A curious phenomenon

Most mornings, I get up a few hours before my wife does, and shortly afterwards I carry out the morning ritual of Making the Coffee, and I dutifully deliver a cup to her bedside, where the sweet strong smell gently awakens her. I’ve been noticing an odd thing, though: we have lots of cups, and a place in the kitchen cupboard where we put them, but on many mornings, the cups are not there. Thus begins another part of the morning ritual, the Quest for Coffee Cups. I tend to find them in the dining room, in the living room, and in our bedroom, strangely always on the table near her side of the bed, and also, they have often collected tea bags in their interiors.

From my observations, I have determined that these ceramic cups undergo a daily migration, and that they wander the house to prey upon teabags. I am pretty sure there’s a complex hidden ecosystem at work here. For instance, I’ve noticed that if I take off my socks in my office and leave them by my slippers, sometime during the day they will mysteriously disappear. My first hypothesis was that the hungry coffee cups were snatching them up, but I’ve never found a cup with a sock in it, suggesting that there may be some other medium-sized predator prowling about the house. I’m eyeing the casserole dish. Or maybe the toaster.

The existence of a hitherto unnoticed food web operating inside my house has me vaguely worried. If I vanish some day, somebody check the guts of the dishwasher, or possibly the cabinet in my office. They’ve been trying too hard to look nonchalant lately, and could be plotting something.


  1. chigau (違う) says

    Under normal circumstances, there are three possible locations for our tea mugs:
    bedside table, kitchen counter, microwave.
    Abnormal circumstances cause a lost-soul-like drifting about the house moaning,

  2. davidc1 says

    You could pitch the idea of killer coffee cups to Hollywood .
    “The killer coffee cups ”
    Not forgetting sequels .
    “The return of the killer coffee cups ,this time it is Porcelain”

  3. ledasmom says

    The trick is to have enough cups that, no matter where you look, there are enough cups to give everyone coffee once they are washed.
    It’s the same principle as my husband having a house cane and a car cane, which works until our younger son helpfully brings the car cane into the house.

  4. DonDueed says

    It’s obvious. The dryer is eating the socks. It’s always the dryer.
    You may have to disassemble it to find the remains. (No disassemble!)

    Chigau: have you tried looking in the (gasp!) kitchen cabinet?

  5. chigau (違う) says

    Our particular, special, preciousssss teamugs have never seen the inside of the kitchen cabinet.

  6. fusilier says

    Have you never read “Or All the Seas with Oysters?”

    1958 Hugo winner, by Avram Davidson

    fusilier, SMOF jg. (ret.)

    James 2:24

  7. says

    The cups, socks, tea bags, and even the tea in the bags are all the intersection of our 3 spatial dimensions with an ecosystem of pandimensional hyperintelligent beings. They manipulate these variables, including their locations, while performing fantastic and subtle experiments on us.

  8. says

    Wait, is the cat still there? Quite possibly, he or she is just doing all of this in some sort of psyops or gaslighting campaign against you…

  9. bsr0 says

    It’s well documented that socks migrate (usually from the dryer, but sometimes other locations) to your closet where they undergo metamorphosis and become extra coat-hangers.

  10. says

    My coffee cup phenomenon is more that while we have MANY, there are only very few cups made the exact size I need for a big coffee and appropriate amounts of milk (450-500ml).
    But I know the phenomenon you describe from back in the days when I shared a flat with my BFF: I would search the shelves for a clean cup. Not finding any I would search my room and the joint parts for a dirty one. Once I found a dirty one and started to wash it, suddenly about 20 dirty cups would magically appear in the sink.

  11. Rich Woods says

    @kenbakermn #5:

    The cups are eating the socks and excreting tea bags.

    That would at least explain Imperial Gunpowder.

  12. says

    (scratches a chalkboard)
    “Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this clothes dryer for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad appliance. Not like going down the pond chasin’ garbage disposals and washing machines. This clothes dryer, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the bearings, the housing, the spinny thing that the clothes go in, the whole damn thing.”

  13. wsierichs says

    A cat is a physical manifestation of evil, which means that your house is possessed by evil demons, whose well-known activities include eating socks and moving items, notably coffee and tea cups, into unnatural places. Given that you are a white-coat-wearing, Bunsen-burner-using scientist, you have now offered clear, overwhelming proof of demonic possession. As a scientist, therefore, you must continue to document this phenomenon – I assume that your article here was peer-reviewed before its professional publication – by hiring one of the many new exorcists that the Catholic church is creating. Clearly the church has been in advance, scientifically, of the science community on this subject.

    Tell us if an exorcist stops the socks from disappearing, the cups from moving and the cat from existing. It would be better if this were a double-blind experiment. Invite many exorcists, at different times, to do their work. Document if/when the phenomena cease, but not which exorcist succeeded, until after the experiment is completed. Invite your professional colleagues to do the same experiment. A useful follow-up experiment is: Does this work only with Catholic exorcists, or will Protestant ones succeed? If so, can liberal Protestants exorcists succeed just like conservative ones, who we know have long put forward the scientific hypothesis of demonic possession and the power of exorcism?

