Those darned socks
May 8, 2014
David R. Weiss
Let me tell you about my socks. Dark blue, argyle pattern, and—as I noticed when pulling them on this morning—darned. Holes in each toe patched with a cross-weave of threads. They were darned two decades ago; heck, they were new probably three decades ago. So, because I want them to last, I only bring them out for special occasions.
Now let me tell you about my Grandpa. After holding a variety of jobs as young man, he was a tool and die maker for about the last forty years of his career. Besides this, he was a strong union man. He knew first hand the struggles of labor, and he believed in unions and was active in his own union’s leadership. He retired proud of his trade and equally proud of his work for worker justice. He and my Grandma lived frugally; they weren’t poor by any measure, but they certainly didn’t keep up with the Joneses either.
When my Grandpa died in 1997 there wasn’t a great deal to split up among the family. I got to pick out two of his neckties (which I no longer wear since I opted for all-casual-all-the-time some years back) and three pair of his argyle—and already darned—socks.
I wore those darned socks today to our meet-and-greet with other adjunct faculty working to unionize at Hamline. My working conditions are far different than my Grandpa’s, but it’s the same struggle to have a voice in a setting where management is too easily corrupted by the temptation to cut corners on those whose voices are most removed from power. I won’t pretend that I exactly stand in his shoes some seventy years after he joined his union. But today I did stand in his socks—and I could see his smile and the twinkle in his eyes.
And the day we gather to announce that we have won a union, well, I’ll put on those darned socks once again. Whose knows, I may even button my top button for the first time in well over a decade and pull out one of those neckties.
To read another post about my union efforts, see “When Words Fail Us.”