Sock Theory

Socks are very individualistic, ambitious items. Getting them to stay in pairs is hard work.

One sock in each pair is a devious creature with many plans that all start with leaving your employ for better places. This is the alpha sock. The other sock in the pair is the home-loving type that prefers peace and quiet. This is the beta sock, the one that will still be there after your laundry is done.

When you do the laundry, you track down every used sock in the house, and sometimes manage to get an even number of them (though no-one will ever own up the one with the hole in the toe and the disconcerting green tinge to it). What happens next? You dump them all in the washing machine and leave them alone for an hour.

Some alpha socks make their escape in the washing machine, though some prefer the dryer. Tumble dryer escapes require little imagination or planning. All the sock has to do is activate the dryer transporter. It is then transformed into that greyish fluff that you have to peel out of the lint guard and throw away. Once at a safe distance from you, the fluff merely reconstitutes itself, and the sock is free.

Washer escape is more complex. The old method was to exit along with the used water and swim for it in the pipework. Where else do blocked pipes come from? This escape can be both exhausting and dangerous, but was preferred by macho socks as a way of proving themselves. The newer method requires an automatic washing machine.

Automatics have a small amount of electronic circuitry to control the cycle. It is the work of a moment for an alpha sock to reprogram this circuitry into a flashier version of the dryer transporter. Once activated, the target sock is translated into energy, which can travel at leisure through the electrical system of your house and derive great amusement from you poking about in the washer and dryer searching for it. The sock energy then travels to a convenient location and converts back into matter, ready for a life of adventure.

Commercial software companies have, of late, managed to harness the alpha sock energy. Socks are drawn out of their pure energy state into digital form and stored on large servers on the internet. These digitised lost socks are then downloaded using FTP (the "Footwear Transfer Protocol") to offline storage.

By far the greatest user of lost socks, perhaps due to their desktop dominance, is Microsoft, where the socks form much of the bulk of DLL files in the Windows System directory, performing the menial tasks of the operating system. So, next time someone asks what all the incomprehensible mess is that takes up your hard disk space, let them know. It's sock fluff, the sad remains of unfortunate alpha socks.

The only thing to do is to buy large numbers of identical socks. When all the alpha socks have escaped, you will be left with stay-at-home betas forming useful pairs. This is a stable situation until you introduce an alpha into the mix. Alpha socks can be very persuasive.