An Odd Sock Exercise

lara Chapman
4 min readNov 13, 2019
Ernie from Sesame Street doing an “Odd Sock Excercise”. Image source: Giphy

“Five Minutes!”

Shit. I thought to myself. Quick! Write something! Anything!

I was in a Creative Non-fiction Writing class and doing an exercise that was aimed at showing us that sometimes, when a piece falls through at a magazine or newspaper, you might get a call at the very last minute and have to write about something that you have no interest or expertise in. We had ten minutes to write about the Prime Minister or the Opposition leader, or as a compensatory gesture for those of us who complained about the options, Mark, our sadistic writing teacher also threw in the topic of socks, probably just to amuse himself.

I was extremely aware of my embarrassing ignorance of Australian politics. I did not even know the politicians' names, so socks were my only option. I sat there, sweating in the cotton suspects that snuggled so comfortably around my feet. What interesting things could I say about socks? Four minutes to go until we started reading aloud…

“Times up!” Mark said with a look of smug humour emanating from under his ever-present cap. He asked, “who wrote about whatshisname?” One person slowly raised their hand. Mark looked shocked but not completely perturbed “Okay, that means a lot of you must have written about theotherwhatshisname. Who chose him?” Again, one person raised their hand, even more slowly. Mark laughed in disbelief “so the other ten of you have seriously chosen to write about socks?!” A question and a statement rolled into one look around the room. As it turns out, socks are a particularly rich subject area for a group of writing students.

The little feet-huggers that we take for granted everyday, inspired many chuckles, knowing smiles and even a few bursts of laughter from the room. One man wrote about the socks he received for his last birthday, the telling symbol that he was now a middle-aged man (but at least he had some nice socks). Another, about the shocking moment in Singapore when he arrived at his boss’s house and, when shoes were customarily removed at the door, his big toe was staring rudely up at him and his boss. He described the moment as frozen between humour and horror, his eyes fixated on the smirking toe that threatened to ruin the promotion dinner. That a simple sock can inspire a particular uncertain and seemingly infinite silence between shock and laughter is a strangely lovely thing to consider in our serious world filled with politicians. There were tales of odd socks and expensive socks and that infuriating habit one sock has of wandering off on a sunny holiday, never to be seen again, leaving its mate sadly behind, right at the back of a dark wintry drawer. The objects we surround ourselves with tell us so much about ourselves yet, until we are forced to think about them we take them for granted. Sock inspired wonder, simple yet very enjoyable.

My socks were drenched in clamminess by the time it came to my turn. This is what I read out:

After working at The New Inn village pub in Ham, for about a year, I went upstairs to the laundry to find three pairs of very fancy, brand new exercise socks tucked into the top of my bag. Intrigued and confused, but with too many grumpy old men waiting at the bar to be served — who’s favourite pastime is to complain about slow service, I returned downstairs to pull pints for the rest of Friday evening.

As I was mopping the floor after last orders, awaiting the glorious moment when the final customers leave and I could lock the door against the cold and further silly drunken questions, Tara, my boss, said: “I put some socks in your bag.” When I asked her why she told me she had bought them for herself but had decided they were far too colourful, despite one pair being a completely unadorned black. Then she reassured me that they’d never been worn and were definitely clean. Tara didn’t seem to realise that socks don’t follow the same rules as condoms and that I wear them repeatedly.

Upon reflection, I have come to the conclusion that Tara did not, in fact, buy the socks for herself. She bought them specifically and deliberately for me. My odd socks flared her OCD and maybe she had come to realise my dirty sock wearing habit.

Although not the most compelling or poetic thing I have ever written there is something quite reassuring in knowing that, when push comes to shove, I can write about anything (except politicians).

--

--

lara Chapman

Lara Chapman grew up in Australia and lives in Holland. She is a product designer and writer and is currently completing a MA in Design Curating and Writing