Small Man…is an elf.
He’s always had an adorkably quirky mind, but we didn’t realise until he finished puberty (and stopped growing) that there was something magical about him.
You see, his clothes never seem to wear out. Jeans and t-shirts might fade in the wash, but they never get holes in them. He’s worn the same jacket for years. His Crumpler bag is clean and unstained, despite a daily commute on public transport.
We first noticed this phenomenon in his footwear. Our youngest son treads very lightly on the earth – innately rather than deliberately. Once he stopped growing out of school shoes, we no longer had to replace them – he wore the same pair every day from years 10 to 12, and they’re still going strong.
Unfortunately, having a light touch doesn’t mean he’s been spared foot problems, and from quite a young age, he’s had to wear orthotics for his collapsed arches. He complained of sore feet while we were in San Francisco, so when we got back to Sydney, I made a time for him to see our podiatrist Richard.
As an aside, I realised when I was booking the appointment that we’ve happily built up a network of support people whom we trust completely. At 51, I don’t need charm or obsequiousness – I just want highly competent, honest service providers who won’t rip me off. We have Richard, Tim the dentist (who talked us out of braces), Andy the Miele repairman, Allan the plumber – the list goes on. It’s a nice feeling to know that they’ve got our backs.
Off we chooffed to the Institute of Sport in Homebush.
We adore Richard, and he was delighted to see our son, whom he’s known since primary school. We were all astonished to discover that Small Man’s orthotics were seven years old.
In a way it makes sense – his feet stopped growing when he was 13, and because he’s an elf, the orthotics never wore out. Richard couldn’t believe it – they were still in excellent shape despite being folded up and transferred from one pair of shoes to another on a regular basis. But it was time for new ones – Small Man’s feet weren’t any longer, but over the past seven years, they had grown wider.
Richard pulled out a special stripey sock, put it on Small Man’s foot, scanned it with his computer, then repeated the process with the other foot.
Then he threw the sock in the rubbish bin.
I squealed in protest.
Our podiatrist explained…the socks couldn’t be washed and used again, as laundering blurred the stripes and made them too fuzzy for the computer to scan. His patients didn’t want to take one half of a pair home with them. Local charities will only accept new socks (they’re classified as “underwear”). There is a man in Perth who will collect, wash and send the socks to Africa for distribution to kids in need…but that adds a lot of air miles and isn’t necessarily the best option environmentally.
I asked him if I could have the ones he had in the bin. He looked at me as if I’d lost my mind (you’d be surprised how many times a week that happens to me), then pulled out four singles and gave them to me in a plastic bag.
You see, I’m desperate for good socks. Unlike Small Man, I’m appallingly hard on footwear – $200 orthotic-friendly boots last a year if I’m lucky, and all my socks have holes in the toes or broken elastic. I blame it on my Hobbit feet.
I took Richard’s stripey pairs home, washed them, wore them, and loved them.
Then I emailed my ever patient podiatrist and made him an offer. If he kept all his used socks for me, I would pick them up at our next appointment and trade him sourdough and chocolate for them.
To cut a long story short, I gave him two loaves of sourdough, a box of dark chocolate dragons and dipped ginger, and a box of milk chocolate feuilletine bark in exchange for all of these…
Now, even though I brought home used socks (I’m so hoping my mother won’t read this post), I was still too Asian to just throw them in the washing machine.
So I put on latex gloves, turned them all inside out, and drowned them in a hot Napisan soak for a couple of hours. Then they went into a 60C hot wash. Then the dryer. They came out perfectly clean…
I’ve arranged to pick up another lot before Christmas – you can imagine Pete’s reaction to the prospect of a house full of socks. If you’re a neighbour and would like a pair of very lightly used stripey socks, let me know (but you’ll have to pop over, as I’m not posting them anywhere)!
Edit 2/12/16: A happy ending to our story – the surplus socks are now being distributed to the homeless via the lovely folks at the Mustard Seed Op Shop in Ultimo. Read more about it here!