War of Attrition

Most of us know the commercial. A father frolicking with his young son both dressed in stark white t-shirts and blue jeans. The man smiles, as the boy in what appears to be a game of hide and seek disappears under a bed sheet, the sheet starched and surely smelling of fabric softener. These are the images the Cotton Board wants us to remember. And yet how many of us truly starch our sheets or own a t-shirt without at least one stain and perhaps even a teeny, tiny, hole. Oh admit it! Maybe it’s not a t-shirt but a pair of khakis, shorts or pajamas that are soft as a baby’s bottom. The item has seen better days yet it holds memories; of a ride on the back of a motorbike with your first boyfriend or girlfriend, a paint stain from your very first home renovation or maybe just maybe the style of cut has been discontinued. You retain the item as a cherished relic promising your loved ones that the item will make no further public appearances and will be worn only in the privacy of your own home. You hide the article of clothing at the back of your bureau drawer and wear it on occasion with great pride knowing it harbors secrets from years long gone.

Then “IT” happens. It isn’t planned. No, quite the contrary, it’s unintentional. You grab the item from your drawer mistaking it for another or rush out of the house forgetting that the cherished article is adorning a portion of you clearly visible to the public eye. Such was the case recently when Karen boarded a flight to New York. It was to be a short trip; a Thursday night in Manhattan, a board meeting the next day and a return flight late Friday evening following the board meeting. Karen had packed light. The black pants she would wear on the plane would be worn again the next day and paired with the spare top she had stuffed into her carry on bag. If only she had chosen her one pair of pants more wisely.

The mishap resulted from a war of attrition. Or at least that’s how Karen prefers to reference the resulting incident. I rather like to call it a “BLOW OUT,” which took place on both inner seams of her black pants. She’s not exactly sure when the episode occurred. There was no sudden tale tell sound of ripping as she took her seat on board the United flight or during the 15 minute journey from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C. It was only when she stood and began to advance down the jet way and into the expanse of Dulles International Airport that she realized something had gone terribly wrong. There was an unusual amount of thigh contact being made as she rushed from one terminal to the next and, if she wasn’t mistaken, there was hint of a cool breeze where there should be none. Arriving at the gate for her connecting flight, she attempted not to feign relief when she discovered that the flight had been delayed. After all, this was her chance to survey what she suspected was substantial, irreparable damage to the only pair of pants she had in her possession.

Now, if you’re in the mood to drink beer, purchase a trashy novel, or pick up a postcard for your Great Aunt Lucille, an airport the size of Dulles has plenty to offer. The small shops can even do in a pinch when one needs a pair of sunglasses, a kid’s sized t-shirt or has inadvertently left the toothbrush at home. But a plethora of plus size shopping it is not! Karen had surveyed the damage and it was extensive. The war of attrition waged throughout the preceding years had revealed a sizeable expanse of skin on both legs. Resigned to her predicament the best Karen could do was a $4 bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder (to smooth the way, if you will). This provided temporary relief as she walked but soon drew unwanted attention as the powder began to pill and then drop to the ground like a blanket of new fallen snow. Since a powder puff she was not and chafing was beginning to set in, Karen took the first seat she could find within sight of her connecting gate and firmly planted herself (legs together) determined that the only thing for which she would budge was a plane that got her out of the airport and fast. But fast was not in the equation.

Two additional flight delays and some four hours later, there Karen sat watching dejectedly as the clock inched later and later. Hunger had set in and her bladder was beginning to demand attention. Furthermore, any hope she had once had of making it to a Manhattan Department store before closing was quickly dissipating. It was nearly 10:30 p.m. before her flight finally landed in New York and midnight before she made her way exhausted to her hotel room where, with the door securely bolted and curtains pulled tightly shut, she peeled off the offending garment and relegated it to a far corner where it would remain until morning when she had the energy and heart to survey the damage from multiple angles.

In the dawn of early morning light, a now rested Karen re-examined her only pair of pants. They were beyond salvage. But she was pleased to discover that if she shifted the front to the back the slight modification would reposition the area of exposure and thus the chafing. It was now 9:00 a.m. on a Friday morning and Karen had just enough time to grab a stout cup of coffee and bagel in the hotel’s breakfast room before boarding the subway and making her way through the bowels of Manhattan to the nearest Department store. With hope in her heart, Karen pulled on her pants, with the front seam at the back and the back seam at the front, grabbed her wallet and descended in the elevator exiting into a lobby unexpectedly filled with Board Members! I’ll spare you the remaining details but suffice it to say that the engaging breakfast conversation prevented Karen from making it to the Department Store. Moreover, having survived the Board Meeting itself, Karen found herself back at the airport where both segments of her return flight were again delayed, the last postponement required an overnight stay in Washington, D.C.! Karen never did find a replacement pair of pants and returned home late Saturday with battle scars that would linger for days. The offending garment was ceremoniously ripped in half and would have been set on flame if not for the fact that the Fireplace had already been cleaned and a charcoal grill was nowhere in sight.

I share this tale of woe not only because it’s too funny to keep to one’s self but also in the hope that you will immediately locate your own “cherished” cotton garment and give it a proper burial … if not for yourself then for your loved ones!

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