The Metaphysics of Lost Socks, Revisited

A comment on the original post reminded me of a humorous story.

In fact I have followed Sylvain’s strategy for many years and restricted my everyday sock inventory to a couple dozen pairs of gray insulated socks of the lumberjack variety. While they are not all identical in every way they are definitely close enough to pass muster most of the time.

Which brings me to the story.

Late in my tenure at the Smithsonian I was charged with the task of installing and de-installing an exhibit of a solid red sandalwood 1/5 scale model of one of the pavilions from the Forbidden City in Beijing. This project continued even after my departure so I was on board as a contractor for three or four more venues before the tour ended (the logistics and assembly were such that I was the only one who knew fully how it went together and came apart). At one point the pavilion was being installed in Flushing, Queens NY. In order to complete the project I recruited a number of friends to work with me as we assembled the almost-thousand pieces of the one-ton 3D jigsaw puzzle.

The specs for the exhibit required the hosts to construct a raised carpeted platform for the model. At the commencement of the installation I reminded my compatriots that we were in a museum space, and that there was a code of etiquette to follow in the situation. Part of that protocol was that we would not be wearing our shoes up on the platform. So, when the time came we all doffed our shoes and flitted around in our stocking feet.

As the assembly of the 10-foot x 10-foot x 10-foot model was nearing its conclusion the host institution had arranged for press visits for me to be interviewed for a story in the coming weekend art section. When the reporter arrived we were all deep in the work with a couple of us, me included, pretty much inside the bowels of the model so she stood observing us work while I extricated myself from the inside.

And her first question? “What’s with all the gray socks?”

It turned out that every one of us had the same sartorial strategy of wearing insulated gray socks, and she was bewildered by it. All she could see was a group of middle aged men writhing around the platform, each wearing nearly identical thermal gray socks. We assured her with straightest possible faces that these were the uniforms of our rank as master artifact caretakers. I’m not sure if she bought it, but we all had a great time as the ice was broken.

All because of identical gray socks.