Brooklyn, Michigan US Post Office.
It was around 10 a.m., Friday, January 3, 2014 and well after the Christmas rush. Four of us were waiting in line to buy stamps and mail packages. The woman at the head of the line had set an enormous cardboard box on the counter.
“Anything potentially dangerous in this package? Liquid or powder that is corrosive, explosive, flammable, toxic or otherwise hazardous?” the postmistress asked as she weighed the carton.
“No,” the woman said.
“Cremated remains? Perishable matter? Liquors? Firearms? Knives or sharp instruments? Controlled substances or drugs?
“No. Just socks.”
“That big box is filled with socks?” asked a woman in tall rubber barn boots. “Who needs that many socks?”
The woman at the counter turned, and smiled. “When the Pamida store closed in Brooklyn they had a great sale. I bought all the sock they had because I figured socks never go out of style and everyone wears them. I can give my kids and grandchildren socks for Christmas, and their birthdays for as long as I live. This shipment goes to my daughter’s family of five.”
“What a great gift idea,” said the woman in boots leaning with an elbow on the center table. When your kids lose one sock, they can pull out a new pair. What do they do with all their old-maid socks? I’m always looking for ideas. I stuff mine with fluff from the dryer and jam them between our old double-hung windows to keep in the warm.”
“That box of socks could last me five years,” says a teenager standing in front of me. “I used to make doll clothes with the mismatched socks in our house. Now I wear them, and I don’t care if they match. It’s cool to wear socks that don’t go together. All my friends do, too. Santa brought me a pair of Happy Socks made in Sweden. They have green and purple dots and yellow strips around the top. I haven’t worn them yet as a pair.”
The woman standing behind me says, “I only buy black socks. I try to get the same brand. My husband and I wear about the same size, so we never have odd socks.” She turns to the woman in boots. “I don’t like the term, old maid socks. I prefer to use mismatched socks.”
“I like my socks to match,” says the post mistress as she smooths stamps on the carton. “I still mend the ones with holes. Must be my age.”
“What difference does it make if your socks match if you’re wearing galoshes?” said the woman standing in the rubber boots. “No one can see if the colors are the same or if your heel has rubbed a hole. I pull on the warmest socks I can find in this weather. Sometimes I wear two pair. Socks are socks.”
“My husband asks me each week if I’ve caught his sock thief,” I tell the line of women. “He assures me no competent burglar would steal a single compression sock from a perfectly good pair. He hands the extra socks to me each week and says, “Find a good use for these.” I fill some with baking soda, tie them up and stick them in his shoes so our closet doesn’t smell like a locker room. His socks are longer and warmer than the women’s socks I buy, so during the cold weather I wear his. The heels bulge half way up my calf, and his socks sometimes reach up past my knees, but I always have plenty of toe room. Sometimes I pull on two pair and buff the wood floors while I’m doing house work. I wear his socks under boots outside when I’m walking the dogs, and to bed at night to fight off cold sheets. The best thing about wearing odd socks is all the time you save sorting them. I’d rather read than sort socks.”
“That will be $5.40 for first class. Your package should arrive within a week,” said the post mistress. “Next?”
Brooklyn, Michigan US Post Office.