Microwave my socks

Why I Shouldn’t Complain About Wet Socks

Derek Australia 48 Comments

Microwave my socksThis morning I was forced to dry my underwear and socks in the microwave. It all began when I had the unfortunate timing of washing a load of laundry at the exact same moment that the rain started to fall here in Melbourne. And that was five days ago. For the most part, the rain has been falling ever since.

So, when I hung up my laundry to dry on the clothes rack, they naturally didn’t dry, but instead, remained completely damp until they began to stink up the house where I am staying. As a result, I had to wash all of my clothes again, but afterward, with the rain continuing to fall, they still would not dry.

When it came time for me to dress this morning, I really didn’t feel like spending another day without wearing any underwear and furthermore, both the one pair of socks I’ve been using for the last five days and my two feet really needed a break from each other as well. Hence the microwave and the drying of my underwear and socks on the popcorn setting.

Anyway, this short tale is quite a good indication of how my 2011 has started. Apart from having to heat my underpants on a plate and wear a somewhat damp and stinky t-shirt, I’ve spent most of my visit to Melbourne so far dealing with conjunctivitis and an allergy to what I thought was my friend’s cat. It turns out it’s an allergy to pollen, and unfortunately, pollen is much more abundant all over Melbourne than is the dander of my friend’s cat.

My daily routine has generally gone something like:

Sneeze, sneeze, coughing attack, sneeze, goo in my eye, eat Indian food, coughing attack, goo in my eye, sneeze, sneeze, eat a peach, sneeze, coughing attach, attempted sleep.

Yes, it has been as fun as that sounds.


I’ve barely slept in two weeks, my clothes stink, my lungs have not enjoyed a full breath of air in a long while, my left eye is more gooey than I’d prefer and I’ve barely been able to go outside much lately due to the rain.

Wait a minute.

I’ve barely been able to do much because of the rain? I’ll admit, I actually said these very words this morning while sitting on my friend’s front porch, looking out at a garden full of 19 sunflowers and waiting for the rain to ease up so that I could run down the street to the closest tram stop and head into the city.

Again, I’ve barely been able to do much due to the rain?

In case anyone hasn’t heard yet, large parts of Australia are in the midst of severe, record flooding right now. Entire communities are under water up in Queensland, homes and business completely washed away and human lives lost. The photos and videos I’ve seen are mind-blowing and for thousands upon thousands of people, their lives will never be the same again.

Yet here I am complaining that a light drizzle has prevented me from going downtown and eating another plate of Indian food with some friends. Sure, perhaps my day, or even the past few days, has been interrupted by the rain, but try complaining about that to someone from Brisbane, whose entire life has been interrupted by the flooding and whose home has been reduced to a massive pile of rotting debris. Now they must pick up the pieces and build a new existence from scratch and I can’t even begin to imagine the strength needed to face such a challenge.

Due to this current situation in Australia, I’ve also spent a great deal of time this past week reflecting on other natural disasters that have occurred around the world recently. And it only took me a few minutes to realize that the number of people whose lives have been completely upended, or in many cases, cut way too short, is beyond staggering.

I often think that the sheer magnitude of such disasters is simply too great for the human mind to even comprehend, which is the reason why the rest of us can so easily carry on with our lives despite the large-scale suffering of so many others. If we witness a tragedy with our own eyes, right in front of us, it will affect us deeply, but when such a disaster takes place on the other side of the planet, to people we don’t know and in such numbers that just don’t seem real, we have a remarkable ability to distance ourselves from the situation.


About an hour after I sat there this morning complaining that my day was ruined due to the rain, the clouds parted and the sun came out. I then hopped on a tram into the city center and strolled along Elizabeth Street to my favorite cafe where I ordered a cup of white hot chocolate, sat down at a table and turned on my laptop. My goal was to write a post about the struggles I’ve endured during my first two weeks here in Melbourne, including that feisty case of conjunctivitis and the pollen allergy.

But before I began to type, I took a minute to read another online article about the flooding in Queensland. And halfway through the article, I read this:

“In Toowoomba, it emerged that schoolboy Jordan Rice, 13, who was scared of water and could not swim, told bystanders to save his 10-year-old brother, Blake, as fast-running waters engulfed the family car. Seconds later Jordan and his mother, Donna, were sucked to their deaths.” (Full article)

And so, I’m not going to write about my ‘struggles’ over the past two weeks. Instead, I’d much rather keep this a short post and spend the rest of the time I would ordinarily spend writing, thinking about those people in Queensland. I’ll also be thinking about those people in places such as Pakistan, Haiti, Tibet, Chile and Burma who are truly suffering right now in the wake of unthinkable natural disasters.

