Sunday, June 01, 2008
Win One For the Zipper
I was waiting for the light to change at the corner of Carmine and Bleeker streets the other night when a woman dashed into in the path of an elderly Asian man on a bicycle.
"Where you look?" the old man shouted as he hit the brakes and took evasive action.
"You're one to talk," a young man standing next to me yelled at the bicyclist, upholding the time-honored New York practice of kibbitzing.
Still, the old timer had a point, as well as the right of way.
I remember in grammar school that if someone ever said "you're losing altitude," you would immediately look down, because this a warning that your fly was open.
I had a pair of pants in college with a faulty zipper that would open without warning if you turned in a certain way. And it wouldn't just open, it would dive bomb toward your ankles like an elevator going to the ground floor in a fire drill.
It was like some kind of escape hatch. I suppose if you really were a liar, liar, and your pants really were on fire, you'd want to get out of them as quickly as possible.
This happened to me one time when I was talking to one of my English professors. I was leaning against the wall with both hands in my pocket when I shifted in one direction and zip! my fly flew straight down.
I don't know if my professor noticed this sartorial suicide leap or if he was just too polite to mention it. Either way I did get an "A" in the course, so I guess that's all that matters.
Whenever someone told my father that he was losing altitude, he always joke, "no wonder all the women I met today were applauding." Nice one, pop.
I had different kind of zipper problem on Friday. Instead of losing altitude, my fly went as high as it could go and refused to come down. My landing gear was stuck.
The fly on these pants has always given me some minor trouble, but a little tugging normally did the trick--until Friday, that is, when it seemed as if some evil pixie held welded the damn thing shut.
The thing that really galls me is that this pair of pants was my second choice. I already had another pair of pants on Friday morning, but I thought they looked a little sloppy and reached into my closet for the one with the busted zipper.
Of course I was having some minor stomach trouble that day which forced me to hit the men's room with a disturbing frequency. Of course I had theater tickets for that evening. Of course I was losing my mind.
Angry as I was, I did have enough presence of mind to refrain from going completely nuts--like I usually do--and tearing the zipper and the pants to pieces. I knew brute force would not help me.
I went into the men's room and put a little liquid soap on the offending fly. (I did this is the stall, of course, lest anyone get a really wrong idea.) No luck. The zipper was not budging.
Who Wears the Pants?
I thought about trying to find a tailor near my office, but tailors aren't as plentiful as they used to be. Clothing today is made to be thrown out, not repaired.
And this zipper was so decisively closed that I was more in need of Houdini than anyone from Savile Row.
I considered going to a clothing store and just buying new pants. What the hell? Payday is next week anyway.
I didn't either and over the course of the day, I taught myself to shimmy and wriggle like a snake shedding its old skin. I was getting so good at this I started thinking about a second career at Chippendale's.
This thing was like a male chastity belt and I thought of a woman I had seen on the subway after work on Monday. She caught my eye when she got on the D train at my station at West Fourth Street.
She looked so...good, damn it. Attractive, well dressed. She had a label on her bag reading "Trust is the only currency." This is very true, unless, of course, you have to buy a new pair of pants. Then you better have cash or plastic.
I was looking at this woman I got into the internal debate I've been having ever since puberty. Talk to her. No, she'll Mace me. No, she won't, you big weenie. Hey, I'm not a big weenie--
I've been shot down so many times in my life I've lost my fear of heights. But it's awfully hard to do the walk of shame if you're riding over the Manhattan Bridge in a crowded subway car.
One wrong step and you'll really be losing altitude. And you won't get it back.
I put her out of my mind when I got off at 36th Street and caught the N to 59th, one stop short of my station. And there I was, waiting on the local, when I happened to look over my shoulder and there she was, the trust lady.
All right, I thought. She probably lives in the neighborhood. You could start talking to her about any number of things.
The R train was pulling into the station and all the weary commuters were approaching the doors. Great, I'll stand next to her on the train and start a conversation.
And that's when I ran out of trust. This young woman turned away, walked down to the other end of the car, and boarded the train there.
Was that because of me? Was I leering at her? Maybe she should have shouted "where you look?" at me. Was I losing altitude? If so, how come she didn't start applauding?
Jesus, lady, I know I'm no Brad Pitt, but I can't be that ugly. Is it the shaved head? Hell, Mr. Clean has a shaved head and you won't run away from him. What about Telly Savalas and Yul Brenner? Would you run away from Kojak or the King?
If I had the busted zipper pants on that day, I could have told this lady that she had nothing to worry about. Then we could sing "Getting to Know You" and reenact the "Shall We Dance" scene on the subway platform.
Maybe I'm paranoid (you think?!?). Perhaps this woman just wanted to go to a less crowded part of the car. Maybe so, but if trust is the only currency, it looks like I'm in Chapter 11.
I took the pants to my cleaner yesterday and the woman behind the counter advised me to replace the damn zipper entirely.
It'll cost me five bucks, but I think that's reasonable. It'll beat doing the hippy-hippy shake every time I go to the can.