Saturday, May 01, 2004

my day in crunchy underwear

OK, the title should have warned you off. If you didn't read the title, go ahead and check it out before deciding if you really want to read the rest of this. I'll wait here....

Back? OK, don't say you weren't warned. So here's the deal. After the huge fire at my apartment building, I was sent off to a hotel for several nights. They said that we would be allowed back into our apartments after the first couple of days. I packed a week's worth of clothing just to be on the safe side and because that's what fit in my suitcase. When they said we could go back into our apartments I didn't bother to get more clothing because I thought I was set. Then, on my last day, they announced that we could not go back to our apartments for one day. This timing left me one pair of underwear short.

Now, being a bachelor who hates doing laundry, I'm not unaccustomed to coming up short on underwear. If you want to change your mind and stop reading now, I'll understand. There are two common solutions to the short-on-underwear problem, the find-an-old-ripped-to-shreds-but-still-wearable pair hidden away in an odd corner, or the hand-washing solution. (For completeness I should also mention the 5-day underwear solution that some bachelors swear by but I've never been partial to: first day normal, second day inside-out, third day backward, fourth day inside-out and backward, fifth day no underwear). Since I couldn't get into my apartment, the shredded underwear solution was not available, so I had to opt for hand-washing.

Of course I used hot water and an anti-bacterial soap. At least I hope the hand soap in hotels is anti-bacterial. Then, however came the problematic part. Drying. There are two common solutions to the drying problem: do your handwashing the day before or use a blow dryer. I didn't do it the day before and I didn't have a blow dryer. However, I did have... Actually, before I continue, I think I should give you another chance to listen to your better judgment and stop reading. Go ahead and think about it, I'll wait here.

Back? OK, it's not like you weren't warned. What I did have is a microwave oven. The hotel room came equipped with one of those small microwaves with the rotisserie. I like to think that under my own volition I would never have considered putting a pair of under-apparel in a microwave, but I was heavily influenced by John Candy in this movie where he dried the laundry in the microwave. Blame John Candy. So I thought I'd give it a try and see how it worked out. I wrung the underwear out as well as I could and put it in the microwave. I turned the microwave on for ten seconds, just to see what would happen. Nothing much happened. The underwear turned round and round on the little rotisserie, the inside of the microwave got a little humid, and the underwear got a little warm. So I turned it on for twenty seconds and let 'er rip. More of the same. Well, I decided this isn't doing anything so I put it on two minutes and went to brush my teeth. As I was spitting, I started to smell something funny. Funny meaning burning in this case.

I rushed to open the microwave. Smoke belched forth. Well, actually a little smoke kind of wafted out. There were no flames. I didn't want to set off the fire alarm and have to explain where the smoke was coming from, so I rushed to open the windows and tried to fan the air out. Burning underwear actually smells a lot like caramel. I'm sorry, I should have given you another chance to opt out before revealing that. This leads me to surmise that I had actually caramelized my underwear. I think "caramelize" refers to the process of using heat to break down complex sugars into simpler sugars. I don't know why I think it means that, it just popped into my head when I smelled the caramel. It could be an old fact from highschool chemistry. I could look it up, but if you care you can look it up just as easily. I'm also pretty sure that cotton is a cellulose product, meaning that it is technically a sugar but it's an isomer that human digestive systems can't break down. Not that any of this is relevant to anything, except that in the subsequent paragraphs I may refer to my "caramelized" underwear.

So I pulled my caramelized underwear out of the microwave. It was scorched in several places, but still seemed to retain it's overall structure. I shook it gingerly, poked a bit at the scorched areas. It didn't look too bad. Now, you may consider my next action to show a distinct lapse of judgment, but keep in mind that I had to get to work and it was either this or skip work, or wear previously used underwear. So what would you have done? I put it on. It was a bit scratchy in some sensitive spots (you were warned), but overall it seemed functional. My evaluation complete, I donned jeans and a sport shirt and set out for my place of employment.

The scratchiness could have been a problem, but I have a pretty sedentary job so I just tried not to move much. It worked well for the first couple of hours, but eventually the morning, uh, caffeine expulsion event came and I was forced to put the underwear to practical use for the first time since the caramelizing. The results were unfortunate. Before I describe them, I'll give you another chance to stop reading...

OK, but I can't say I think much of your judgment for coming back. Anyway, I put a finger right through a scorched portion of the underwear, tearing a large gash that pretty much rendered the garment useless as a, er, containment vessel. I don't think I need to go into details. I hobbled back to my office with as much normalcy as I could muster and took my seat gingerly. Jeans really are not designed for wearing with a breached containment vessel.

Over the course of the day, my caramelized underwear seemed to become more crunchy. I would walk as little as possible and then gingerly. I wondered how I was going to explain it if someone saw ashes falling out of my pants leg. I went home early for personal reasons and by then I was practically girt with ashes, as it were. By then the underwear was no longer even useful as a, er, sanitary device (I'm sorry, but you were warned multiple times) thereby putting me effectively into the day five category of the five-day plan. As I said, I've never been too fond of that plan and day five is one of the four reasons.

Until you've spent all day walking around in crunchy underwear you can't know the blessed relief of removing it at the end of the day.

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