posted in Miscellaneous on Jul 18, 2007

As a member of our society, I find it necessary to indulge in many of the norms that we hold near and dear to our hearts. I drive on the correct side of the road. I excuse myself when belching in front of others. I even put the seat back down even though I currently live without a female companion. In such ways I swim in the same stream as the rest of us, getting pushed and pulled by whatever currents feel like changing our simple paths. There are times, however, when – do to events outside of my control – I am forced out of these consensual standards, put into an area that harbors within me feelings that I could only imagine the first astronauts felt: fear, excitement, anxiousness, and, of course, pride. What separates me from these great explorers, though, is an imminent reticence at sharing my discoveries to the world. Unlike them, my quest befell me not of my own doing, but of the actions of others. Also unlike them, I’m not furthering mankind; I simply have been not wearing underwear, my animus for doing so stemming from a dearth of washers and dryers in my immediate proximity.

It all started on a humid day about two weeks ago. After three full weeks of sloppy rain, the environment was soaking up any and all rays of sunshine that had finally come back from their sojourn behind the clouds. I awoke to find several balding men – all whose stomach covered large sections of their waist – pulling hand-trucks behind them, quizzical as how to enter my building once they made it to the door. (Of course, the simplest explanation is the best: it was locked. That didn’t stop them from scratching and looking positively dumbfounded by such a device that could allow some to enter and leave others in the out of doors.) Their efforts of staring at the door finally proved successful, as someone going about their business finally permitted them (with their knowledge or without, I can’t recall) to enter the building. Sliding their girth with dollies in tow, their bodies slipped into the building like amorphous particles entering an equally amorphous amoeba.

I subsequently took a shower and ate some food, noticing that every few minutes one of them, after wiping a dewy bead of sweat from his brow, pulled out a white cube and placed it not so gingerly in the back of his truck. They were emptying my building of washers and dryers, a move that would soon push me to the level – in terms of undergarments – of hobos, who didn’t have a choice, hippies, who could not care less, and harlots, whose job required easy access.

It turns out that the removal of our clothes cleaning machines was preordained. I didn’t just lose my machines to three easily catchable, Maytag loving vagabonds; I was in fact receiving new machines. The caveat of such a deal, though, was that these new, shiny pinnacles of laundering would not arrive for a fortnight. Taking stock of my remaining articles of clothing – shirts, pants, underthings – I observed that such information about my new machines brought on not only the solace of being informed of current situations, but also a challenge. Could I make it? Would I make it?

The answer to that first question is a resounding, “no.” At no point in time could my stock of clothes outlast the 14 dark days. The second question, however, has yet to fully be answered. I am still embarking on that journey of self exploration. Having gone two days without the comfort of a pair of bright, shiny BVDs, I find my current situation analogous to what the Uruguayan rugby players whose plane crashed in the Andes Mountains in ’72 must have felt once they ran out of regular food and started substituting: I don’t necessarily like what I’m doing, but it’s the only way to survive.

The first few minutes of realization that you and the world are separated by nothing more than a thin layer of denim are a frightful lot. Things move differently, angle differently. You’re immediately aware that any normal sitting position may have dramatic effects and outcomes you are surprised to find. It takes a while, but the distress and constant thinking of what is going on down there finally is assuaged. Your comfort level rises steadily.

That is, until you have to go outside. Being in the public reminded me quickly of the fact that a violent gust of wind, belt failure, or an immediate attack by knife throwing ninjas whose pin-point accuracy could tear pants to shreds would put me right in the middle of the shame-bucket, forever and always to be known for such a transgression against humanity. It just so happens that today I desperately needed some bread. I had too much lunch meat and tuna to do without, and that was that. I picked myself up out of my chair (at this point I had grown quite accustomed to all of the “positional” changes afforded to me by my lack of the ‘Loom), and while standing in front of my door I let out a quick sigh and prayer that no unforeseen circumstances would make me the laughing stock of our fair community.

Walking into a public place made me feel like a puppy that was thrown into the middle of a pool: I was scared, unaccustomed to my new surroundings, and frantic. I knew that if I could keep my head above water, though, I’d survive, all the while swimming towards the edge to get out of there as fast as possible. Being free in the sense this I was “free,” my knowledge of everything around me in proximity to that “area” was heightened. This new self-consciousness made me believe also that every person around me knew my dark secret. “That man is buying bread; he must not be wearing underwear!” Eyes painted my body in an uneasy fashion. Obviously, I could not keep my wits about me, and, after waiting an excruciatingly long time in a line that should not have taken more than five minutes, I was exiting the building, fully aware that I could nearly have lost my life in that lion’s den of invisible judgement.

As my tale comes to a close, I have a new found appreciation for the things we don’t normally mention. Underwear, it seems, likens itself to that trench digger on the front lines, whose job is immensely important but who never gets the recognition he deserves. Underwear doesn’t help fight against Nazis, but it acts as a layer of protection, both physical and mental, that keeps us at an even keel. And without it we’d be lost, with parts going every which way like newly released doves. The arrival of the machines should happen within the next couple of days if I’m lucky. Until then I have no choice but to venture forth with my remaining clothes provisions, hanging tough better than the New Kids On The Block could ever imagine.