What most of us do, when this strange phenomena does happen, is simply wait a couple wash cycles to see if it shows up then we toss it in the trash. After all, what difference can one sock make without its companion snugly nestled up next to it?
I am here to tell you not to dump that sock too quickly. You never know when an orphaned sock can become your best friend. A few nights ago, after a long day of work and climbing temperatures coaxing my pores to open up and sweat like a dog, I determined to take a shower to get that shower fresh feeling back before heading to bed.
I prepared myself for the trek to the shower point, slipping on my PT uniform, grabbing my shower kit and shower shoes (you don't want to step in a shower without shower shoes since nobody knows what diseases from the feet of other boot wearers lingers on the shower floor). Then I reached for my towel. That's when the value of an orphaned sock became apparent to me.
Due to poor planning, I had put both of my towels (primary and alternate as I refer to them in Army speak), into the laundry at the same time. I had no towel. Looking around my CHU I considered my Courses of Action using the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP). COA 1: I could use one of my T-shirts. This was a no go, the 2nd and 3rd order effects could cause a shortage in my underclothes later in the week. COA 2: Don't dry off at all. Also a no go, for me at least. I hate that feeling of clothes sticking to me, I might as well be sweating cause I would not achieve that shower fresh feeling I was longing to have. COA 3: Use that orphaned sock I had not yet thrown in the trash.
Thank the heavens for the MDMP, I was able to determine the best COA for my situation . . . I chose COA 3.
Without hesitation (the sign of a confident leader) I reached down to this single white athletic sock, clutched it in my sweat-salt covered hand and moved out to the shower point. As can be expected, the shower was everything one living in 120 degree weather and covered from head to toe in flame resistant clothing might expect - it was refreshing.
Sweeping the shower curtain aside with my now squeaky clean hand, I reached down to my orphaned athletic sock and began to dry off. I treated it just like any towel, stretching it across my back, moving it in a back and forth motion from the tops of my shoulders to my lower back (don't get excited now, I ain't that kind of man). At some point, my orphaned sock, now full blown towel, lost its absorbency and I had to wring out the excess water, but I was not dismayed. I continued on, proudly drying from head to toe in spite of the sideways glances from others in the shower area whom I am sure wondered about my mental state.
In the end, the little fellow was up to the task. Sure it was a tight stretch across the back. Maybe the absorbency of an old athletic sock doesn't compare to a teri cloth towel. And let's face it, drying off with a sock makes for an odd scene in a public shower, but the job was a success.
So, here's my AAR (After Action Review), my lessons learned (First Sergeants are always looking for lessons learned). At some point everything has value. There will be times when the seemingly useless will make all the difference. I plan to keep at least one orphaned sock around at all times. You never know what other capabilities a single sock might have. Who knows, maybe it will save my life some day.