An Odd Profession


by Patrick O’Connor


DO you remember that TV game show called What’s My Line?  Panellists had to question contestants in order to determine their occupation. If I’d have been on it, they would never have guessed correctly. Never, never in a million years.

Listen Here

Why? Well, because my work is so very secretive. Everyone can see the consequences of what I do but no-one, absolutely no-one, knows how I do it. Intrigued? Well, I’m not going to tell how I do what I do, but rest assured, I am very successful.

Want a few clues? Go on then, here they are. The skills needed for my work include imagination, stealth, an acute awareness of colour co-ordination and a love of the mischievous.  It’s a seasonal job, my output is at its lowest in the summer months, I usually work on my own, although occasionally with some assistance and I am self-employed.

Remuneration? You don’t get paid for what I do, you do it purely and simply for job satisfaction, the pleasure you get from achieving your goals. It beats any salary, company car, shares option. Honestly, trust me.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty shall we. Some people have put forward the theory that somewhere out there is a dark, evil creature from the other side of a black hole that consumes their socks! One at a time. Just one of course, one half of a matching pair.

You know the feeling don’t you? You do a wash and put in an even number of socks and when you retrieve your wash you’re left with an odd number of socks. But socks don’t just go missing whilst in the washing machine, oh no, they can disappear anywhere, at any time when I’m around.

Now I’m quite insulted by the theory that a ‘dark evil creature’ is responsible. It’s not. It’s me, Sylvester and I’m, well I can be best described as a sock spirit, a sequester of socks, a sock snatcher. There I’ve said it, it’s out in the open.

So go on, admit it, if you were on What’s My Line? and this came up, you’d never have got it would you?

I’m not ‘dark’ (quite the opposite, indeed if I had a human form I would rather like it to be sandy-haired and fair-skinned – in an English public school sort of way, think Brideshead Revisited) and certainly not evil.

I mean, what’s evil about what I do? The sock industry would have gone under without my efforts, I keep people in jobs I do. And remember all those awful socks you received as Christmas presents; took care of that particular problem didn’t I and did I get any thanks for it? No, not on your nelly.

Okay, I do get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the frustration on your faces, especially when it boils over.

“Where’s my sock, what the hell have you done with it” spoken from the mouth of an anguished spouse/partner/son/daughter etc is music to my ears. But that’s not evil is it, just enjoying observing human behaviour, the absurd belief that someone must have whisked away the sock DELIBERATELY! Why would a loved one do that for God’s sake? Get a life!

I also get quite excited when the time factor is added to proceedings. The longer the sock goes missing, the greater the frustration. Such joy.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s a seasonal role. In the summer months many people dispense with wearing socks so I can’t be as effective. Mind you, you won’t find me supporting the style police in their cruel, relentless persecution of middle aged men who wear sandals AND socks. No way, the sock wearers have my backing 100 per cent.

So how exactly do I do it, I can hear you asking. Well, I’m not telling but dear folk if you think you can outwit me think again.

Okay, you shouldn’t just fling your socks on the floor willy nilly instead of putting them in a basket. That’s just making things easy for me. You should also thoroughly examine the interiors of washing machines and dryers and carry out exhaustive searches behind radiators and under beds. But beware, you can try and eliminate as many opportunities as you can for the sock snatcher to swoop but I will succeed.

Now I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t concede that occasionally (just occasionally mind) I may have a little outside help.

Animals can and sometimes do play their part. Dogs especially can be very useful. I once knew of an Irish Red Setter called Max who was 100 per cent effective (he ate them!) but this only lasted for a short while, because within a couple of days the sock would reappear, although no-one would ever wear it again – so job done.

If you leave your socks rolled up into a tight ball, the feline world will move in and those crafty little creatures are nobody’s mugs. Just try taking it off them and see what happens. They can be vicious, trust me.

Some acquaintances have asked me if I’ve ever considered branching out, and frankly the answer is no.

Of course I’ve been tempted to expand (many a successful business has thrived by diversifying) but the likes of bracelets, keys, watches, TV remote controls and phones leave me cold.

No, socks are my core business, and I’m sticking to them. They’ve been around for a long time – as far back as the eighth century BC – and the ancient Greeks wore socks made from matted animal hair for warmth.

The word sock apparently has its origins in the Latin soccus, old English socc and Middle English socke. So there is plenty of history there.

And now, as we enter a new decade, theories are still being expounded as to how society can be proactive and end what it sees as a curse.

Ideas such as buying sets of three or buying only black or white socks have been put forward by some smart arses but they are not foolproof. No way, I’d just nick more socks. I’m afraid you’re stuck with the dilemma of the missing sock until the day that you decide to make the ultimate sacrifice.

You won’t say it will you, thought not, so it’s down to me. I will only go away when you bite the bullet and decide you are quite comfortable going out and about in public wearing ODD SOCKS.

© Patrick O’Connor 2010