Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Guy with the Socks

The other day Agnes and I were watching the German TV show Galileo, which featured a report that was part of a series covering the experiences of Germans living in other countries ... in this case, South Korea. One of the things the German living there commented on was the amazing array of wildly decorative socks that are sold everywhere in Korea, including in vending machines. Apparently, socks play a vital role in Korean society and are often given as gifts on many occasions. The reason for this is that since shoes are supposed to be removed when entering a Korean home, clean and attractive socks are important as a fashion statement.

How about that, eh?

I did a little more Google-ing on the topic and found this blog post written by Jen Fletcher on the Korea-Canada Blog of the Korean Cultural Centre in Canada (KCC), which goes into more detail on the importance of socks in Korean culture.

Okay, I told you all of that so that I could tell you the story of how I became known as "The Guy with the Socks."

When Agnes and I first met and began dating, I was in the Air Force. At the time, I was stationed in Berlin in a job in which I normally wore conservative civilian clothes, and only occasionally my uniform. After we were married, I was transferred back to the States to a job in which I wore my uniform every day ... and an Air Force uniform requires plain black socks.

Well, Agnes's mother was a lady of many talents, among which was knitting. And she decided that she woud hand-make my socks for me. Thus it was that, about twice a year for many years, I got a box of beautiful black wool socks in the mail, hand-knitted by my mother-in-law.

Time passed, and in 1996 I retired from the Air Force and began my second, civilian career as a contractor supporting the Air Force in the Pentagon. Of course, I now wore snazzy civilian clothes, and Agnes helped me pick out an array of nice suits, dress shirts, shoes, and accessories I'd never had to worry about during my 23 years in uniform. And Agnes's mother, back home in Germany, realized that I was now able to wear other than plain black socks ...

... and those every-six-months boxes of socks began to contain some of the most incredibly eye-hurting, vividly-colored socks you can imagine. Mom seemed to delight in seeking out the most bizzare color combinations of yarns and turning them into socks that were - to say the least - eye-catching. I never knew what would come out of the boxes that arrived from Germany, but I knew they'd be unusual. They were ghastly, and didn't match anything I owned, but they were comfortable, warm, and free, and so I decided to just go ahead and wear whatever came out of the drawer first in the morning darkness.

It wasn't long before my ... colorful ... socks were noticed and commented on. Before long, when I'd show up at conferences or meetings, it wasn't unusual for someone to walk up to me and pull up a pants leg to see what kind of socks I was wearing. People might not have known my name, but they knew I was "The Guy with the Socks."

The pinnacle of my sock fame came one day when I was scheduled to brief the conduct and results of a study I'd done on computer security to a "murder board" composed of retired general officers, chaired by General John Shaud, a retired four-star who had once been the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). For the occasion, I dressed in my snazziest gray suit, polished my shoes, and wore my loudest socks: vivid red, shot with flashes of blue, yellow, and green. I was ready.

The morning's presentation, with questions and answers, went by quickly, and it was soon time to break for lunch, which had been scheduled for a small, private dining room in the Pentagon. As we were walking down the hall, General Shaud came up beside me, threw an arm around my shoulders, and said, "Bill, I've just gotta ask you ... where did you get those damn socks?"

His team approved my project and recommendations. I credit hard work, detailed preparation, and lucky socks.

So that's how I became known as "The Guy with the Socks." Sadly, Agnes's mom passed away in 2013, and she'd stopped making the socks a few years before then as she suffered from arthritis in her hands ... but she did her part to make me famous, and I loved her for it.

Have a good day, and remember - life's too short to wear boring socks.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Lisa Rosenbusch said...

That's a beautiful story!

John Hill said...

A great story, Bilbo!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

I enjoyed that story, Bilbo!

Mike said...

And not one picture of any of the socks? Surely you have one pair left.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Pictures, please!

allenwoodhaven said...

Greay story! Thanks for sharing it.