and be a fashion icon when your wardrobe has a mind of its own. Nowhere is this more evident than with footwear. For example, I am dealing with a rebellious sock. This situation first came to light last week, when I caught the calf-high cotton garb trying to escape.

    Clothing in general — and socks in particular — can be very sneaky. As a result, they are good at hiding and running away. How often do you find a single sock which has no match? What do you suppose happened to the sock’s mate? It didn’t just vaporize. No, that sock made a successful break from the laundry basket and has started a new life on its own, probably as a puppet somewhere.

    Socks, as a rule, are unhappy apparel. And who can blame them for being depressed? People wear socks until they get holes, and they have a reputation for smelling awful. To add insult to aroma, despite the socks’ best efforts to cushion, absorb and make a wearer’s feet comfortable, shoes always get the compliments and attention.

    Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Lassie’s buddy, Timmy’s, high-top Keds are on display at the Smithsonian Institute. There are no socks on display at the national museum. Sure, some stockings have received a degree of celebrity status. Curt Shilling’s bloody sock was temporarily exhibited at the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, disrespect for the sock was evident when it was removed and sold to a private bidder to salvage the former major league star’s bankrupt business venture.

    While shoes receive more favorable attention, many of these members of the footwear community are not content with their lives either, and they hop away to find greener pastures. How often do you see a single shoe on the side of the road? It’s not like someone was just walking along and all of a sudden noticed that the shoe was missing from their foot. No, this shoe on the side of the road is one that has struck out on its own looking for a better life somewhere. But I digress.

    The other day started out as a normal day at work for me. I got to the office, spoke with co-workers, and attended a meeting. Mid-morning, as I returned to my desk from a second meeting I saw, lying in the middle of the floor, one of my socks. Apparently, the piece of apparel had latched onto my back like a remora riding a shark, and it came into work with me. My first thought was the potential embarrassment this type of incident might have caused with a more intimate item of laundry. While I do not own any lingerie, this sock could easily have been a pair of Sponge Bob Squarepants briefs.

    A bigger issue was that I had an unhappy sock on my hands. If I didn’t deal with the situation immediately, I might be faced with a mass exodus of socks. Was it more than a typical sock’s discontent that caused this particular one to want to flee? Maybe it didn’t approve of my choice of detergent. Or didn’t like the way I left clothes in the dryer for extended periods of time. Who is to say what sorts of things go through the mind of an inanimate object? The life of a sock is a tough one. Darn Tough. I corralled my cotton friend, put him in my pocket, and returned him to the laundry basket at the end of the day.

    Two things were certain: I needed to do a better job of keeping my socks happy; and I needed to get a life as I was spending way too much time thinking about keeping my socks happy.

    I decided to deal with the first problem. That night, I made an effort to show my socks how much they meant to me. I rearranged my dresser, giving them the top drawer. It was a symbolic gesture, for sure. But it was worth a shot. Next, I resolved to go out and purchase some fabric softener.

    As I got ready to leave the house, I couldn’t find one of my running shoes.

    Apparently, the footwear situation on the home front was worse than I thought.

    Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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