The Sock Barometer




I’ve been losing socks lately. One at a time.

I correlate this with my state of life and work: picking up and dropping off kids, scheduling plane flights and cross-country drives, article deadlines, a final book manuscript due tomorrow, a blog post tonight. This week, I’m teaching 15 high school classes on the writing process, why we think about time, and the nature of science. I’m sleeping in a room they gave me.

Not complaining, mind you, but I’ve noticed socks have gone missing.

A study was performed in 2014 to determine why we lose single socks. The study was driven by a washing machine manufacturer celebrating the release of a new appliance, and was headed by London Metropolitan University psychologist Simon Moore, whom the Dialy Mail referred to as“one of those ‘scientists’ who is available to comment authoritatively on absolutely everything regardless of whether he has any expertise in that area.” Based on Moore’s interviews with 2,000 volunteers who have suffered sock loss, the conclusion is that in the UK, 1,264 socks are lost over each person’s lifetime, with a country-wide average of 84 million socks lost every month. A formula was then applied to this phenomenon:

(L+C)-(P x A)

‘L’ is Laundry Size, derived by multiplying the number of people in the household with the frequency of washes in a week. ‘C’ is Washing Complexity, multiplying how many types of wash households do in a week (darks  and whites), by the number of socks washed in a week.  ‘P’ represents how positively one feels about washing, and ‘A’ is how much attention one pays to the wash, derived from the sum of how often a person checks pockets, unrolls sleeves, turns clothes the right side out, and unrolls socks.

Personally, I think it’s rubbish. I can tell you why I lose socks: Chaos.

Losing socks by its very nature is a nonlinear equation, something Moore missed in his study. Your life gets chaotic, you start losing threads. I’m running through the door into a cramped laundry room, and sleeping in hotels, in the desert, at my mom’s house, my girlfriend’s, on a couch, on a floor, anywhere I end up. Socks could have been left anyplace.

To Moore’s credit, his formula included a list of “Psychological Reasons for Sock Loss,” further defined as Diffusion of Responsibility, Visual Awareness, Behavioral Errors, etc. In other words, chaos.

Socks are a barometer for me. When they slip away, it’s time to read, meditate, slow down, take a breath, go to bed early. Whatever it takes, I’m being told to take the intensity down a notch, which why I’m signing off of this post and going to bed early tonight. Whether Moore is right or wrong, I don’t want to lose anymore socks.



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3 thoughts on “The Sock Barometer

  1. I just read this post & it made me laugh. I don’t find your lost socks or your chaotic life funny. It’s the way you presented it in such as serious/lighthearted way. I need all the snickers & laughs I can get right now. My husband Bob/Crock and I have been fans of your writing for years. I believe we have read most every one of your books, many articles in AZ Highways, attended two of your talks and met you this summer at the North Rim of Grand Canyon. Bob worked in the general store, sold you some items, had a pic taken of you & him & I believe you two shared a lunch in the employee dining room. I’m the goofy lady who interrupted your lunch and just had to have you sign your name on my bag. I’m also the lady who worked in the gift shop who couldn’t fold T-shirts to save her ass. Just letting you know I did improve my folding skills.
    The reason for my need of snickers & laughs is Bob/Crock died of a heart attack while working at Diablo Canyon Nuclear site in CA, March 30th, the same day as your sock post. I as of yet I haven’t experienced any lost socks & hope I don’t. What I have experienced is agonizing heartache and an outpouring of love from family, friends, neighbors and strangers. This love and support is keeping the darkness at bay, and renewing my faith that there is still goodness and love in the human race. If you are ever in need of a place to stay in the Phoenix area (your boys included) I have a guest room open and ready to be occupied.
    Love, Charlene

  2. Charlene, I do remember meeting Bob on the North Rim with my boys last summer in his General Store vest. I can see his face and hear his voice well, sorry to hear that he’s died. It seemed that both of you made a beautiful life of adventuring. I hope that laughter follows you, as well as more adventures, and that your socks continue catching up with each other.

  3. Thank you for responding. I know in my heart Bob is delighted and honored you remember him. Craig, if you are willing I’d like to keep a connection with you. I’m not a needy, clinging widow (can’t believe I just used the “W” word). I am simply trying to weave together the threads of my husbands connections with the hope of healing my heart. I assume you have my email address and I will leave it at that. And by the way I am so looking forward to reading your next book, in the mean time Ed Abby will have to do.

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Categorized in: Behavior, Commentary, Craig, Mind/Brain, Miscellaneous