Sock It To Me?

I put on two different socks and waited for the world to change.

I didn’t mean to wear them. I was putting my laundry away and just grabbed them. At the time, I thought they were identical. A few minutes later, when putting on my shoes, I discovered the ugly truth.

I sat there contemplating: what is the truth in this situation? Where are the facts? What is my personal connection to the historical use of hosiery?

If I looked at my socks as articles of clothing that provide warmth, insulate my skin from possibly abrassive seams and surfaces within my shoe, and serve as an interior foot covering when moving above carpetted floors, then it really shouldn’t matter if one has an obvious and dramatically different pattern than the other. From a utilitarian point of view, these two socks were providing the maximum good with the maximum benefit.

So why is it that wearing two different socks is considered egregious–a custom “outside the herd” of people form whom a matched pair is a statement of uniformity, symmetry and the rudimentary economic sufficiency to own identical pairs?

I put on my shoes and walked the dog, carefully observing, between long glimpses of seasonal splendor, and the dog’s occasional need to stop, sniff and make environmental contributions, if anyone noticed.

A police siren wailed in the distance. I reflected that when I first moved to this suburban paradise, such sounds were rare. Having seen forests removed, roads widened and blocks of apartments “on a Parisian street theme” rise from unanticipated heights, I now hear sirens at least once a day.

Do more people bring more problems? In the best of all possible worlds, would we never hear a siren because no one with authority would need to hurry to save a life or catch a law breaker.

My socks weren’t breaking a law but I recalled that one of the reasons English peasants revolted during the 13th century were laws that forbade them to wear kinds and colors of clothing. High taxes may have been more of a motivation for them to march on London, where they demanded to meet the king so they could tell young Richard II how bad things were.

Richard fearlessly rode into the thousands gathred at Smithfield, appeared to listen and then abruptly left when his soldiers could surround them and cut them down.

Socks had something to do with that, but not much.

The dog did what the dog must. We walked our customary path and returned home, where I reflected on a belief common among those in my generation who found that after embracing a “counterculture,” their world didn’t really change that much (unless they were willing to cut their hair, go back to school, get a degree in law or finance and work for the very people they protested against), so they decided to look inward and change themselves, having the faith that “incremental” changes–like that joyous, endorphin rush you get in a long run or a short yoga position–would eventually achieve what public protests, blue denim, Richard Nixon saying “Sock it to me?” on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and natural foods did not.

Did wearing two different socks count as an incremental change?

I looked at my socks and waited.


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