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Oh, Put a Sock in It

Jennifer Chung

The laundry machines at Bexley inspired a revelation the other day.

Well, it might have been the dryers. One can never tell, when one is doing laundry; after all, a combination of linty laundry room fumes and even just the sheer drudgery of the act of laundry-doing causes one to drift unimpeded into Laundryland, ignoring all notions of reality, until the loud buzzing of the dryer machine awakens one - not unlike the way the snapping of fingers will awaken one from a hypnotist's spell. Clothes go in one machine and come out another.

So, a couple weeks ago, I dutifully dumped a load of clothes into one of the machines in the larger Bexley laundry room, and at the appropriate time, I dutifully unloaded my clothes from the dryer. Upon folding up the clothes in my load, however, I discovered that I had an odd number of socks.

That in itself is not so shocking. I have grown up in a society which views laundry machines as Evil Creatures which will snatch away an unwary, poor lone sock from one's large load, on a moment's whim. Perhaps the machines are repentant about this ability; after all, they do ensure that one member of a particular sock species is allowed to stay behind. Or maybe the darned things are flaunting themselves, by that reasoning; losing all of one's zebra-striped socks may be unnoticed or blamed upon yourself, but having an odd number of checkered socks is less suspicious. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had too many socks.

You are now wondering how I determined that. After all, odd is odd. Did I empirically count my socks before I put them in the laundry machine? Conceivably, the laundry deities could also have taken 2n number of socks out of my load, where n is a whole number, leaving me with a deficit. Or maybe one of the machines metamorphosed one of my socks. But somewhere along that great, laundratic process, something happened, and out of my normal laundry load, I found one sock which was most definitely not mine.

I checked with my roommate. She hadn't seen The Sock before in her life. I wondered for a brief moment if the suite cat had had anything to do with it; the Vonnecat is fond of lying in my laundry basket. But The Sock seemed to be in pretty good condition, it did not look like something the cat dragged in.

That led to the only conclusion: the resident laundry room deities had granted me an extra sock.

Okay, I won't discount the metamorphosing theory. But it seems easier to believe that some benevolent laundry deity had decided to grant me an useless sock than to imagine that one of the machines sewed an unknown insignia on my own socks during the wash or dry cycle. And no; The Sock wasn't in any of the machines before I put my clothes in. I remember that.

Perhaps you're not understanding the strange philosophical implications here. I received an extra sock in my laundry cycle. What if we've had it wrong all the time? What if it turns out that all along, when we'd thought that the laundry machine was maliciously taking socks away, it was in fact giving socks to us? Or what if, instead, laundry (or dryer) machines had been taking socks throughout history, but now some central laundry collection station in Iowa has amassed so many socks that they're returning some? Or even, what if somewhere in history, the Grandmaster of Laundryism had a change of heart, realizing how wrong he'd been all along, and decided to command the laundratic forces to undo generations of harm by returning as many socks as possible?

My mind boggles.

What a great thing it would be, to harness the power of the laundry machine. A power of Good or Evil. I guess my fascination with the idea stems from my dark, mysterious past; Back home in California, my parents own a laundromat. (How Asian! Some day I'm going to write my Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior-esque pseudo-autobiography to be entitled Phoenix Rising - but more on that later.) After all, I've seen the power of the Large Washers at work - their grey, steel surfaces churning and turning the contents within; the magical cleaning powers which are inherent to the machine miraculously rubbing out grass stains, pizza stains, and mango stains. If, indeed, it is the case that laundry (or dryer) machines are more talented than previously imagined Wow. I wonder if a laundry machine in the basement would generate my Studies in Fiction (21L.702) paper for me.

At any rate, this incident can only teach me lessons. Don't be so cynical; the optimistic path may be the most correct. Technology is our friend. We like laundry fairies.

I think that everyone at MIT should make a pilgrimage to The Laundry Room of Hope! Come do your laundry. Come do my laundry. Come to the Courtyard party at Bexley tomorrow. Come see one happy point of optimism amidst a cloud of cynicism - a silver lining before finals.

If you or someone you know has managed to lose a slightly dingy generic white sock with the word "POLO" monogrammed onto it, please drop me a note. I'll give it back - if you do my laundry for me.