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The great missing sock conspiracy | Jan's Journal

I raked my family’s (clean) socks up from my bedroom floor (the sorting area) and deposited them onto a table. This action formed a shocking 4-foot-tall quivering unpaired sock mountain. - Courtesy of Jan Hallahan
I raked my family’s (clean) socks up from my bedroom floor (the sorting area) and deposited them onto a table. This action formed a shocking 4-foot-tall quivering unpaired sock mountain.
— image credit: Courtesy of Jan Hallahan

There are true mysteries in this world. The smartest people on our planet can pontificate forever and never gain actual proof to back up their explanations. I lecture my kids: “Don’t think it — know it!” But that can only be applied when asked, “Is your homework done?” and they hesitantly respond, “I think so.”

Debated questions abound, such as, “Does a tree make noise when it falls in the forest if no one is around to hear it?” Or the unchallenged, hopeful assumption that the sun will rise in the morning because it did yesterday. My boggled brain ponders these existential thoughts while I add one more to the eternal conundrum: Where do wayward socks go, and what’s the acceptable amount of time to wait for the mate to return?

Researching this universal dilemma was futile — and the brief (unscientific) survey I conducted was unaccommodating in learning the truth. My questions were simple too. What do you do with your newly single socks, and what’s your theory on why they broke up? The depressing answers varied, yet the trashy outcome was standard. To complicate the disappointing conclusion that 90 percent of our landfills consist of perfectly good mismatched socks, and no one on Earth knows for sure where the mates absconded to, I was ready to take action.

I raked my family’s (clean) socks up from my bedroom floor (the sorting area) and deposited them onto a table. This action formed a shocking 4-foot-tall quivering unpaired sock mountain. The guesstimate of the total number of individual pieces was over 500 strong. When I shared this deep, dark family secret, the rather stern advice given was unimaginable to a recovering pack rat/hoarder: “Throw them all away and start over!”

Yes, this is a little problem that we all share — except for those people who don’t wear socks. Suggestions from the survey as to where the socks disappeared to include:

• The dryer ate them.

• The washing machine swirled them down the drain.

• They are hiding inside a pant leg trying to escape.

• They were accidentally thrown away.

• Aliens abducted them?!?

• The dog has a new chew toy.

• The vacuum cleaner hose secretly sucked them up.

• They’re squished with other private articles of clothing into the corner of the sheets.

• One sock lost interest in the other when it let itself go — think holes in the heels and stinky toes. (My personal favorite theory!)

At the risk of always presenting problems with no real solutions (like the inexplicable multiplication of fruit flies), the sock management tips ranged from doable to not-going-to-happen-in-my house: Place them in a zipped mesh bag to wash together, pin both mates before washing, make everyone wear the same white socks so it doesn’t matter, pair the socks immediately — still hot from the dryer — with the premise that what goes in, must come out.

When there is a misplaced sock crisis, how long is acceptable to wait for the reunion of the two? Murphy’s Law dictates that when you finally throw one sock away after three years, the mate will return home and be mad. Survey answers ranged from harsh to lenient: They are placed in a basket and thrown out impatiently within a few weeks; single socks are put back into the drawer indefinitely with the expectation that they will get lonely and find each other again.

Is there a great missing sock conspiracy that we’re too ignorant to figure out? Why aren’t we comfortable wearing mismatched socks, and who planted that unspoken rule of good grooming? There has to be a better place for them than the landfill.

I racked my artist brain and came up with sock puppets. But a friend vehemently told me, “No, Jan, just... NO!” The socks of today sadly aren’t built to last, or stay together. For generations, sock companies have known that the shoe-wearing peoples of the world will buy more and more socks. That’s no mystery to me because I know they’re counting on it — one pair at a time.

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