Blogging by the seat of our pants: Part One

It’s a little after 3 on Sunday afternoon, and Mr. Scatter is wearing pants.

U.S. Government Printing Office/Northwestern University Library. Wikimedia CommonsI mention this because apparently several people in Portland aren’t wearing pants at the moment, and what’s more, they’re riding around town on public transit.

As Scatter friend Peter Ames Carlin reported in Saturday’s Oregonian, a carefully calculated event called the No Pants on Max Ride shed its inhibitions at 3 this afternoon, allowing “all local pranksters to let their freak flags, and boxers or bloomers, fly in public.”

Evidently those canny policy wonks at MAX, Portland’s light-rail system, have decided this is A-OK, as long as everyone follows the rules of decorum and keeps their privates private with suitable swaths of undergarment.

This could actually be an improvement on the cheeky low-rider revelations of some of the transit system’s sloppier regular customers. Still, Mr. Scatter detects a whiff of desperation in the whole knock-kneed enterprise. Surely this is a product of those KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD folks on the prowl again.

I’m all for weirdness, I suppose, but I wonder: Can it truly be weird if it feels compelled to announce itself? Shouldn’t weirdness simply … happen? If weirdness arrives with a press release, is it nothing but marketing?

A couple of points about No Pants on Max:

  • First, it isn’t original. In its third year, it mimics a similar, older and much bigger trousers-free event on New York’s subway system. How weird is copycat weird?
  • Second, Portland’s pants-free pioneers GOT PERMISSION. How anarchic can it be if you don’t doff your trousers until the authorities give you the green light? How can you twit the system when the system says it’s OK?

Imagine the No Pants scene in one of those recruits-and-a-drill-sergeant movies. (Mr. Scatter imagines a young Richard Gere as the rebel-with-a-permit-clause and Louis Gossett Jr. as the contemptuous sarge):

Sir! Permission to drop trou, sir!

Stand up straight, soldier! You’re a disgrace!

Yes, sir! Standing up straight, sir!

You disgust me, soldier. If I had my way dropping trou in public would never be tolerated. What if the enemy saw this display? But the politicians at the Pentagon say we have to put up with this sort of perversion in the New Army. Permission granted. But wait until I’ve turned my eyes away.

Thank you, sir! Sorry about your disgust, sir!

Dismissed, maggot.

All in all, Mr. Scatter prefers to keep his pants in place. But then, Mr. Scatter is also aware that he doesn’t possess the prettiest legs in town, and he feels a certain social responsibility to protect the visual sensibilities of his fellow citizens.

Yet everything about No Pants on Max appears to be legit. Too legit. Conspiracy theorists are wrong about this one: It’s definitely not part of a vast cover-up.

That would be just weird.


  • ILLUSTRATION: World War II poster, United States Government Office. Collection Northwestern University Library. Wikimedia Commons.