Do You Have My Pants?

by

04/08/2023

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Every now and then, someone in my apartment building posts a sign on the bulletin board next to the lobby elevators—often about something that was lost, or possibly taken by mistake, from either the laundry room or the lobby. Usually these notes are simple, straight-forward requests.

A typical sign might read:

“Lost in laundry room—pair of blue wool socks. Please check and see if you have them. 12a.”

Or:

“Did someone pick up my dry-cleaning from the lobby by mistake? I’m missing a red-striped, black fleece vest. Please return to doorman. Thanks.”

Occasionally, if one request doesn’t do the trick or if the missing item is particularly important or valuable (or there’s an implication that there might be something a little suspect about its disappearance), you begin to see some emotion in the note—it takes on a slightly more urgent, more personal tone:

“Second Request! Please check and see if you accidentally picked up a beige sweater with mother-of-pearl buttons. It’s my favorite sweater. Please return to doorman.”

Recently, spanning about a week, one such chain of postings quickly turned into a poignant, dramatic miniseries.

The first sign, posted on a Sunday morning, said: “Do you have my pants? (Eddie Bauer, dark blue, almost new, size 32 medium). Please return to 9f Charles.”

This was interesting—he put his name on the note. Usually, these requests are anonymous. This is the generally accepted apartment building etiquette; people don’t get too personal over an item of missing clothing, especially if there’s a possibility that it might have been taken with malice aforethought. Anonymity guarantees a pain-and-shame-free resolution.

This personal note from 9f Charles was already a bit different than the average… Then there was the detail—not everyone is so precise in their description of the missing item.

So, we have a possible hint of OCD. And, the note had an almost childlike, unembarrassed directness to it, which was also unusual; “Do you have my pants?” It sounded like a little kid who wanted to know, “What happened to the Leggo car I made?” or, “Have you been eating my chocolate Easter bunny?”

The first request for 9f Charles’ missing pants (which was left up for three days) was replaced by second more urgent plea:

“You might have picked up my pants from the dry-cleaning delivery in the lobby by mistake (Eddie Bauer, almost new, dark blue, size 32 medium). Mistake or not, it is VERY IMPORTANT that I get these pants back. Please bring to me or to the doorman as soon as possible! 9f Charles.”

That note was up for two more days.

Then a third appeared, taped right at eye level and in much larger letters. There was a definite air of desperation about it. Some of the usual details were missing and—for a sign about missing clothes— it was getting way too intimate, a clear case of TMI:

“I have to go to a good friend’s wedding this Saturday and I NEED to wear these pants (Eddie Bauer, size 32). If you have them in your possession—for whatever reason—please call, email or text. I am not blaming anyone, but the wedding is this Saturday. Give the pants to the doorman or hang them on the door-knob of 9f. PLEASE!”
Under this he listed his cellphone, office number, and email address

There were no more signs. Saturday came and went.

I was hoping he might have posted one more note, letting us all know that he got his pants back and everything was fine. But he didn’t, and I was left to wonder if Charles ever did get his pants back, or if he bought another pair, or if maybe—out of shame or despair—he just didn’t show up at his friend’s wedding.

During this week-long serial, I considered possible motives and explanations for this brief drama.

On the face of it, Charles was publicly asking if someone had his pants. But maybe he was really talking to one special person, and, for some reason (could have been a rift or some embarrassing intra-building hanky-panky), he either didn’t want—or couldn’t risk— getting in touch with the actual perpetrator directly.

Then I thought—what if this is all psychological? This is the Upper West Side, after all. What if there were no missing pants in the first place! This could be a cri-de-coeur from someone who had—in his formative years—lost something really precious, a loss that might have transformed his entire life… “Do you have my pants?”, “Why did the police take Grandpa away?”, “Where’s my Mommy!?”

And what about the smell of paranoia that wafted up from the later notes? I had the feeling that Charles was stuck in that place where you assume that either by accident or deliberate intent, your pants have been taken away by bad people or mysterious outside forces…the deep state, space aliens…

Those bulletin-board notes tell me that Charles has a lot of work to do. He needs to understand, probably through processing the stages of grieving—denial, anger bargaining, depression, acceptance—that if we’re truly serious about getting on with our lives we alone are responsible for the location of our pants.

I didn’t have Charles’ pants, so I had no reason to contact him. But I if I did speak to him, I would tell him that in this situation, he could profit from the wisdom of The Buddha and that he did not actually lose his pants because one never really has them in the first place. It was merely an illusion arising from the desperate need for attachment—to youth, to happiness, to pants…

Well, unless I want to do some serious investigative work, I’ll never know what happened. And anyway, who am I to judge or even offer advice to Charles? I never paid much (if any) attention to my clothes. Maybe Charles has a better grip on the realities of life than I do. As Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Absolutely.

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§ 9 Responses to “Do You Have My Pants?”

  • Harvey Reiver says:

    the pants stared into the abyss, and the abyss stared back

  • Lee wohlfert says:

    A naked time traveller arrived in the laundry room and had to knick them.
    See Time Traveller’s Wife series.

  • Charlie says:

    This is first-rate comic writing. It begins with speculative visualizations provoked by a series of notes posted on a bulletin-board by a stranger whose trousers are missing. It concludes philosophically, with profound thoughts on how the enlightened mind manages the experience of loss.

    I took the piece to be a reflection on actual events until I remembered the author’s proclivity for fabrication, which has lately grown monstrous. He recently claimed that a photograph of a child’s plush meercat wearing human-size sunglasses was a shot of a rat that raided his larder.

  • Paul Sheridan says:

    “This is a story that describes the various levels of emotion that people might encounter in daily life. It is full of things that can be challenging, but also, at the same time, challenged. It is also laden with many diverse and sometime contradictory themes; for instance, it is a sweeping story that never mentions brooms.”

    –Chatbot Reviews
    (thanks, Mike!)

  • Lynn says:

    I agree with Charles. Hope everyone got their stuff.

  • Nancy Manocherian says:

    I always love your stories and miss the good old radio days with you on WBAI.

  • Rick says:

    Thanks for this, Mike… factually true or not, it’s so very reminiscent of my six years in a smaller building in Brooklyn (when one of the highlights of my weekend was your story-telling on the radio program).

  • Victoria says:

    No one writes better New York slice-of-life than Mike Feder. With only a tiny bit of sentimentality and lots of cynicism, Mike captures the horrors and humor (and humor masked as horror) of surviving this mess.
    I live in a smoke-free walk-up and someone left a sticker with info for a cannabis delivery service in the hallway. Uh oh! Let the games begin.

  • Jane from t.c. says:

    Hi Mike,
    I moved 2 years ago and lost contact with you. I missed you but was busy moving. So now you found
    moi and I’m wondering who are all these creeps that are following you and why? I know y ou can’t help who follows you. I still love you!!
    jane in t.c.

§ Leave a Reply

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