Sure, I know it doesn’t sound like much to just sit here and think about those human beings, but it’s a start. In the midst of all this blog writing and tweeting and all of the traveling from country to country, it is far too easy to lose sight sometimes of how fortunate I am in life. And today turned out to be one of those days where I had temporarily forgotten this fact.

Thankfully, I have now been reminded and as a result, I can take steps to ensure that I don’t forget again any time soon.

And I sincerely hope you’ll join me in taking a few minutes out of your own day to think about those who are not only less fortunate than us, but who would happily accept a light rain, damp t-shirt and a case of conjunctivitis as the only interruptions to their day.

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Comments 48

    1. Hey Priyank – I have a bit of an Indian food addiction 🙂 If I’m somewhere where I have my own kitchen (which is not often at all) I will cook it but no matter where I’m traveling, I always make it a point to find Indian food. My favorites are Navratan Korma, Jalfrezi and Palak Paneer, although if you put any, and I mean ANY, Indian food in front of me, I will gladly devour it. What are your favorites?

      And I actually write Indian restaurant reviews along with a couple of others over at http://www.thecurryproject.com!

      1. I’m not a foodie per se, I eat anything really but I cannot cook the three items that you mention above. However I do slightly prefer south Indian food over north Indian but that might just be because I cant cook dosas or idlis. 🙂

  1. I enjoy your honest perspective more and more with every post I read. While I %100 agree that trying to maintain a holistic world view and realize in the face of great disaster how lucky and how precious our lives really are, I also think it is OK to bitch and moan a bit about wet socks too! Life has its little struggles too, so don’t feel bad about feeling a little bummed about conjunctivitis and damp undergarments!

    1. @joshywashington: You bring up a good point and I also think that complaining does not necessarily have to be avoided. Like you mentioned, there is nothing wrong with a little moaning about the small struggles we face, and it can at times be quite therapeutic as well. But there is always that potential danger that we become so caught up with focusing on these small struggles that we begin to forget about the greater struggles of others. The key is to keep things in perspective no matter which approach we take.

      I appreciate the comment!

  2. Earl, I just wrote about the same thing. The floods in Australia put a lot of things in perspective. It’s hard to complain about little things like wet socks when people are losing their homes, everything they have, and their lives. I talked about the Jordan Rice story as well and the compassion being poured out on Australia reminds me of how people came together in the midst of tragedy during the San Francisco earthquake and 9/11. It’s unfortunate that tragedy is what draws us closer but I do think the greatest lessons in life come in tragedy. My heart goes out to those who have lost lives and are struggling in Australia.

    1. Hey Jeremy – That is quite a powerful post you wrote and understandable given your special connection to Australia. You did an excellent job of forcing us to stop for a moment and think about those affected by such tragedies. And just from watching the news and reading stories each day down here, I am now repeatedly overwhelmed by how Australians have united in the aftermath and are working together to help re-build the lives of complete strangers.

      And it’s also important to think about people in other countries who have been affected by such disasters, people with whom we simply don’t feel much of a connection. Often times it is these parts of the world that are unable to re-build on their own and end up suffering for extraordinarily long periods of time as a result.

      Thank you for sharing your post!

  3. That story of the boy is really tragic…it does put things in perspective. And I’m sorry you’re feeling sick, Earl.

    As an aside, do they not have laundromats in Australia? Seems like that would solve the problem of drying your clothes.

    1. Hey Gray – There are in fact laundromats around here, although instead of walking to them in the rain, I just kept hoping that the sun would peek out and my clothes would dry on their own. It probably also had to do with laziness as with my allergy attacks and the general sluggish feeling that resulted, I had a hard time motivating myself to do too much!

    1. Hey Anthony – That story about the 13-year old unfortunately ended up being one of several heart-breaking stories I’ve read about over the past few days. And each time I read one, I couldn’t help but remind myself to stop complaining about the smaller issues I face in life. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I don’t think someone ever mentioned to me before about drying their socks in the microwave 😛 It’s always easy and sometimes really tempting to keep complainig about small things happening to us, but when you put these things in perspective its 99% of the time not that bad.

    1. Hey Tijmen – Actually, I was a little hesitant about putting my socks in the microwave but 45 seconds later, I couldn’t have been happier with the dry, warmed socks around my cold feet!

