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A missing mate

In to the Wind

November 15, 2011
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

An intimate relationship with a certain appliance helps me embrace a task deemed mundane by some, but is a life necessity.

At the end of the second bathroom, stands the water plant which serves our household, and next to that, an old Amana stacked washer and dryer. That combination device has been revived and resuscitated several times, partly because I am frugal, but mostly because it just fits in that space better than anything else we've seen.

First, the big tub which holds the clothes and the water developed a leak. It must have been some defect in the steel from which it was made, because it developed a pinhole leak. After taking the cabinet apart and figuring out where the water was coming from which pooled on the floor, I managed to patch it with a piece of fiberglass screen and some epoxy paste; new life.

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Next it was the drive belt which wrapped two pulleys under the device. Fixed, and the washer had new life once again.

Then it was a capacitor for the washer motor. It took me a bit to figure that one out, but I did. I replaced it and once again the washer had new life.

The last time, earlier this summer stumped me. It was just dead. It had power, everything seemed OK, but it just wouldn't turn on. We weighed our options. Would it be better to cut our losses and try to find another stacked unit to fit in the space, or call in an appliance repairman? We opted for the latter. Shortly after he arrived, the technician has isolated the problem to a limiter switch in the lid. It had been jarred out of adjustment by repeated banging of the lid. The lesson learned was to lower the lid on the washer gently, and not with a bang. Yep, you guessed it, new life again.

The reason I am telling you all of this is to let you know I know every nook and cranny of that washing machine. I know where and how the water drains from that spinning drum; through holes smaller than the tip of your little finger. What I can't figure out, and I need a little help here: how do socks get sucked through those little holes and get lost?

Yes, doing laundry is one of my chores. There is a laundry basket which sits atop the container which holds salt for the water softener. Into that basket goes my socks, sometimes mated and rolled, and sometimes not.

Typically, the routine goes something like this. I put a load in the washer, load the appropriate amount of detergent, set the controls and hope for the best. When the load is finished, I take it from the washer, untangle the articles and place them in the dryer.

The surprise and consternation comes later. After the clothes are dried, the next step is to take them out and fold them or place them on hangers. For some reason I have a quite large collection of unmatched socks. Brown ones, black ones, tan ones, green ones. They all just sit there, lonely, wanting, waiting. I keep hoping their mate will one day show up. Maybe the mate got shoved under the bed, or taken to parts unknown by one of the cats or dogs. Who knows? Where do socks go?

Think about it. You carefully put items in the washer. Later, you diligently take those wet items out and place them into the dryer. You make sure you pick up anything that might fall on the floor when transferring them from one unit to the other. Both of them are closed units right? Both only have holes large enough for water and water vapor to go through, right? So where do errant socks go?

I gather I am not the only person with a collection of orphaned socks. I suspect that back in the day crafty housewives used those orphans to make those cute little sock monkeys. Remember them?

Over the years, we have had many conversations regarding the missing sock conspiracy. Aliens, Mr. Nobody, and even gnomes have been blamed. Now objects can't just vanish into thin air. They have to go somewhere, right? Is there really a conspiracy? Are their legions of misfit socks collecting somewhere just waiting for their opportunity to take over the world?

In all fairness, not all missing socks remain missing. I put on a pair of pants once and noticed an unfamiliar bulge, in a place no bulge is supposed to be. When I reached down inside the pants leg, I retrieved a sock that no doubt was static bound during the drying cycle. One case solved.

In the meantime, my misfit and solo socks sit in that clothes basket next to the dryer just waiting and hoping their mate will show up. I guess it's kind of like the bohemian bachelor farmer sitting at the Maid Rite just waiting for their perfect match. Eternal optimism can be a driving force in life. One day the mate for my favorite solitary tan argyle will show up; I just know it!

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on "view all" next to "Local Columns."

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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