    Just think. You could be on the brink of establishing a whole new branch of science. You have a chance to get your name in the history books along with Copernicus, Newton, Darwin and Einstein!

  14. DanDare says

    The phenomenology of sock napping incvludes the fact that they dissappear as pairs but only return as singles.

  15. billyjoe says

    I once gave my wife coffee in bed. Her response was to give me a quizzical look, get out of bed, pick up the cup, and remove herself from the bedroom. She don’t want to be woken up till she’s good and ready, and she don’t want to be given breakfast in bed.

  16. Crudely Wrott says

    If only you, PZ, and your trophy wife, would simply wash the mugs when you’d had your fill of coffee and place them on a clearly visible drying rack, there would be no mystery. But I can understand your wonderment.
    Because I do not adhere to such an exhaustive regime, it’s no wonder I can’t ever find a clean coffee cup
    And I have two of them!
    Of course, you could always buy more cups/mugs but that would probably only compound your troubles and there would be even more missing or on the lam and then you’d be left spinning, now wouldn’t you?.
    The parts about teabags and socks? Sorry, pal. I can’t help you there. I keep those things widely separated. You just can’t trust either of them. Actually, they are the single source of conspiracy theories. Watch out!

  17. ridana says

    When I was working in a lab, I observed a phenomenon that may or may not be related to what’s been reported here. At several places throughout the lab space (n ≈ 6) there were beakers or cups for holding Sharpies of various colors for labeling tubes, as well as other writing implements.

    I noticed that although the number of blue and green Sharpies in these containers were equal at the beginning, over a period of several weeks up to two months, nearly all the blue pens had disappeared while the green ones had increased in numbers. Upon further observation over several more months, this ratio reversed itself, so that the blue pens drastically outnumbered the green ones. This cycle repeated itself for as long as I was able to track it.

    It should be noted that the other colors remained at roughly their original starting numbers throughout the observation period, with occasional decreases due to natural lifespan of the pens and accidental loss, as well as some poaching activity.

    I believe the only explanation for this is that the blue and green Sharpies existed in a predator-prey relationship, with the green ones likely the predator (since they increased first). As they decimated the numbers of available prey pens, their own numbers decreased allowing the blue populations to recover until the balance was tipped in the other direction (note: no actual weight measurements were taken).

    I don’t believe this is what is happening in the case of the missing cups, as that seems to have been shown to be due to migratory patterns, and none were permanently lost. However, it might inform a new line of research regarding disappearing socks. As always, more research is needed.

  18. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    As always, more research is needed.

    That reminds me of the bestest and truest words ever written in a research paper. They appeared in a study published in the BMJ:

    Conclusions: From our observational study, chocolate survival in a hospital ward was relatively short, and was modelled well by an exponential decay model. Roses chocolates were preferentially consumed to Quality Street chocolates in a ward setting. Chocolates were consumed primarily by healthcare assistants and nurses, followed by doctors. Further practical studies are needed.

    Emphasis mine, but emphasis also fucking natural, duh.

  19. blf says

    It’s well documented that socks migrate […] to your closet where they undergo metamorphosis and become extra coat-hangers.

    Hum… That doesn’t seem to happen to me. In fact, I have an increasingly-severe shortage of hangers (for clothes), but most of the socks are fully accounted-for. I’m not sure what happens to all the hangers, some I know break, but the numbers don’t seem to work quite right. There seem to be more missing hangers than mangled hanger remains.

    One contributing factor is I refuse to buy new hangers. This is because, for numerous yonks, I live in places where clothing shops threw out hangers. It was a simple matter to pick up multiple perfectly good hangers from the empty boxes awaiting rubbish / recycling collection. That’s also perhaps why, in time, the hangers tend to break: With exceptions, they are rather cheaply-made and flimsy. So what? They work, and tend to work for multiple years before going BOOM!

    However, in the village I now live in, the clothing shops’s hangers aren’t put out for collection — I have no idea where they go — so my piles of clothing on the floor are growing as my hangers also vanish. Perhaps they(the hangers) are all tunneling to some secret nearby den for intense orgies or something?

    And those piles of clean clothes seem to be moving… This is understandable for the piles of dirty clothes, but the clean ones also appear to be evilving. Maybe the clean ones have always been active and occasionally manage to break the hangers that were keeping them restrained? (That might explain some of the snarling late at night…)

  20. Oggie. says

    I’ve noticed that if I take off my socks in my office and leave them by my slippers, sometime during the day they will mysteriously disappear.

    I think Pratchett, in Hogfather, discusses the rare indoorovore, the Uncommon Sock Eater. It also shows up in Unseen Adademicals.