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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Did this ever happen to James Herriot?

Once before, when I was more overweight than I am now, there was a rather amusing incident that took place while I was at work. In fact, although I was able to laugh at myself at the time, this one occurrence served as a catalyst for me to finally get to work on losing some weight. The happy ending here is that I finally did get to where I wanted to be, which was after about 15 months I had gone from 238 pounds down to 184. It took a disciplined combination of regular exercise (swimming) with making dietary changes. Namely, I cut out soft drinks and started paying attention to my daily caloric intake. Having to think about each thing I ate and how many calories it contained really put things into perspective.

It's a few years on from that and I find myself needing to lose a bit of weight again, thankfully not nearly as much as before. I just hope that, unlike last time, I don't end up with another story like this.

It all started out as a routine veterinary consult. There was a rather large dog, a Siberian Husky I think, that had come in to have a certain lump on his belly checked. So I greeted the Husky and his attractive female owner in the consult room at the end of the hall. These rooms were set up in such a way that you come in through a door opposite to where the owner comes in, and between the two of you is the exam table.

So this dog, let's call him Lance for I have no recollection of his or the owner's actual names, is sitting on the floor on the opposite side of the exam table from me, behind which I am standing. As per usual, before looking at the dog, I got a good start on the nature of the complaint and the dog's history with the owner, which helps me sort out what the problem might be and also so that I don't miss any other important details.

After a few brief moments of this, I finished talking to Lance's owner. I then grabbed a needle and syringe and went around to Lance's side of the table.

Setting said instruments on the exam table, I asked the owner if she could get Lance to lie down on his side so I could better see and feel the mass and then, ultimately, aspirate it with the needle.

This she then did, and what happened next I found to be quite embarrassing. Mortifying, in fact.

I was wearing a favourite pair of work slacks which I owned from the time before I had ballooned out to 238 pounds. So they had been through quite a lot of strain over the years, not only from the routine wear and tear of working in a vet practice, but also lately through the additional strain of covering a huskier pair of hips and thighs.

As I went to kneel down beside the now-prone Lance, there was a very loud 'POW!' that startled all three of us, most especially the owner.

Both the owner and I shot upright, she asking in a bewildered state, "Oh my God! What was that?" There was a look of genuine surprise on her face.

I, feeling a sudden chill breeze blowing on my backside, immediately knew why but didn't know quite how to explain it. My pants had finally given out on their oppressive owner with a vindictive and thunderous retort.

Sheepishly, I started backing around the table, never turning away from the owner. As I fumbled behind me for the door latch, I offered some lame explanation that everything was fine, and I'd be right back.

Backing through the door and never showing her my (now-exposed) backside, she seemed less terrified but still wore a befuddled expression.

Once on the other side of the door, I thought I'd be safe but I realised my trials and tribulations were only beginning. Here I was, wearing a pair of pants that had split entirely from the base of the zipper right round and all the way up the back to the level of the belt loops. My boxer shorts and the backs of my legs were completely exposed as my pants had quite literally exploded off of me. So great was the strain on the stitching, under duress these many months, that it finally gave way with an apocalyptic rending. I never knew pants could or would do this, especially so loudly.

I was a long way from the office where any spare pants might be, so rather than stroll down the hallways in my exposed state, I decided to call for help.

I think it was Megan who was just around the corner in the lab who heard me first, and she came running. When she got to me, I explained why it was I was holding the door shut and not moving an inch.

She started to laugh, clearly making an effort not to laugh even harder, and then went off to search the office for a replacement pair of pants for me.

Thankfully Megan returned in due time, but by now others had become aware of the situation. There was a pants-less doctor in the hallway and this sort of low comedy was definitely not missed by my clever co-workers. As chagrined as I was, I couldn't help but laugh along with them but I still had a sticky situation with Lance's owner. She must have been wondering why I backed out of the room in such a hasty and red-faced manner.

