Sometimes someone will offer me an idea for a column or a blog post. “Oh, you should write about such-and-such,” they’ll say – and it will make sense, their suggestion, because such-and-such might be somehow related to things I’ve written in the past, or such-and-such might be a very funny idea or event, so I always completely understand where they’re coming from. But the truth is, while I might think such-and-such is interesting, I find that I don’t really have a lot to say about it. And that’s because when I start to write, even if it seems like I might be writing about someone or something in particular, what I’m really writing about is –well – me.
But if I did write about other people though, I might have to write about my friend DH (not his real initials), because there is really no end to the satisfaction that comes with knowing that someone else is crazier than you are.
DH told me long ago that he numbers his socks. He said it in an offhand way and at the time I didn’t press him for details. But recently the subject came up again in an electronic exchange and then when I saw him today for lunch he halted the conversation, stuck his leg out into the aisle, slipped his shoe off and displayed his left foot clad in a white athletic sock with a neat number 50 rendered in black Sharpie marker just around his instep.
“What sense does it make to number your socks?” I asked him. Everyone has asked him. And his answer could fill a short book.
Originally I thought maybe he used a binary system, but he corrected me. “Whole numbers, base ten,” he said.
The 50 on his left foot matches the 50 on his right foot. This is so they can be properly paired after washing. These white socks are a wide assortment of Hanes, or Fruit of the Loom, and various bargain brands. It’s very difficult to tell which go with which, he tells me.
That’s the beauty of men’s sweat socks, as far as I’m concerned. Possibly the only beauty. They all look enough alike that you just pair ‘em up as you lift them out of the laundry basket. “No, no. They wear at different rates. You don’t want to put on a left sock that’s nearly new with a right sock that’s seen better days,” he says.
DH lives in that fairy tale world where every sock has its perfect mate and they will live happily ever after. When Left Sock Number 50 goes, Right Sock Number 50 is tossed right along with it. Here, in my laundry land, that’s not how we roll. When one of my kid’s socks has a hole, I assume it has a few weeks left until it turns into a Big Hole. Then that sock gets thrown away and its mate is stowed as a replacement for the next sock casualty.
DH explains how his socks wear out more quickly in hiking boots than in sneakers, but that the real problem for him is the elastic going, which seemed to occur on both socks simultaneously. I suggested he not ball his socks (I’ve heard that increases the life of the elastic) and he was nearly aghast at the idea of balling socks at all. “I don’t need to ball my socks,” he said, sounding the littlest bit high and mighty. “They’re numbered. I can just keep them in a stack.”
He flipped over the placemat and drew me a picture of his drawer of stacked socks. He showed how Number 51 sits on top of the other Number 51, and how they, in turn, lay on top of their sock brethren. He explained his numbering system, his sorting system, some of his past trials and failures relating to sock care, and by the end of the conversation I was almost ready to pull out my own Sharpie and start numbering the socks in my household as well.
“Does your girlfriend know you do this?” I asked. It was a rhetorical question. Or at least one to get him to admit his own kookiness.
If I wrote about other people, I would then relay perhaps the sweetest exchange I’ve ever heard.
“The last time I saw her she asked me which socks I had on,” he told me. “And I said Number 54. And she said, ‘Oh, I think you look really good in those!’”