That Time I Ripped My Pants in the Airport

Here’s a little story for Throwback Thursday – a story of love, loss, betrayal, and ripped pants.

I went to college in New England, but my home state is Pennsylvania. Specifically, I hail from a region of Pennsylvania known as “Pennsyltuckey.” Because, unfortunately, many folks in the area do not realize/accept PA was a Union State, and “Drive your Tractor to School Day” was a thing at my high school. That alone sums up my hometown pretty well.

Anywho, back to the story. While I was going to school, I would fly home during breaks to see my family. It was just easier to take the hour flight than to make the 6 hour drive. And I hate driving.

But if there’s anything I hate more than driving, it’s clothes shopping. My style is very simple. I wear plain shirts and dress pants to work, plain shirts and jeans the rest of the time. If I don’t have to leave my house, I wear a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. I probably own more pajama bottoms than the average human.

However, because I am short, I have difficulty finding pants in the right length. I either have to suck it up and buy regular length pants and have them altered, or I have to order short-length pants online. But whenever I can find a good, decent pair of pants that fit me and are in the proper length, I am pretty quick to buy them – especially if they are on sale.

That is how I came to possess the jeans.

I thought they were perfect. I spotted them on a clearance rack at a department store, in my size, and in the right length. A true rarity, like seeing a unicorn. I tried them on and they fit me almost perfectly. “Almost” being the key word, here. They were just a little tight, but they weren’t uncomfortable, and for $3.40, I could not pass them up. I bought them, and very quickly, they became my favorite pair of jeans. I don’t think I’ve ever loved an article of clothing more than I loved those jeans.

Alas, it was an ill-fated love affair.

After my very last spring break, I arrived at BWI on a pleasant March evening for my flight back to New England, where my final few weeks of college prior to graduation were to commence. Everything seemed to be going just fine. I got through security no problem, and the TSA agent praised my choice of mismatched socks (one argyle, one Welsh Corgi patterned) as per usual. The only difference between this trip and my previous trips is that I was not wearing a Batman shirt. It’s a custom for me to wear a Batman shirt on every flight I take, as a kind of good luck ritual. Instead, I was wearing a panda shirt, and my favorite pair of $3.40 jeans.

Perhaps that decision – to cast aside my lucky Batman shirt in favor of one featuring an adorable, black and white, bamboo-loving bear – set some bad mojo in motion. Because after I slipped my shoes back on, put my computer back in my backpack, and started off toward my gate, my homeward journey began to go a bit downhill.

I had only owned these jeans for about a year. Not long enough for them to show any visible signs of wear and tear. I thought they were fine; the stitching was sturdy, and they fit snug, but they were comfortable. I was unaware, as I strolled down the linoleum walkway toward the overpriced kiosks and shops, that it was the beginning of the end.

At one point, I bent down to put something in my backpack, and that’s when it happened. I felt a sort of tugging sensation near my back pocket, and the faint, almost indiscernible sound of something tearing. Rrrrrrriiiiiiipppp. 

I froze, and my blood turned cold in my veins. Please, I thought. Please don’t let that be what I think it is.

I didn’t want to get caught checking out my own bum in a very public airport, so I snatched up my backpack and hastened to a nearby women’s restroom. I turned around to look at my backside in the mirror, praying that the damage was minimal… that the tear could be hidden, and no one would notice…

My prayers were futile.

When I saw the damage, my jaw dropped. I had a massive, 100% noticeable, Great Canyon of rips right under my back pocket, about four or so inches long. As in, part of my underwear was in full view, and, as luck would have it, the pair I’d chosen for the day was an exceptionally bright color. Fate really is a cruel mistress.

As I stared, gaping, at the monstrous split in my pants, a woman emerged from one of the stalls, stepped up to the sinks, and started washing her hands. After a moment, she finally noticed me, and was able to grasp my situation pretty quickly, because I was still staring in horror at my reflection, and it was literally impossible not to notice what was going on. She stared for a moment, and then burst out laughing. “Good luck with that, honey!” she called to me as she tossed her paper towel in the trash can and walked out.

Slowly, the gravity of the situation started to sink in. I’d been betrayed by the pair of jeans that I’d selflessly given my heart to. All of my spare clothes were in my checked bag, now out of reach. I didn’t even have a sweatshirt or anything to tie around my waist and hide the damage. I had my backpack, my panda shirt, and a pair of ruined jeans. I could have bought a souvenir sweatshirt or something from one of the giftshops, but, since I was in Baltimore, it would have had a crab or the Ravens on it. And it would have cost $50. Not worth it.

But, I couldn’t hide in the bathroom forever. I had to get to my gate – so I could sit down and hide my shame.

I gathered my courage, tugged my T-shirt down as low as I possibly could, and hoped that my backpack might be able to hide most of the tear, and no one would notice the damage. I strolled out of the bathroom, my head held high. The breeze I could feel as I walked was highly unsettling, but I marched onward. I feigned nonchalance, though inside, my heart was hammering a nervous beat against my ribs. I imagined every eye in the airport was on me, even though I’m sure they had more important things to focus on, like making their connecting flights on time, getting their shoes shined, or buying an overpriced latte from Dunkin Donuts.

I was almost to my gate when it happened.

I was walking past a news-stand when some random man stopped me. He was the type of guy that, when you see him, you instantly want to punch him in the face – like a guy who tries too hard in gym class, flies the battle flag from the back of his muddy pickup truck, or always has to have the last laugh in an argument, even when he’s wrong. I remember that he was wearing a shirt with some kind of “hashtag” on it, and had too-large and too-expensive headphones around his neck, thus instantly earning my hatred. He stood in front of me, looking at me with callous amusement, and said, chuckling, “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, sweetheart, but you’ve got a giant hole-”

“In the butt of my jeans?” I asked. “Yeah, I know. What about it?”

He stared at me and blinked, smile faltering. He didn’t seem to possess the mental capabilities to produce a response to that, as he’d probably expected me to have a melt-down of some kind. So I gave an indignant sniff, and kept right on walking. Dudebro didn’t follow. I had surprised myself, during that exchange. Usually, I’m the type to crumble under confrontation, or any type of pressure – but even in the face of humiliation, I’d actually managed to stand my ground.

After that encounter, somehow, no one else in the airport noticed the epic tear in my pants – or if they did, they didn’t mention it. And as a result, it started to bother me a little less – though the draft was very unnerving. Perhaps my newfound confidence in the matter had something to do with it, though, more likely, it’s because people usually possess enough tact not to point these things out to someone who is obviously aware of their own unfortunate circumstances. I made it on and off my flight with little incident, got my bag from the baggage claim upon arriving at my destination, and grabbed a hoodie out of it and tied it around my waist. The worst was over, and I had survived.

When my roommate arrived to take me home, she asked, “So, how was the flight?”

And my response? “Fine. It was fine.”

So, what is the moral of the story? Never trust a pair of jeans. They might betray you. And if you ever feel like the butt of the joke, and that people are judging you for something you can’t change… don’t let it affect you. Just hold your head high, keep on walking, and leave that negativity behind you. Use it as a strength, not a weakness.

Here’s the tear, for reference…


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