Monday, January 26, 2009

Socks, Part 1

Laugh if you will, but it occurred to me that the topic of socks was too big a subject to tackle in one blog entry. First there's the fact that I have two distinct points of view about socks. One is from the perspective of a consumer, and the other is from the perspective of a knitter. You'd think they would not be all that different, but they are. But more importantly, those two points of view are much different for the reader. I suspect that the knitting perspective would have a rather narrow appeal, as it has much to do with technique and the evolution of sock yarn during my knitting life. So, I'll save that for another day.

Tonight, I'll focus on my personal life with socks. We should all laugh right about now, for the above introduction and the last line are so overly serious. C'mon - I'm writing about socks! Just socks.

Actually, socks have gotten me into trouble twice in my life. And the interesting part is, I had forgotten about this until just now. When I write "trouble", I mean real trouble. So, here are two stories for you:

When I was in Junior High School, we wore gym uniforms. They were ugly polyester button down shirts with attached shorts (which seemed inpossible to keep from riding up, at least for us girls without skinny legs). I believe they were navy blue, but I'm not sure. We were supposed to wear white socks and white sneakers with our uniforms. I was the kind of kid who bristled at anything that smacked of conformity. These days I suppose I'd be diagnosed with "oppositional defiant" disorder or something. Back then, I was just considered a pain in the butt. Oddly, I was very quiet and seemed to be compliant, but that was a total ruse. If there was any opportunity to mess with teachers or other authority figures, I'd do it. But I didn't do this at home. My parents were both emotional wrecks when I was in Junior High School and I wanted them to continue seeing me as a shy and "good girl."

So, back to socks and gym class. I had already gotten myself into some trouble by embroidering a name other than mine on my uniform. I re-named myself Gertrude Singer. It wasn't well thought out, but it was some sort of nod to Gertrude Stein, whom I knew little about (and still know little about). Of course, I was forced to put my real name on my uniform and this irked me. I really wanted to re-name myself, though I don't remember why.

I hated gym class, so having my first attempt at stirring up the works having been a failure forced me to come up with something else. I took all my white socks and tie-dyed them. I wasn't a hippie chick, but I wanted to mess with those plain white socks. I loved the tie dyed ones. One thing about tie-dying, batik and other forms of creative dyeing, which I loved then, and still love today, is the one-of-a-kind nature of each dyed piece of clothing or fabric. It's pretty much impossible to reproduce the same exact results every time.

So, knowing full well that I was supposed to wear plain white socks, I went to gym class with a pair of purple tie-dyed ones. I was told that the next time I showed up for gym, I better not being wearing them. The teacher didn't say "You better not be wearing tie-dyed socks." She just said I shouldn't be wearing the ones I had on. I remember this clearly. Of course, I showed up to the next class wearing a different pair of tie-dyed socks. I continued to wear a different pair of socks until I achieved the result that I wanted: I was suspended from gym class. I was "punished" by having to sit in study hall for one period. This was fine with me, for I'd sit there and read a book, which was infinitely more pleasureable to me than having to swim in an overchlorinated pool while exposing the body I wasn't happy with or being the kid who was always picked last for any team sport ("Do we have to take her?"). I don't remember how this particular gym class episode ended. I did fail gym one year, but my sketchy memory tells me that was another year (and another story).

Now, the other time I got into trouble over socks was much more serious. I may have blogged about it before, and if you've read it, well, here it is again. It'd be interesting to see if both my stories are the same or if I am repeating myself. Memory is an elusive thing.

When I was 16, I worked at McDonalds. We wore (again) navy blue McDonald's uniforms and with matching caps. These too were polyester and seemed to trap the smell of stale oil better than any fabric on earth. And if you were guessing what on earth this has to do with socks, the answer is that the regulations called for white ones, of course. This time, I had no desire to flaunt the rules. I was living on my own and I needed that paycheck.

The trouble was, I didn't own any white socks. So, on my first day of work, I went to a big store to buy some. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money. So, I shoplifted them. I was in a big hurry and was sloppy. I got caught. I had shoplifted before, and most of the time it was for things that were worth far more than pair of white socks. I'd never gotten caught. It seemed just that I was finally caught for such a petty thing.

The security guard took me into a small office and made me produce what he knew I had. Those socks probably cost two dollars at the most, but it was two bucks I didn't have. I didn't shoplift for the thrill of it. I did it out of neccessity.

The guard pummelled me with questions. The room was small and poorly lit. It was pretty darned close to the horrible interrogation rooms I'd seen in movies, and so, I was more afraid than I needed to be. I imagined that I was going to wind up in a juvenile facility. But no, the security guard was more concerned about the fact that I refused to give him my parents' names or addresses. He became convinced I was a runaway, and the only way around that was to give him my landlord's pone number. I thought that knowing I rented my own apartment would put this guy's mind to rest about my status as a somewhat self-supporting adult. I wasn't an emancipated minor, so the truth was that it didn't matter what my living situation was. But I didn't know that. He hammered away at me with questions upon questions, and my fear level became so great that I broke down in sobs. I harldy ever cried back then, and my terrified sobs were not only scary to me, but to him. He did call my landlord, who I had lied to. I told him I was 18 and he believed me (which is hard to believe, considering I looked all of 12 years old).

The security guard did call my landlord. He was very angry. When I got home, he informed me that he was kicking me out. I was too young to be renting my own apartment and he figured that in some way he was legally responsible for me. It turned out that that was indeed true.

My shoplifting those white socks had no serious consequences. I didn't go to juvenile hall. I didn't lose my horrible job. I did have to tell the manager that I couldn't afford new white socks.

Beyond that, the end of the story of my short career at McDonalds is on this blog somewhere. If you're interseted, do a search. I'm too lazy to bother. Right now I'm typing with one eye open. I am very tired, to say the least.

Really, I have three more socks topics. 1. Sock knitting. 2. My taste in socks. 3. My life history, as told through socks.

I can think of even more, if I give it a moment's thought. My grandfather's socks, with garters, are a memory that interests me.

But for tonight, that's it. The two times that white socks (or lack thereof) got me into trouble.

Stay tuned for more sock adventures.

For a great entry about shoplifting socks, go to "Burnt Toast Dinner's Confessions of a Shameless Shoplifter." She accidentally spelled shameless wrong - "shamless."

Photo note: The Eichold-Mertz Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama's school uniform page says "Plain white socks. NO footies or" What? Or else? The school's slogan is:
"Good, Better, Best

Never let it rest.

Until the Good is Better

And the Better is Best!"

When I was a kid, my father's biggest clients as an art dealer was a man who said this was his slogan. He was obscenely wealthy and had quite a bit of disdain for those who weren't. I suppose he thought they hadn't lived up to this slogan. The combination of seeing a pair of boring white socks and that slogan gives me the willies.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Julie, you could spin a story out of anything...I never realized a sock topic could be so involving.

BitterGrace said...

Okay, now I'm creeped out, too. Are you sure that slogan isn't from Orwell or Huxley?

Can't wait for the next installment. The Burnt Toast post was a hoot, but I think Mrs. Petrelli has questionable taste in socks. I like my socks very austere.

TMC said...

I object to white socks. That is all.

jmcleod76 said...

My boss is a fairly wealthy man (last year, he wrote a check for $20,000 to buy the local middle school a new computer lab, this year, he created a $100,000 scholarship endowment for local kids), yet he wears khakis and white athletic socks with brown shoes everywhere he goes. My initial urge was to laugh at him for this (internally, of course ... I'd like to keep my job, thank you), but now I find it very endearing. Those white socks are kind of an equalizer ... a symbol that signifies approachability and a down-to-earth nature.