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Buying Socks
by Nancy Bowker

Don’s home sick, which he often is. Although twelve years old, he prefers I stay in the house, at a great distance, of course. Not that our 1200 square foot house is big enough to admit of great long distances.

Eventually I realize I can go to the Footlocker nearby, instead of Target, which isn’t. My mission: two pairs of socks for Don. Even though we have camp shopping coming up, he has no socks at all, having either outgrown or lost all of them. He prefers white crew and I carry one of his shoes so there will be no mistake about sizes.

A six-pack of crew socks is offered, and at not a bad price- $11.99, but my friend has just agreed to help me camp-shop, and I don’t want to undermine her process, so I decline. The salesman takes me to a bin where socks can be had, one pair at a time. “On sale,” he says, “for $1.99 a pair.”  Hmm – 6 for 11.99 and one for 1.99 – hard to see what the sale is – a fraction of a cent per pair, I guess.

The bin is big. The salesman roots around in it and announces there are no crew socks of the appropriate size. Don’s size has a red stripe across the cardboard holding each pair of socks. The salesman gives up after less than a minute. I say I will look through the bin. Fifteen minutes later, I have handled over 100 pairs of socks (they probably didn’t put any large crew socks in there in the first place, the stinkers), and none are crew style. Just in case, I have set aside two anklets of the right size. I am really sure he won’t like the “peds” style that was so popular in my youth.

Proud, but rushed, since I’ve now been in the store for over 25 minutes and I have another errand to run before going home to Don who is alone, I zip to the sales counter to pay. “Hi,” I say, handing over to a young Hispanic woman my socks and my credit card in quick succession. “Four twenty six,” she announces, studying my credit card carefully and slowly, and then turning it over. It is unsigned. (I have a reason for this.) “May I see your driver’s license?” she says. Seething but trying to conceal same, I hand it over. Carefully she compares the name, and looks at me and then at my likeness on the license, a couple of times. “Would you mind signing the card,” she states, handing back the card and a giant-sized Sharpie with indelible ink in it. “Sure,” I say, reaching into my purse for a more normal pen. I say I prefer my own pen. She says nothing works but the Sharpie, but I still use my own pen. By now I am sweating profusely, not out of guilt but on general principles. Who knew that the stability of the whole economy of the Western world rested on my four and something dollar purchase of two pairs of socks?