Al Batt: Can you believe it, there is a toe in my drink!

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

“I might have accidentally kissed a toe.”

I wasn’t watching a documentary on toe jam. It was said by another during a meeting break. It’s my duty as a human to listen when someone tells me something like that.

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The woman was talking about a Sourtoe Cocktail, a famed drink seasoned with an amputated toe. Established in 1973, the Sourtoe Cocktail is a Dawson City (Yukon) tradition. It’s a dehydrated human toe preserved in salt and used to garnish a drink. Now on its tenth digit, I found a cautionary tale in the fact the eighth toe arrived in a jar of alcohol with the message, “Don’t wear open-toe sandals while mowing the lawn.” In 2013, a man ordered a Sourtoe shot and swallowed that toe, paid a $500 fine, and left the saloon. This was the first and only time the toe was deliberately consumed, and as a result the fine increased to $2,500. In 2017, the toe was stolen and later returned via mail to the owner.

“Sock it to me!” was spoken by the Sock-It-To-Me Girl, Judy Carne, on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.” She’d be tricked into saying “sock it to me,” and then splashed with water. Presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon uttered “Sock it to me” on that TV program in 1968. That phrase might have come from a hit record titled “Respect” recorded by Aretha Franklin, which featured backup singers repeating “Sock it to me.” What does a Sourtoe Cocktail and “Sock it to me” have in common? Do I have to explain everything? A sock covers toes and would make that drink even nastier.

Socks and I have had a love-hate relationship. My mother darned my socks. I sometimes cuss them gently. I’ve been too tired to take off my socks. A study published in the International Weekly Journal of Science found hitting the hay with socks on helps you fall asleep 15 minutes sooner than without socks. One poll found 44% of Americans sleep in their bare feet, while 28% wear socks when sleeping. The rest of us are on the fence, which is no place to get a good night’s sleep.

I have socks I enjoy going without. “Stay up, both of you!” I mutter. Not all socks listen to me. “Holy socks!” Robin proclaimed to Batman. Socks that slide down are irritating. I have Batman, Superman, bird, team, and holy socks.

My wife shakes her head in disbelief and rolls her eyes as I trudge through the snow while I’m sockless and wearing Crocs with intentional holes in them. It’s the way I take a walk on the wild side. That’s just one of the many red flags she’d missed when we were dating. I bushwhacked my way through snow without socks and without proper shoes. If the snow had been deeper, I’d have engaged the adventure straps  — straps located on the backs of that footwear meant to hold heels securely in the shoes. I’d never used them until I lost a Crocs shoe in a snow bank while trying to out-shovel a blizzard. No trail is all smooth ground. I walked unevenly back to the house. The shoe reappeared with a thaw. I have a history of that sort of thing. I’d lost a loafer in a gigantic pile of cow manure behind the barn. It never reappeared. I’m OK with that. I doubt it went where lost socks go — reincarnated as sock puppets.

I wear a black sock with a navy blue sock companion on occasion. I don’t do this intentionally. I have trouble differentiating the colors when I get up early in the morning. I don’t want to turn on the lights and disrupt my wife’s snoozing. I see basketball players wearing shoes of different colors, so I may be accidentally in style.

It was inexcusably cold — 22° below. Some said it seemed colder than that. I was going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, so I put on wool socks. I like not wearing socks, but when it’s 22° below, socks are good things. That temperature causes me to fall in love with a pair of warm socks. My wife knitted me some fine wool socks. A smile climbed onto my face as I put them on. You know what no one says, “Warm socks, warm feet.” Warm feet put me in high spirits.

I haven’t heard anyone declare feet to be temples or windows to souls, but feet are like most of us — they respond to kindness.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday.