Socks, Pairs and Spares

Cutting carefully through the tensioned plastic tags that hold this stack of socks together in three sub-stacks, I frown, wondering as I often do how they insert these tags without ruining the things being secured. But as the socks fall away, released from their captivity, I frown harder. Why do I have an odd number of white socks? I have an even number of feet.

Dagnab it, I must be short one sock. I check the cardboard band that had been wrapped around the sock stack: There should be 10 pairs. I lay out the socks: There are 9.5 pairs.

There is no question: I am short one sock. But, especially given the discount-store price I paid–an expenditure approximating the price of a good cup of coffee–what matters is not that my first reaction was right. What matters is that my first reaction was negative: I’ve been robbed!  It wasn’t: Oh, look! They gave me a spare!

Now, in some things, being right matters: writing calculus exams trudges to mind. In a very few things, it matters a lot: using calculus to determine loads on bridges springs to mind. But in much of life, being right is not nearly as important as being happy, or even being grateful.

I might as well consider that I paid for nine pairs of socks, and received nine and a spare. Maybe next time that possibility will be my first thought.

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20 Responses to Socks, Pairs and Spares

  1. barbara carlson says:

    One of my very first memories was helping my mommy with folding clean clothes. My job was to match the socks and fold over their tops — but I couldn’t figure out how to make one pair line up! My mother flipped one over. My reaction? I was so mad — at myself. I remember that disappointment to this day, every time I match/fold socks.

    Just a few weeks ago. I asked John if he minded dark navy socks “matched” with black ones. “Nope,” he said, “Just so long as I have a right sock and a left sock.” Too funny. 😀

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Apparently, it was a relatively late development that saw shoes adapted for left/right feet – they used to be like socks! That early memory is surprising, and yet not. We remember how we felt, even if it wasn’t reasonable – maybe especially if not.

      • barbara carlson says:

        It was about 1800 — women’s slippers were soft and soon molded to the foot. When the harder shoes came along, rich people had poor people break them in for them, or so John tells me… at least in the U.K. But where he grew up, it was clogs for the men. Don’t know what women wore. I do remember my early shoes needed weeks to settle down and not give me blisters, esp. on the back of my ankles. Nowadays, you walk out of the store, nary a blister ever appears — do we not live in a Golden Age of footwear? (But then I buy very $$ shoes — wear and repair them for many years.)

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Barbara – I know I don’t appreciate all the creature comforts I take for granted. IMO, that should be part of schooling.

          • barbara carlson says:

            When John tells me being uncomfortable builds character, I sniff and say, “Any fool can be uncomfortable.”

          • Isabel Gibson says:

            Barbara – So, fools have character? Gosh. We need to rethink some of our intuitive reactions. 🙂

  2. Judith Umbach says:

    I will take your philosophy to heart, especially when getting a good deal anyway.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – I expect this falls into the category of “Take my advice: I’m not using it.” But it’s always good to have a target . . .

  3. Alison says:

    My grandchildren don’t seem to have been introduced to the concept of matching socks – they do wear two, but never matching- does that make the “odd number” less important?

  4. barbara carlson says:

    When I was in grade school, there were always a couple of kids whose socks crept down into their shoes over the day, leaving their ankles bare. But they always matched, in colour and creepiness. Perhaps they had weak heels, like weak chins.

  5. Tom Watson says:

    How in the world does one sock just disappear? No idea but it’s a frequent occurrence.
    There’s a cartoon in which one sock—presumably the general—says to the others, as he holds open the dryer door, “Okay lads! We may not all come back but we’re all going in.


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – There are science fiction stories written on the theme of disappearing household objects. With respect to socks, I have no idea how it happens, but happen it does. Into the breach!

  6. Mary Gibson says:

    An important lesson I wish I’d learned several decades ago: Do you want to be right, or to be kind?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Mary – Indeed. “Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.” Robert Brault

  7. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – it appears that machines are really good at inserting tensioned plastic tags/thingies, but maybe not so good at counting.
    Removing the tag/thingie without cutting the items held together is a challenge left to humans.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – 🙂 I’ve gotten quite skilled at not-cutting things (socks, tea-and-other towels) while removing the thingie. Thus do we adapt to our machine masters, I guess.

  8. Danielle Wawryk says:

    And most likely the first one to go missing will be black or grey! The mismatching sock thing baffles me however I have less of an issue if they are the same brand and same shape so mismatch those socks and look like a kid again.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Danielle – <> You’re not helping with my resolution to look for the positive angle . . . I’ve seen patterns for socks that use the same, say, 6 colours but mix them up deliberately. Just try to lose the matching sock – there isn’t one!

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