  5. Great post, once again, Earl! It’s so easy to forget about the rest of the world, when you’re wrapped up in your own.
    Thanks for reminding me to look beyond my own little sphere once in a while.

    BTW, I do hope to read more about your time in Melbourne. I love that city! Are you planning to spend some time at the Australian Open?

    1. Hey Maria – There will definitely be more to come about Melbourne! And I will be going to the Australian Open at some point this week, hopefully Wednesday or Thursday 🙂

  6. We were just speaking about all the natural disasters today with some people we met. It really puts things in perspective. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Hey Andrea – It sure does put everything in perspective. I actually started doing research about all of the recent disasters that have taken place and the list was much longer than expected (there are so many that are barely even reported on), proving that a day should never pass by without us remembering how fortunate we are. Thank you for the comment!

    1. Hey Natalie – That’s a very good point and it is quite sad. How different the world would be if we kept the suffering of others in our minds at all times and not only when disasters strike.

  7. Thanks for posting this. You’ve summed up quite beautifully the transition a lot of people in Australia, Australian and otherwise, have had to make from whinging about the weather to facing a national disaster: but you’ve not forgotten, also, the death tolls in places from Brazil to Sri Lanka.

    A great perspective, I think. And I hope you enjoy Australia despite La Nina.

    1. Hey Theodora – Sometimes a big disaster such as the one in Queensland helps shed light on some of the other situations around the world that may not get much attention for one reason or another, so it’s important to try and think about everyone who may be suffering out there.

      And I am indeed enjoying Australia (as always). There is something about this country that draws me back every couple of years and I’ve enjoyed every single visit so far!

  8. Fantastic reminder Earl. I sometimes need to give myself the reality check and put my personal struggles into perspective. I will join you in taking time to think about those who are less fortunate than us…it’s easy to forget when you are busy and cruising around.

    I had a nice little laugh when you squeezed “eat Indian food” into the sneezes!

    1. @migrationology: Thanks Mark, I appreciate you taking a few moments to remind yourself as well.

      And yeah, I’ve eaten so much Indian food in the past two weeks because I couldn’t find any when I was in the Middle East, so I need to make up for those difficult few months 🙂

  9. Great post Earl. The people of Queensland have been an inspiration to me this week. My heart breaks for what they have gone through, but I am truly amazed at their spirit and how they have handled this terrible disaster. They are an example to the whole world, just how we should respond when tragedy strikes.
    It is really difficult sitting in my home in NSW watching my fellow countrymen go through this without being able to help them clean up. But, I can help by spending each day in gratitude for what I do have. Maybe this is one way to turn this into a positive event.
    We too have had a bad week with crashing computers and illness and of course the rain. Each time I go to complain I think of that 13 year old boy, or the parents whose 4 year old was swept from their arms as they were being rescued. Now that is heartbreaking.
    I still have my baby to hold every night, so there is nothing in my life that deserves complaining about.

    1. Hey Caz – I’ve also been amazed by how the people of Queensland have dealt with this situation. On the other end of the spectrum from the destruction and loss of life is the fact that in the aftermath, random strangers are now knocking on people’s doors, with mops in hand, asking how they can help. The sense of community is particularly inspiring, especially as it transcends all races, religions and every other factor that often divides us. This is such a good example of how we should treat each other as fellow human beings.

      And I do think that, as you mentioned, taking a few minutes to be thankful for our own lives is a way to squeeze something positive from such a tragedy. I know that the stories I’ve read about this situation will not soon be forgotten and as a result, it will be difficult for me to lose perspective any time soon.

      Thank you as always for your comment!

  10. Sounds like you’re having a stinky time. All kidding aside, thank you for this introspective journey and the reminder to us whom are blessed with comfortable surroundings, that there are people suffering all over the world right now from catastrophic weather, corrupt or collapsed governments, extreme poverty, and the list goes on. You have forced us all to keep things in perspective when we complain about such matters and don’t really matter after all.

    1. Hey Jeff – I just read some more about the issue in Tunisia so your mention of collapsed governments is another good example of situations where the lives of so many are affected. Barely a day goes by any more without learning of some new troubling situation or disaster taking place in the world, making it more important for us to realize how fortunate we may be. Thanks for the comment Jeff!

