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The View from the East End (82)

By Inspector Hopkins

January 13, 2008

The Adventure of the Missing Sock

by Inspector Hopkins

Being the fastidious bachelor that I am, I regularly do my shopping, cleaning, yard work, and laundry as a matter of course. But, speaking of the latter, how many of you have had that maddening experience of discovering that a single sock was gone  . . . just somehow vanished off into thin air after doing the wash?

What would Holmes do?

This unfortunate event had occurred several times in the past while I was living with other people, and I had always written it off as a loss. Perhaps it had gotten mixed up with their clothing. Or perhaps, since doing the laundry was a continuous process and never really got finished, it just turned up in the next load. But now, living alone and doing only one load of wash per week, there is simply no excuse for me to ignore this phenomenon any longer.

And as luck would have it, during the course of folding my washed and dried clothing this week, I discovered that, once again, I came up short by exactly one sock.

Being the fastidious Sherlockian that I also am, I decided to apply the methods of the Master in solving this annoying mystery, once and for all.  First, I sat languidly with my eyes half closed as I contemplated the possibilities and the potential destinations of said sock. (For a little help in stimulating my mental powers, I poured myself a few hefty dashes of brandy first). From somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind, I recalled a little chocolate and silver volume that I had once read. This book contained tips and advice on household care, and it stated that a common cause of so-called “missing” socks is static electricity generated in the dryer. This static electricity could attract a sock and keep it stuck to the sides of the dryer’s drum. While removing the dried clothes, it would be easy to miss the sock if static cling was holding it in the overhead position.

Excitedly, I leapt from my chair and dashed down the hall to investigate the dryer, only to be disappointed. So then, mental analysis of the mystery proved fruitless. I poured myself some more hefty dashes of brandy and decided it was time to begin a physical investigation. I checked the upper edges along the inside of the washing machine. No sock there. I traced and retraced my steps between the laundry equipment and the bedroom where I fold my clothes, looking for a dropped sock.  No luck. I examined the floor on the other side of the bed, thinking it might have fallen between the bed and the wall, but again came up empty handed. It next occurred to me that perhaps I might have accidentally folded the sock into another piece of clothing, but examination of the folded clothing drew another blank.

Grabbing my dark lantern (aka flashlight), I threw myself down on the floor and peered into the recesses between the washer and the dryer. Still no sock. While I was at it, I whisked away the drugget covering the hardwood floor. With a snarl of disappointment, I observed that the floor was bereft of any socks (or any “second stains” either).

I checked and rechecked all the above steps again to no avail. After a few more tumblers of brandy, I recalled thinking that this missing sock mystery was definitely putting new meaning into the Game being “afoot”.

Fiercely determined not to give up, though, I attempted once again to perform further mental analysis of the mystery. With the bottle of brandy within reach (and almost empty by this time), I sat down again and re-pondered the mystery as Holmes surely would have done. The question of where the sock went off to was beating in my brain like a hammer.

Suddenly it hit me!

Holmes’s axiom: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”, translated into the hypothesis that the sock was never washed in the first place.

Leaping up once again from my chair with a shout of delight, I checked the hamper. Sure enough, the missing sock was still inside it, hanging onto part of the hinge spring by a thread. Apparently, when I dumped the dirty clothes into the washing machine, it snagged on the spring and had remained behind.

Without a doubt, the mystery had at last been solved.

Until next time, and with a much deeper appreciation of Holmes’s methods, I am as always,  

Yours Faithfully,