EUROPEAN VOICES Elina HiltunEn Sock 'n' roll friend recently invited me to a party with an unusual theme: each guest was asked to wear a pair of mismatching socks. For a slightly disorganised person, this invitation was like a winning lottery ticket. For once, I'd be spared the agony of digging to the bottom of my drawer trying to find two socks that look sufficiently alike. This time, I blindly grabbed the two socks a white one with flowers and a pink tennis sock. As a result, I had plenty of time to look for a flattering outfit and a pair of matching earrings. I believe that I suffer from sock sorting disorder (SSD). In short, this means that matching socks with one another is an overwhelming personal problem. More organised individuals have no problem aligning their socks in neatly rolled, freshly laundered rows in their cupboards, but my sock drawer is more chaotic than a department store's underwear section during an annual sale. It's a tangled mess of lonely, single socks. Some mysterious force in my washing machine always swallows up one from each pair; perhaps they end up in some parallel universe of unattached footwear. i SuSpect that sock-handling dysfunction is a hereditary trait, because my father suffered from the same condition. It didn't seem to bother him much, but several cringe-worthy moments in my childhood resulted when my dad removed his shoes during a visit to someone's house. Sometimes he had a red sock on one foot and a bright blue one on the other. When my mother scolded him, he simply shrugged and said that we were among friends. Once he began to a resort to philosophical arguments: what difference does it make in this infinite universe if one little person wears socks of different colours? It's hard to argue with that logic. Yet SSD is hardly limited to my family. In fact, the daily battle to find matching socks is so widespread that a variety of solutions are on offer. One company has developed a clip that keeps socks firmly attached throughout the laundering process. Others suggest putting small items inside special laundry bags before dropping them into the washing machine. My father eventually bowed under pressure from those around him and came up with a handy solution to his SSD: THAT NORDIC LITERARY SYMBOL OF IRREVERENCE, PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, ALWAYS WORE MISMATCHED SOCKS. he bought 50 pairs of identical burgundycoloured socks. Thus he could dip into his sock drawer without even looking, and come out with a matching pair every time. Meanwhile, I have tried to turn my disorder into a positive trait. I've concluded that I must be a creative person to be able to turn such a simple thing as organising socks into a problem. After all, that Nordic literary symbol of irreverence and creativity, Pippi Longstocking, always wore mismatched socks. Thinking about it further, a party dress code of two different kinds of socks sends a symbolic message: on occasion we should all take a lesson from Pippi and ignore the most mundane of grown-up rules. Those who spend their days spinning amazing tales, riding horses, defeating bad guys and recounting their adventures on the world's oceans don't have the time to knit-pick over matters as trivial as socks. Elina HiltunEn, PhD, is a foresight expert whose focus since 1998 has been weak signals and emerging issues. an active keynote speaker, consultant and writer, she is a senior foresight specialist at Finpro and runs her own consulting firm. ENG 46 Blue winGS JANUARY 2011
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