John Carlson: Humorless Times Are Afoot

Does this sock look like fun? Yeah, I don’t think so either. Photo by: John CarlsonDoes this sock look like fun? Yeah, I don’t think so either. Photo by: John Carlson

By: John Carlson—

Not long ago I was at my doctor’s office when, following a quick knock, a nice young internist entered to check my ankles for whatever nice young internists check old guys’ ankles for.

Lifting my pants legs a couple inches, she suddenly exclaimed, “Oh! Those are fun!”

Meaning my socks.

This, I must admit, struck me as a foreign concept. I’ve had a fair amount of fun in my life, but none that I recall has been the direct result of socks. Still, not wanting to seem like some stuffy fool to this well-meaning lass, I plastered the most fun look I could muster across my face and answered her with a resounding, “Yes!”

My heart wasn’t in it, though.

Anyway, while writing this, I happen to be wearing those very same socks. That is why I can tell you they do seem rather distinctive looking, being brown but decorated with light-blue and pumpkin-colored guitars.

In that respect, they are not like the same dowdy socks most other guys my age are wearing at this very moment. But while somewhat unique in appearance, fun-wise, they still don’t seem to be  your proverbial barrel of monkeys.

The same goes for other certain socks that inhabit my sock drawer.

There are the Abraham Lincoln socks Nancy bought me during a visit to Springfield, Ill. In your hand, they look like your standard pair of dark socks. Yank them onto your feet, though, and suddenly Honest Abe is staring out from both sides of your ankles, wearing his distinguished stovepipe hat.

Cool? Yes. Fun? Nah.

Then there are my light gray socks with the red-and-black stripes on top. Pull them onto your feet and they are still light gray socks with red-and-black stripes on top. But if you hold your feet together and somebody reads the bottom of these socks, they say “Beer Me.” At least, they do if you have them on the correct feet. If not, they say “Me Beer.”

Either way they’re cool, too, and maybe even useful in having a cold beer fetched from the fridge for you from time to time. But are they fun?

Not particularly.

This is not to say that other items of apparel can’t be fun. You’ve seen enough humorous T-shirts to know THEY can be fun. Like, there’s the one I discovered while researching this column. The shirt reads, “Schrodinger’s cat walks into a bar and doesn’t.”

That’s it. The message ends with “… into a bar and doesn’t.”

And you’re like, what? But then the fun part finally hits you: This T-shirt is a takeoff on Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger’s famous cat illustration regarding the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects!

What a riot!

OK, OK. I don’t know what the hell any of that means, either.  This, I would say, is proof that physics jokes mostly suck.

How about ties, though? Ties can be fun. Somewhere for sale out there is a Bacon Forever tie I saw advertised on Facebook. This tie looks exactly like a bunch of raw bacon strips perfectly knotted around your neck and hanging down the front of your shirt. If I wore ties, which I don’t, I think I could have some fun wearing that one!

But socks?  They’re just not funny. Besides, in keeping with the aforementioned meat theme, even if somebody owned a pair of socks that looked like two salamis, nobody’d be able to see them because of their shoes.

The sad truth is, in terms of fun apparel, everything has been going downhill since the days of those racy old “cod pieces.” Just saying their name—cod pieces—seems kind of fun, seeing as they sound more like something on the menu at Captain D’s.

But back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the original cod pieces were attached to what would commonly be called the “crotch” area of a fella’s tights.  While meant for the deadly serious business of protecting one’s you-know-whats, they must have provided guys back then with the opportunity for a little bawdy fun. You know, collecting their cod pieces, customizing their cod pieces, comparing their cod pieces with their buddies’ cod pieces …

I can almost hear the medieval guys ribbing each other during happy hour in the mead hall.

“You doth calleth that a cod piece, Sir Gawain?”

“And whateth of yours, Sir Lancelot? It looketh more like a shrimp piece!”


And not to be outdone in fun apparel by the guys, “bustles” worn on ladies’ hind-ends came into fashion in Victorian times, giving rise to the first known uses of such terms as “booty,” “baby got much back” and, of course, “jiggle twins.”

Since those giddy days, it seems to me people have been taking their clothes way too seriously, hence culminating in today’s lack of fun socks.

But, hey, what do I know?

That internist in my doctor’s office was about as cool as a physician gets, being young and attractive and obviously entering a future so bright, she needed to wear shades. So if she thought my socks were fun, who’s to say they aren’t?

Maybe I have become too jaded by life to see the potential fun in socks. Maybe I’m just some  embittered geezer whose passion for socks has sadly fallen prey to the everyday challenges of surviving life as a poor pensioner. And if so, might not my perception of pleasure be so skewed, I can’t even perceive the whole world of fun that awaits me once I appreciate the true joy inherent in socks?




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A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.  John’s columns appear on Muncie Journal every Friday.