I used to do field work with a fellow who was a bit of a clothes horse, even when he was in the field. "Ahhh," I said to him early one morning as we were departing our motel during a long field stint, "Clean sock day!" I thought everyone worth their hiking boots knew the joys of clean sock day, but the look of pure revulsion that crossed his face gave me some insight into the numerous huge duffel bags he brought with him everywhere he went. This guy was putting on clean socks every day. Probably clean everything else, too, but after the look I got from him over just my socks I didn't dare mention clean underwear day to confirm my suspicions.
He didn't last long at the job. I like to imagine that there is a correlation there, as if we of rotated socks are simply made of tougher stuff than those of daily-princess-fresh-socks. Smarter stuff, too: guess what's more efficient than packing a comprehensive wardrobe change for every fricking day, like you're in a sitcom instead of just a canola field somewhere? Not doing that, then packing a Tide pod and a couple of quarters for those rare instances where you can't rotate your way out of a laundry shortage.
And shortages do happen, even to the most intrepid of re-users and rotators. Despite my Tide pods and the comprehensive mental map I've developed of the best available public laundry facilities across rural Saskatchewan and Alberta, the fact is sometimes serious laundry shortages even happen to perfectly non-princessy people in towns where no laundry facilities exist. Handily, I happen to have some friends and family scattered about the landscape as well, all of whom not only have laundry facilities that they will let me use, but who will also acquiesce to an impromptu coffee date with me in whatever weird outfit I've managed to cobble together out of the dregs of my remaining passably-clean clothing. These are truly the kind of people you want to have in your life.
I once dropped a pair of underpants between the washer and dryer at a friend's house under just such laundry shortage circumstances. As much as field laundry has taught me what good people my friends really are, it also taught me what kind of person I am: I am a horribly vain person. Maybe not at the surface, since I was apparently willing to purchase and then wear the lobstrosities I had just lost down the ol' washer-dryer gap, but in my heart of hearts I sure as fuck didn't want anyone to actually see them. I peered in horror at those ginormous, psychedelic-butterfly-print, cotton ultra-granny field gotch, winking up at me from the depths of the linty crack of doom, and I knew in that moment I would go full Aron Ralston before I would ever, ever let my friend lay eyes on them.
I did get them out eventually, with the aid of some barbeque tongs and a good many swear words. I even got to keep my arms. In my panic over the butterfly field gotch, however, I failed to notice that I had also lost a Bama sock down the washer-dryer gap. For anyone who is not familiar with Bama socks (and are thus unable to grasp how truly terrible this is), just know that Bama socks are the closest thing I have ever experienced to an actual miracle in my life.
It was a wet spring that year - which is why the laundry shortage had occurred in the first place - so I had ample time marching around the wide, wet world in steel-toed rubber boots to fully experience the loss of one Bama sock. As I marched, I comforted myself with the knowledge that no, I was not quite so vain - knowing what I now knew, if I had to do it all again I would choose the fleeting awkwardness of leaving some gotch behind over the enduring physical discomfort of leaving a Bama behind. After all, what's a little smidge of embarrassment between friends, right?
I was able to convince myself of that right up until I returned to my friend's house a couple of weeks later. When he grinned and handed over my sock, which he was holding with his hands, I was overcome by the mental image of him handing me those goddamn granny panties instead.
Unequivocal nope - I choose to save the gotch. Always, always the gotch.