Well, when I returned, she immediately knew why. The only pair of pants in the hospital that were clean were some of my boss's purple surgical scrub pants. I am taller and also broader of hip than Andy is, so the fact that I could get them up around my waist at all was an accomplishment. But they were so tight I could barely move my legs forward and back, so that when moving I walked like one of those poor Chinese women from ancient times who bound her own feet.

Shuffling back towards the door to the exam room, I realised another distressing detail: not only were these purple pants high-waters, thus exposing my black work socks, I had also chosen on that day to wear my purple scrub top. So now I was clad all in purple.

This detail was also not missed by the expert staff of crack comedians working at the hospital, as the very next day there was a picture of Barney the Dinosaur taped to the shelf above my desk.

Pushing back through the door to confront my embarrassing situation with Lance's owner, I could see that she was relieved to see me again and that I was all right. Almost immediately, though, her eyes shot down to inspect my new choice of leggings, and I could see a grin flash across her face that was quickly suppressed.

Awkwardly, I realised she now knew exactly what the 'big bang' was and why I had backed out of the room in the manner that I did. So I just tried to play it straight as if nothing untoward was going on here, and got on with the job of aspirating Lance's tummy mass. It wasn't easy, because as I knelt down again by his side to check the lump, a flash of panic ran through me. Yes I was wearing new pants but they were tighter on me than the ones I was wearing before. What if these pants exploded too? I'd not only have to go through the whole shameful experience as before but this time there was no hope of a third pair of pants without going home!

Thankfully somehow I managed to kneel down and aspirate the lump and tell Lance's owner that it was just a benign fatty mass (no irony there) and not worth any real concern.

There was very little said between us after that, as I think the owner was too busy stifling the urge to laugh and any attempt to speak would cause the dam to burst, so to speak. She thanked me and retreated with Lance back to the reception area. I noticed she had been blushing the entire time since my return.

At least for the rest of the evening I never had to back out of any more rooms as the undersize purple pants held true for me. But they probably made more than one client wonder at my fashion sense - let alone why I was walking so funny.

Weeks later, three of my good friends took me out to a small birthday dinner after work. I was presented with a small wrapped present. As I opened it, I beheld a very useful gift that could only have one meaning: it was a miniature emergency sewing kit, such as one might need for those times when a button is lost.

Or, more precisely, for when one must deal with the humiliation of an exploding pair of pants.


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

What a humiliating experience!

As one whose weight has ballooned up and down over most of the past 30 or so years, I can identify. However, my worst—and most public—experience took place not when my weight was up but shortly after it was down. My family, including a favorite aunt, was dining in a restaurant. At the end of the meal, when the newly trimmed down me stood up, my pants fell down. Thankfully, my family gathered around me blocking the view of the other patrons as I pulled my pants up. Something similar happened years later as I was preparing for a worship service; thankfully I was already wearing my clerical robe when my pants fell down.

Since I am in the process of listening to all of the Herriot books read on CD, I can’t say that he ever duplicated your experience. He does, however, describe many occasions of “stripping down” in sub-freezing weather and sticking his arms into the various orifices of sheep, cows, and horses. That does not sound like fun to me.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Hey Nick, that's a great anecdote! I'd much rather have another pants incident involving having lost the weight as opposed to having put too much on. Maybe I'll have a similar story to tell as yours in the months ahead!

Those Herriot books on CD are great, aren't they? So glad they got Christopher Timothy to read them.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny post Brandon. At least you did not have to go with the purple-teal look.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Thanks, Robb, and thanks again for reminding me of this story. I had been wanting to write it down for some time!

5:35 PM  
Blogger Maithri said...

Great story! Its always good to look back and laugh.... Things always look much lighter in hindsight. (not meant as a pun there)

Peace to you friend, M

11:59 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Cheers, Maithri, thanks for stopping by and reading. And even though unintentional, great pun! :D

1:05 PM  

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