Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Perfectly Plausible Explanation

Summer time finds most winter-weary folks thinking about picnics, baseball, and sunny days at the lake. However, someone has to consider the serious topics of life. And who better suited for serious thought than I? Yes, lately I’ve been pondering the question that has perplexed the greatest minds for centuries.

Can a person actually make a living selling socks at the flea market?

I don’t get to visit as often as I would like, but every time I do I notice there’s always one merchant set up to meet the hosiery needs of a small, barefoot nation. Boxes of gray thermals with the red toes. Ladies’ crew tops. That dressy men’s type made of that scary material you see being set aflame in those fire prevention films from the 1950‘s--you know the kind, decorated with a scattering of stunningly embroidered fleur-de-lis designs and made to adhere to even the most active man’s shins. And bin after bin after bin of white tube socks, which if laid top to toe, would reach to the new Wal-Mart in Kuala Lumpur, which interestingly enough, is where most Lumpurians buy their tube socks.

My experience has been this; you step within some unseen perimeter of the sock booth and the pitch begins:

“May I help you, sweetie? Highest quality. Full year’s guarantee.”

Guarantee? I want to ask, where would one send the defective socks if one were unfortunate enough to purchase a less than perfect pair? (No doubt, this merchant will be in another state, at another flea market, by 4:00 pm.) Is there a 1-800 number? Or better yet, a website, www.gotsox.com.

So how does one make a decision like that; to sell socks at the flea market? It’s an honest living, I suppose, but why socks? Antiques sure, comic books, crocheted covers for your extra rolls of toilet paper, socket wrenches, Ginsu knives and jewelry, yes, but socks? Maybe it’s the no-competition factor. It’s possible, but it still doesn’t answer my question.

This phenomenon is nothing new, these flea market sock-hawkers. Way back, someone had to be the first. I’ve been going to flea markets for over thirty years, from Florida to New York (not all in the same day, mind you, that would just be exhausting) and there have always been socks.

Did the idea originate when the whole flea market thing began? Was it an example of tandem thinking? Could it have been two brilliant ideas at the same time?

Perhaps one morning in a medieval hovel somewhere in the Baltic's, Yorgi and his lovely wife are having their breakfast bowl of gruel, when Yorgi turns to his wife and says,

You know, I thinketh it be a wise and prudent thing if many merchants come together in our cow field and bringeth hewn log tables and wares from their own hovels that no longer be serviceable and taggeth thy wares perchance to peddle them. And, oh yes, let us peddleth socks.”

At which point his lovely wife turns to him and asks,

“Whateth are socks?”

Of course, I could be all wrong about this, but it‘s a possibility.

Or perhaps the sock thing may have come up at a later date, after the flea market had become an established American event. It could have been that some frustrated entrepreneur had plenty of time to kill due to the fact that his liverwurst waffle stand was not the booming business the guy on the info-mercial said it would be. And so, downcast, he spent his time watching the throngs of flea marketers strolling by. And maybe he began to notice that the socks going by on the feet of the eager bargain hunters were becoming unsightly from the dusty walkways. And yes, I can believe that the proverbial light bulb went off above his head and in an instant of life-changing clarity, BANG! He knew. Socks! The world needed socks and plenty of them. Tube, crew, thermals and those dressy, fleur-di-lis-embellished calf-highs. Thus, the liverwurst waffle went (mercifully) the way of the Edsel and was replaced with socks. A perfectly plausible explanation.

I could be all wrong about this, but it could have happened that way. It’s good to have these questions sorted out, don’t you think?

©g.Slater 2006


At Friday, September 08, 2006 9:02:00 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Now, the liverwurst waffle doesn't sound so bad. I gotta admit, I like the stuff...if I don't think about it. AT ALL. Then again...a *waffle*? YIG!
You wrote "peddleth"...it almost made my martini shoot out of my nose.
I LOVE it! (smile)

At Tuesday, September 12, 2006 8:40:00 PM, Blogger ZaPaper said...

I wish some street-vendor would sell socks here in Beijing. I could really use some. But no, all we get is melon slices, roasted sweet potatoes, and occasional big carts of cups and bowls. Go figure. Anyway, you do have a good point about the strange niche the sock-vendor must occupy. And yes, I'm nerdy enough to check if there really is a www.gotsox.com. But there isn't.


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