ALPSIDE DOWNED: A Tale of Two Socks

BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 26 February) – The family simply could not figure out this mystery of the unmatched socks.

Coming from the laundry last month, we had two socks that did not match. But now, a few weeks later, we had four, five pairs that did not match. Where did these socks come from?

In Swiss society, the laundry room is the common meeting room. It is where you get to see and meet who your Bewohner or co-dwellers and building occupants are. There might be little talk in the three elevators that zip you up and down the building, but certainly there is time to engage in small talk or even gossip in the Waschraum as these are called here.

Discretion and personal space is a big thing here, and after seven years we do not even know our neighbors that well, just faces and sometimes the names to go with them. We make infrequent contact with the only other Filipina (married to a Swiss) that we know who lives in our building here, and even the other young Filipino couple here had long since transferred.

As a newcomer trying to learn the German language used in these parts, my teacher had warned us that conflicts happened usually in the laundry room. Learn your vocabulary well to avoid conflict in the laundry room, she had told us newcomers. Lernen Sie, beobachten, mit anderen mischen.

Our apartment is in a 20-storey building, with about 20 doors on each floor. That easily makes hundreds of occupants sharing the six wash machines and three dryers almost every day except on Sundays. When we use the facilities, we are required to enter our name and apartment number in a logbook, the reason of course to avoid conflict in wash times.

I got to know my co-dwellers first through this logbook. For instance, I learned that Frau Roth liked to wash after lunch on Thursdays. And that our building Verwaltung  Frau Manso preferred to wash earliest on Mondays only. From inference I also learned that wash peak hours came after 5 p.m., when the daily workers had come home from work and intended to squeeze in an hour or so before the room closed at 7:30 in the evening. To avoid the crush, I deduced that the best free time was in the first slot from 7 to 8:30 a.m. (when most were just waking and loath to washing so early) and in the middle of the week (because the first two days were always crammed).

But how to explain some missing socks? There was a chance that you could miss one or two small items in the wash machine or the dryer, there was always a child’s bib or a man’s sock or even delicate female lingerie hung over the huge table, lost-and-found items fished out from the wash equipment. But five pairs of strange and mismatched socks in our laundry?

We were in a sock nightmare, like living an Alice-in-Wonderland dream. Early on, my daughter owned a set of socks printed with the weekdays- from Monday to Sunday. Now even some of those days were missing. My son insisted that all the black Nike socks were his- yes, those with the unmistakable swoosh sign – but not the Adidases with the three stripes.

My wife took it to herself to put all the dry pairs together. But after a week, there were pairs that nobody had put a claim to. We could not figure it out—were these someone else’s that were brought home by mistake? And there was still this unfamiliar Fila ankle-high summer sock, and that white brandless sock…

In the end, we settled not to settle. The unclaimed ones would go to the trashcan, including the mismatched ones. My daughter said she would buy a multicolored set that would clearly stand out from the rest. My son said his would remain only blacks. Mine would be the whites. And my wife’s would be the sheer ones. Sigh, I thought, if only that were easy.

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their thoughts about their home country and their experiences in their adopted countries. Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao and also for SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps)