Do You Have My Socks?



Neighborhood: Upper East Side

I almost exclusively wear black no-show socks — mostly because I wear booties all winter or sneakers, neither of which warrant the obtrusive show of a sock.

As such, I have ten pairs of basic black ones from Walmart, another four pairs of slightly different black ones from Duane Reade and one pair – my favorite – from a specialty store, not to mention tons of other hosiery.

Over the course of the last year when I have gone to do the wash in the basement of my Upper East Side apartment building, I have often come home missing one of a pair. Sad, but not at all uncommon.

While it is not unusual to lose a sock during a wash cycle in a building’s highly trafficked laundry room, something not so common has been happening to me over the year.

Pretty much each time I lose a black no-show, another different black no-show sock, not belonging to me, will end up in my finished load instead. Mysterious!

If you think this story is simply an ordinary tale of a problem encountered in everyday living involving a mundane task like doing laundry, it is not. This is not about how to prevent socks from going missing. Nor is about the need for more socks. No, sirs and madams, this is not about anything practical; this story is about ART.

There are many types of socks in this world. It really goes without saying there are knee socks, white sweat socks, wool socks, soccer socks…. Socks of various colors and patterns, textures, fabrics and size. Yet in the last year I have not come across any other sock types except black no-show socks in my laundry.

So while it is common to lose a sock, or find an errant one in your load, what are the odds that the kind I find that didn’t belong to me are always the kind I wear?

It’s like there is this mystical thing happening – one that indicates a sort of infinite balance in the Universe (if not wash cycle.) I lose a black no-show, but the Universe gives me a different one as a replacement.

At first I’d just leave the rogue footwear tacked to the bulletin board in our basement expecting its owner would be reunited with it. I hoped karma would pan out and the tenant who ended up with mine would do the same and return it to me.

It never happened, so, after a while, I started keeping the gifted sock and pairing it with my own singleton.

While slightly different, the two could still be worn as a set, especially because they do not show when worn in shoes.

It became a game. An art project.

I started gathering these mismatched sets, acting as a bizarro matchmaker for socks. I’d get a momentary thrill of making pairs, instead of a momentary twinge of mourning for losing one of my own.

It never failed: whenever I lost a black no-show, another, slightly different one, would appear as a replacement the very same day.

At the risk of sounding obsessive (ha!), I began thinking more and more about the Case of the Missing (and Replacement) Socks.

Maybe this was a metaphor for something bigger. Maybe the Universe wanted me to think about grander ideas, and the socks were a catalyst for, these thoughts.

In ways, I am a single sock. Where the fuck is my mate? A friend pointed out that perhaps the Theory of Quantum Entanglement is at play. Or maybe it’s a lesson showing me that while you might not get exactly what you want, the Universe (at least in the case of laundry) seems to provide what you need. Sure, ideally you want a perfectly match, but for all intents and purposes, isn’t it enough simply to have a pair that is close enough? There are mysterious forces at play in our world that repel us to some, attract us to others, and while we have a semblance of free will, we are also beholden to some sort of order we can’t possible understand.

What may initially seem like a chaos may be hiding a system of organization that we can’t understand with our silly, limited human bodies and minds.

Over the last few months I’ve decided to curate all the single socks I’ve found, and show how they matched up together to form new pairs. In the vein of conceptual art, I was creating a secret little show based on these found objects. I started cataloging them by taking pictures of them and housed them in a separate area of my drawer.

Then last week prior to throwing in a load because I was washing my favorite pair – the expensive ones purchased at a specialty shop – I carefully made sure each one went together into the washing machine. I wanted to be sure not to lose one of those as I consider them irreplaceable. Two definitely went in. I made note. Then they both went into the dryer.

But when I got the dried load upstairs one was glaringly missing! My special sock was gone! Did someone actually go into my dryer and fish it out?

Yet (!!) I then discovered TWO different black no-shows – not a pair of the same themselves – in my dried load, even though I had carefully checked all pairs prior to placing them in the empty dryer. What did this mean? The Universe had snatched one of my favorites but sent me TWO to replace it? I now had more in quantity but less in quality.

So do two substandard socks equal one favored one?

I was left with one perfect sock and an option of mating it with one of two substandard ones.

I really wanted my other good sock. Game aside, the Universe had taken things too far! I went to the laundry room every day for a week hoping someone would leave it back down there. Each time I took the elevator back up, dejected. The gods must be crazy.

When I finally gave up, EIGHT days later my special sock was hanging on the bulletin board.

A sign? Who fucking knows?

Today I did another load and ended up with two more mismatched no shows, but none of mine were missing. I promptly returned them to the basement gods, art show be damned.

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§ 3 Responses to “Do You Have My Socks?”

  • TSB says:

    This speaks to me. On the issue of socks, pairs, the random order of the universe. But most of all on the topic of the strange mysterious role that the laundry room plays. This extends to public laundromats. But I am talking about these semi-public spaces in apartment buildings. They are on one hand featureless and a tiny bit unpleasant. On the other hand, for me, they are kind of deep in ways I can’t really explain or understand, but are captured and evoked in this piece.

  • Gattaca says:

    Delightful and whimsical! I favor the Quantum Entanglement hypothesis myself.
    Someone should write a paper…oh, you just did. 🙂

  • RLME says:

    This is truly a story of “what goes around comes around” though what’s going around, and what’s coming around are possibly the most unique example ever!!

§ Leave a Reply

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