There are times in life when something so embarrassing happens that you want to crawl into a paper bag. Then there are times that something so embarrassing happens that you would crawl into a paper bag if the situation weren't actually so funny. This is about the latter situation, which should have been the most embarrassing moment of my life, yet somehow wasn't.
As you might know by now, I moved to Philadelphia the day after graduating from college. Not long after that day when I first dropped my duffel bag in center city Philly, I found myself at Dirty Frank's, the dingiest dive bar that I have ever or will ever set foot in during my lifetime and which I set foot in many, many times in the few years that I called Philly home. What made it interesting was that it drew an unusual mix of art students, non-art students, hipsters, closet hyper-educated people, and just regular folks, everybody looking for an odd mix of personalities and ages to kick back with and, well, drink. That was the main reason to go there. No pick ups. No pretensions. That was Frank's in a nutshell. I could do a whole post about it, but maybe some other time.
Aside from the music/club/South Street scene, this is where I got to know a good portion of my friends and acquaintances. It was here that I met my friend...hmmm.... let's call her The Siren. She was smart, exotic (she hated that description, but it fit like a glove), and one of the most alluring women that many of the men around there had ever met. There was just something about her that made men fall hopelessly in either love or lust with her, but she acted like she wasn't even aware of it, even though I know that she was. It was a carefully nurtured persona. Subtle seduction was her talent. Many women would hesitate to be out with a woman like that for fear of standing in her shadow, but it was never a problem. We were very different in appearance and each attracted different types of men. It was a good match.
One Saturday evening in summer, we ultimately planned to end up at Frank's, but decided to get a bite to eat first at Taco House on Pine Street, which was one of the really cheap yet mighty good eateries in our area which attracted a number of the hipster and music scene crowd. There were usually people there who I knew at least by face, since I travelled around the edges of one of the cool South Street crowds. I wasn't one of the really cool people (thankfully... too much pressure, not enough opportunity for stupid fun), but people recognized me enough to exchange that perfunctory cool-person wave and "hey, howya doin' " if we were to bump into each other. And so it was when we entered Taco House that evening. We went, we saw, were seen, we ate, we left.
By that point, it was much too early to head to Frank's. We were going to be making a long night of it and wanted to pace ourselves, so we decided to head to her apartment down the street to hang out for a while and enjoy the last of the daylight, have a drink, and talk. I walked into her apartment and threw my old jean jacket onto a chair as she got us some drinks and we settled in to watch the sun set from her apartment window. It had been a good day.
After the sun had set and we were finally ready to go to the bar, she went down the hall to the bathroom as I grabbed my jacket off the chair. Stuck on the tiny silver bells that I had sewn on the back of my ratty jean jacket were a pair of panties.
"Hey, Siren!" I called to her. "A pair of your underwear got snagged on the back of my jacket!" She came walking out from the bathroom and looked at it.
"Those aren't my underwear," she said, looking more closely at the skivvies dangling off my coat. I looked a little more carefully. Oh. My. God. They were mine. Slowly it dawned on me. I had been walking around Philly with a pair of my underwear hanging off the back of my jacket. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad if it had been one of the black, lacy panties that I owned. Hell, that borders on free advertising. But, noooo. It was a pair of the utilitarian cotton undies that you wear on laundry day. The kind that you would never, ever wear on a date. The ones that you eventually turn into dust rags.
I did a quick calculation and, from the time that I put on my coat in my apartment to the time that I put my jacket on her chair, I figured that I had been walking around the city with ugly underwear hanging on the back of my coat for about an hour. Around the places where the cool people go. The cool people who knew me. And Nobody. Said. A. Thing.
I should have been embarrassed. No, I should have been mortified. Yet I found it so funny that all I could do was remove the offending tag-along garment, put it in my jacket pocket and laugh. I asked The Siren why she didn't say anything and she swore that she hadn't noticed and, thinking back on our time out, I agreed that she hadn't walked behind me the whole time. Under the circumstances, it's a good thing that I had a sense of humor about it. I at least hoped that some other people got a laugh besides me because that was something that you just don't see every day.
So, there it is.... the moment that I should have been embarrassed about, yet somehow wasn't. In the end, I was thankful for two things: 1. at least the undies were clean, and 2. I was with The Siren... everybody was probably looking at her and didn't even notice.
Oh, and I still have the jacket all these years later. I can't bring myself to get rid of it. It makes me laugh.