Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A response to the sock dilemma in the previous post, that I don't know that I really agree with all that much. I mean, I guess it's an invasion of privacy, and I guess that's bad, but if the intention is just to take a pair of socks for your wet feet... I mean, is anything really private? If you have stuff in your drawers that you're ashamed of having there, maybe that means they shouldn't be there. Like, my friends were here over the weekend, and while I assume they didn't go through my stuff while I was out taking the MPRE, I mean, they could have, and I'm not sure I really care so much. There's nothing really all that interesting to find. Maybe a couple of CDs that I'm sort of ashamed to own, and perhaps also the bizarre copy of Lucky magazine that randomly and unsolicitedly came in the mail but I haven't thrown out, but, like, if my friends did go through my stuff, as long as they weren't doing it out of any sort of malicious intent or anything, I'm not sure I really care. Then again, my privacy bar may be kind of low. In any case, the response, from someone who sounds like a law student, but I don't know for sure:

The sock question is not one of theft, but of invasion of privacy. Unless the socks were once worn by Elvis Presley or are woven out of strands of gold, they're essentially worthless. They're socks. Who cares? Dryers across America, which have been on sock stealing sprees for decades, have gone unprosecuted and unnoticed by the law. Why would it be any different with your soggy soled pal? The real harm to the sock owner, and consequently the sock owners anger, come from what personal items and information your friend comes across when lifting the footwear.

You already noted invasion of privacy as the main factor contributing to the anger of the sock owner, by noting that stealing socks from the floor is more forgivable than rifling through a drawer to find a pair. But the scale is much wider and much more nuanced than a floor versus drawer delineation. Let's say that your friend is looking for socks, gets the right drawer on the first try and finds that the sock drawer is truly just that – a sock drawer consisting of nothing but socks. Only the most ardent of foot fetishists would consider socks intimate apparel, so in that case, your friend would probably not face much wrath from the owner of the socks, whose dignity and privacy would still be intact. Any reasonable person would be forgiving. We've all had wet feet.

But that was the best case scenario. Now for the worst. In the quest for dry socks, your friend first opens a drawer which is not the sock drawer, but instead is home to a number of embarrassing items, such as double-ended dildos, tubes of Crab-B-Gone fast-actin' lotion and a number of Hanson cassette tapes. The next drawer does hold socks, but it is also the resting place for the sock owner's frilly, lacy bras, corsets and underthings. And the sock owner is a guy. And the stuff isn't clean. Now, if the sock owner busts your friend, the slimy discomfort of his feet will be no excuse for the humiliation the sock man will feel having been outed as a freak with bad taste in music.

But, let's take it one step further. Among the socks and corsets, your friend finds a detailed stealth plan to lobotomize the entire law school while they are sleeping, in hopes of improving his job prospects. Your friend tips off authorities and saves the day. He's gone from super snoop to super sleuth.

So what I'm trying to say, is when sifting through dark, deep, unknown realm of sock drawers, the ethics aren't so cut and dry. It's all about moral luck, and what secrets folks just happened to be harboring in their bureau drawers.