Sunday, July 10, 2005

But first ... Laundry

The Sock Reunification Program

The simple principle behind the Sock Reunification Program is something we're all taught early in life ... The Buddy System. Class trips, swimming lessons. ”Stay together. Where's your buddy?" We start off as a team, we finish as a team. You watch my back, I'll watch yours. You're okay; I'm okay. Joined at the hip. No man left behind. That also works in reverse. If one fails; you're both out.

Maintaining the Program is easy at first glance. As long as the "Pairs Go In; Pairs Come Out" rule is followed, there should be no problems. Once that trust is betrayed, however, everything starts to fall apart. Regaining order can be costly, time consuming and can destroy relationships (I've seen it happen - to be fair, they were going to split up anyway; they just needed one final conflict. Do mismatched socks fall under the category "Irreconcilable Differences?" Apparently so, according to judge Mitchell R. Beane.)

A simple way to manage it is just to buy only two kinds of socks, three at the most, per person. For the men: Black Wool Blend Gold Toe for work, weddings and "dress up" occasions; White Champion Half Crew for the gym, pickup basketball and marathon training; maybe a nice LL Bean rag wool for those snowy events ... shoveling, skating, sledding and so forth, or just relaxing by a fire with a special person, a fine brandy, and a Hudson Bay blanket. For the women it's shockingly easy; just wear pantyhose, it's physically impossible for them to be separated. If you're an active woman and need to wear socks (for the gym, pickup basketball and marathon training) just use your guy's - the sizing is ambiguous enough that a small woman can wear a pair made for a large man without side effects. Kids under six are simple, if not downright stereotypical: pink for girls, blue for boys. Boys and girls six and over: all white; all the time

Get three to six pairs of each and you can double them up through the laundry cycle with no problem. Put all the black ones in with one load, all the whites in with your t-shirts and undies; you're good to go. You still need to put in a little work on your part though; no one gets away for free. Even if all you have are white and black, by all means count them as you put them in. If you care to, take the extra step to actually load them as pairs ... "Here's your buddy, try to stay together." Keep in mind that if you have, say seven or eleven going in, you have a problem. This is not to be taken lightly. At least one sock is out there somewhere, alone, probably scared and hungry. When a child, a stranger to you, goes missing, entire communities band together, the media is called, new milk cartons are printed up. Shouldn't you take a reciprocal course of action for something more intimate?

You have two paths at this point. The first would be to hold up the whole laundry process right then and seek out the errant footwear. As unappealing as this may seem, this is the more prudent option. Search from front to back, top to bottom. Follow the whole "Un-Wear Path": Off the feet, into the hamper (or onto bathroom floor), down to the laundry. You will find the renegade, return him to the tribe and all will continue their journey together, as it should be.

Suppose you take the easy route? "Hey, I'll just set one aside. I'll find its match another time." When will that another time be? You don't know, no one does. Are you sure that when you find that "missing one," its match be there waiting for it? Are you sure you will recognize it? You can't be. You might set the oddball aside for next week, maybe on the ironing board, folding table, or drying rack; making a mental note to yourself that "next time I put the socks in, remember to match this one up." I hate to let you down, but the odds are that "next time you put the socks in" this one won't match up. Sadly, it's more likely that you will again have an odd number (even with Mr. Lonely added back to the pile), acerbating the situation. That means there's still another sock out there, waiting, watching. This can continue into a spiral of degradation and remorse you've never experienced before; except that one time, with Sheila.

If the situation goes unchecked, you will be forced to take the path of utmost desperation: the Entire House, Every Drawer, Dump. The EHEDD is not for the Proud, the Meek, or the Busy. You must be able to say to yourself, with full resolve "This, which was once a good plan, has gone awry. I hold myself accountable. I have failed in my responsibilities, to myself and to my family. I will do that which needs to be done, whatever it takes, that we may be whole again" There will be casualties, some WILL BE left behind. It's a good thing. They will meet again on the Other Side. This WILL take time. If you intend to go start to finish without stopping, take a day out of the calendar. It is the Ironman, the Boston Marathon, the Wing Bowl or Laundrydom, at best. If you attempt the head-down, get-out-of-my-way, one-day classic Paris-Roubaix bulldog sprint version. It is not for family play. I've tried it three times myself and have always had to stretch a Saturday plan into Sunday. In a twist of fate, the forces that made the EHEDD necessary, also impeded it's execution.

Once you have steeled yourself to the EHEDD, there is no turning back. Once it has begun, anything less than total fulfillment only makes the situation worse. At some point on a Sunday evening it will come to you ... it needs to be done. Get through the week as best as you can. Focus on the weekend ahead of you. This is a development where having a wife that works on Saturdays, works to your advantage. You have to get up anyway (How many women can let their man sleep if they have to be up?) Gather around yourself at least one, if not two or three good-sized laundry baskets or hampers. Then, with cold and callous precision, gather, from room to room, every sock you can find. This is a purge, plain and simple. As much as it may pain you, if two socks are found together, bundled as a pair; for who knows how long, separate them. It would be nothing more than a well deserved cleansing to them (after all - if they're still that close and others are missing ... when were they washed last?) Every sock in every drawer, on every bathroom floor, in every closet, buried in every gym bag, comes out, as an individual, for redemption, for reconciliation.

And into the wash. For the next forty-five minutes to an hour you will be redoubling your search to make sure there are none who escaped unaccounted for, because this is the harsh fact: (Pure logic follows) If all socks are in the wash, and every sock has a mate, then all mates are in the wash. If any sock emerges without a mate, then it's mate must be lost. If its mate is lost, then it should be lost to meet its mate. Sad and cruel, but all will be the better. Order will be restored.

Out of the washer, into the dryer; be vigilant. Mistakes often happen here. A crew sock drifts between washer and dryer; thought for lost, its match, through no fault of its own, is presumed an orphan. It is on its way to St. Vincent de Paul, at best. Do the Homeless care if their socks match? Will unmatched socks cost them that job interview?

Once clean and dry, the final hurdle must be cleared ... rematching. The entire pile (or piles if you are so fortunate) is deposited in a centralized reunification location. This is where many solid relationships come unglued: "Those two argyles from 1995, neither of whom had any place without the other. Well, I only have one here." And some are re-glued "These are the socks I wore to Lisa's wedding. Remember how drunk you got? We had to pull over on the way home and..." Any unmatches to the trash or Goodwill, your preference. Only pairs win here. You have to be cold. As much as you loved those fishy's, if you can only find one, the other has to go. Find a new pair that reminds you of the old pair and keep better care of them.

You will wonder "Why the bother? Why the pain, torment and, trouble" Trust me, my friend, when you see those two olive socks with the little black checks (the ones that go perfectly with your lucky dark green suit and black wingtips) laying side by side and you say to yourself "Oh, that's where they went" all the time and pain and trouble will be forgotten.

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