  11. What a great post. It’s so good to remind ourselves what we have and how lucky we are. I’m complaining about the cold Chicago weather we came back to. I have a heating blanket, layers of warm clothing, and a furnace. What about the thousands of poor families living in Chicago who can barely afford to heat their own homes and buy their children winter coats? Thanks for making me think!

    1. Hey Kim – It’s interesting, because I think a lot of us complain about the weather a lot despite being in a far better position to fend off such cold than endless numbers of other people. I’m guilty of this as well! And like you mentioned, it’s not only other people who live in far away lands that are less fortunate but often people living in close proximity to us as well.

  12. Last year, we missed out on hiking Machu Picchu because of the devastating floods. Yeah, we were bummed, but 11 people were killed in these floods. SO important to remember that. Thanks for this post…

    1. Hey Dalene – It is indeed important to remember that missing out on such an experience is not the end of the world. A bad travel moment is nothing compared to such a loss of life. Thank you for sharing and I appreciate the comment!

  13. We had a similar moment two days ago when we were on the Corn Island’s for a ‘beach getaway’. On Thursday, a couple of rain showers ‘ruined’ our beach day, and we were quite disappointed – that was until we switched on the TV and saw footage of floods in Australia, in Brazil, and in Honduras. What are we complaining about – still lucky enough to live the dream, while others experience the worst days of their lives and lose everything they have.

    1. @Globetrottergirls: Thank you for sharing that story and of course, just being in the Corn Islands, no matter what the weather, is certainly a reason to be thankful. It is a shame that it rained of course but hopefully you managed to have one sunny day out there!

    1. Hey Jill – It’s great to take a moment before complaining to others as even a quick pause can lead to that perspective. It rarely takes long to realize that our problem is quite small as usually we tend to complain while in the heat of the moment when we aren’t thinking too clearly!

  14. humm… this topic is a complex one. Or just leave it to me to make it one 🙂 I think it’s important to be grateful and get a perspective every day – very easy to forget. Walking the line between being an empathic person and one who is too self involved in their own day to day minutia, WHILE also staying in peaceful state of mind, in the present moment, is indeed a challenge. Going to get second cup of coffee – but think I’m going to make it decaf! Thanks, Earl, for waking me up this morning. Interesting time for you to have ended up in Australia, there… looking forward to hearing more about it.

    1. Hey Margo – It is an interesting time to be here, especially considering that the last time I was here (about two years ago), Australia was suffering from some of the most devastating bushfires in their history. Seems like extreme weather is wreaking havoc on this country in every way possible as of late.

      And maintaining a peaceful state of mind is important as well…any tips on how to accomplish that? 🙂 I’d like to believe that an increase in empathy leads to a decrease in our own suffering once we realize the insignificance of most of the problems we face. And in turn, our minds enjoy a greater degree of equanimity and peace (in an ideal world I guess).

  15. It’s always good to have a little perspective when dealing with issues that we encounter. It’s good that you were able to do that and not just proclaim “FML” in exasperation.

    Although, I hope that whomever uses the microwave after you has some perspective when their food ends up smelling like wet socks 🙂

    1. Hey Kyle – Well, I actually heated my underwear in the microwave after my socks were dry, so the next person to use it for food is in for an even worse surprise!

    1. Thank you Paddy! It is time well spent indeed, something you clearly would know first-hand as a result of the volunteer work you’re currently engaged in!

  16. never ever travel without a little bottle of polysporin eye/ear drops. for about $12 no prescription, it works way way better than the prescription stuff and burns way less. with eye infections coming from water, humidity, river spray, tap water, grubby old showerhead in a budget hotel…I never leave home without this. A real time and agony saver, something no traveller should be without. now i travel with 2 because never fail i will eventually meet someone who needs one. Good luck with your eye(s) and prayers for those in the middle of disaster.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion Lesley! It’s funny because in my 11 years of traveling, this is the first eye-related issue I’ve ever had, so I never thought of carrying any kind of eye drops with me before 🙂

  17. Yes Earl, your pensive thoughts today are exactly why I’ve been so addicted to exploring the globe all these years – it keeps me perpetually humble and grateful for the easy life I’ve been born into completely by chance. Indeed, when I pause even briefly to ponder the struggles of those in distant developing nations at any given moment, there really isn’t anything for me to whine about.

    Great post – thanks for the reminder!

    1. Hey Dyanne – That’s right, there really is very little for most of us to complain about. And travel can be the greatest reminder of this fact as we visit parts of the world and meet people who, also by chance, ended up with a much more difficult lot in life.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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