2006.04.19 The Pants Dance

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

A couple of Tuesdays ago, I drove to Fayette to take pictures of an event at Franklin Elementary, and as I lurched from the car to the pavement, I heard a voice from on low.

“RIIIIIIIP!” said my pants, as a five inch tear opened in the crotch.

“That was not fortuitous,” I replied, and, looking down, said “Hi” to my exposed inner thigh.

I decided to forget about taking the picture, because, you know, they have a title for men with their crotches exposed who take pictures of elementary students—sex offender.

Besides, I had to make it to a department store in Adrian to buy more pants. You know those silly “No shoes, no shirt, no service” signs you sometimes see at convenience stores? David Green is progressive. As anyone who’s stopped into the Observer office might know, he’s all right with employees showing up to work shirtless and shoeless, but he’s a stickler for pants. That is, unless it’s casual Friday.

As luck would have it, the torn pants were my last clean work suitable pair, since I’d forgotten my spare pair at my parents’ house. So I went back to Morenci, put on some pajama pants, and drove to the city. The other city, that is. You know, Adrian.

Pants shopping is never fun, mostly because of the awkwardness and the empathetic embarrassment I feel for other pants-triers-on, especially the kids whose mothers are standing just outside the fitting room, calling “Billy, do you have them on? Come on out and let me see the butt parts.”

What is it with moms and the butt parts? I don’t even know what the butt parts are, but when I was growing up, if pants weren’t good in the butt parts, they weren’t good at all.

“Turn around. Let me see the butt parts,” Mom would say.

“Mom, I got the pants on. My butt hasn’t fallen off, they’re fine,” I’d reply.

“Just let me see the butt parts,” she’d insist, so I’d turn around and she’d inspect the butt parts, at which point Michelle Brainard, whom I was in love with in fourth grade, would walk by and give me the “Jeff’s mom is looking at his butt” smirk.

Mom, absolutely oblivious to anything not butt parts-related, would flash a discerning squint, then shake her head in dissatisfaction. “No, the butt parts are no good. Go try the other pair on.”

The process would repeat 12 or 13 times, however long it took for every girl in my class to chance upon Mom staring at my butt.

My recent pants buying experience was much more bearable than most, which is predominantly because at some point between now and the last time I bought pants—1997—pants companies introduced what I call the “no guilt” waistline, which is two concealed elastic strips that provide a little extra give, a little leeway.

“It’s like sweatpants, but for work!” I exclaimed, posing in the mirror, “And the butt parts! The butt parts don’t get much better than this!” I added, not really knowing what I was talking about.

I made it out of the department store without being cajoled into signing up for a credit card, which is always awesome. Have you noticed that, in quite a few stores these days, the salespeople are more concerned with pitching credit cards than actually selling merchandise? Remember when salespeople actually knew about the goods they were supposed to sell?

This isn’t the fault of the salespeople. When I worked retail at Mervyn’s, a department store which is now out of business in Michigan, “Sell credit!” was the only thing the managers told us during orientation. Since I worked in home fashions, I was expecting to learn about thread counts and towel fabrics, which pots and pans were best for which style of cooking. Instead, I listened for two hours while the store boss lectured about the importance of selling credit.

The result? “Uh, let me get a manager,” became my go-to answer whenever a customer asked me a question I’d never heard before. But when it came time to pitch Mervyn’s cards, you can bet your bottom dollar I knew every little detail of the terrible credit offer—from how hard it was to cancel an account, to the abominable 23.4 percent APR.

Twenty-three-point-four percent APR? Not interested. That’s why, when my poor colleague-in-arms piteously tried to pitch it, I turned around, promptly, and showed her my butt parts.

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