Another Sunday and another business trip to the far off city of Auckland. I got my suitcase ready for five days away from home. I'd packed the thing so often that I had it down to a fine art. I could, and often did, pack it with my eyes closed. A toilet bag, a pair of trousers, five shirts, five pairs of socks and five pairs of underpants. Five minutes to finish packing. Done.
Oh, no! cried Robin. You're not taking the toilet bag again, are you?
Yes, I said, puzzled. What's wrong with that?
I hate it when you take the toilet away with you, said Robin. I have to walk around all week with my legs crossed.
But look how nicely it fits in the special bag that your mum made for me, I said. The embroidery on the bag is just amazing toilets of the world. I get lots of envious looks when I load it into the overhead locker on the aeroplane. All the other travellers have their toilets in plain and very dull bags.
Oh, all right, said Robin grumpily. I suppose that showing off my mum's embroidery is a reasonable excuse to take a toilet bag with you. Don't worry about me. I'll survive.
The flight to Auckland was uneventful. There were lots of rattles and clanks as some mild turbulence tossed the toilets around in the lockers, but nothing that the pilot couldn't cope with. We landed safely and I took a taxi to my hotel. Unpacking my suitcase took less than five minutes. Hang the trousers and shirts in the wardrobe, toss the socks and underpants into a drawer, take the toilet bag into the bathroom and attach the toilet to the local plumbing. Easy peasy.
The days quickly fell into a dull routine. Get up in the morning, test the toilet, have a shower and clean my teeth. Stumble around half-asleep. Open a drawer, grope around inside and take out randomly selected socks and underpants. Put them on. Unhang a shirt and clamber into it, snuggle my trousers around my waist. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go.
Good morning, Alan.
Morning! I said.
Work all day then go back to the hotel. Have an evening meal and test the toilet again to make sure that it still worked. Get undressed. Throw the dirty clothes into a drawer so that they are out of sight and therefore cannot frighten the ladies who clean my room during the day when I am at work. Climb into bed and read a book until I fall asleep. Once I'm asleep, put the book down, turn off the light and wait patiently until morning. Rinse, lather, repeat.
The catastrophe happened on Wednesday morning. That was when the randomly selected underpants that I grabbed looked and felt rather peculiar as they dangled from my hand. Close examination revealed that what I was holding was a pair of Robin's finest knickers that had somehow sneaked themselves into my underwear drawer and got themselves packed in my suitcase by mistake. Now what?
It seemed to me that I now had two choices, though neither attracted me very much. Either I spent my day re-wearing yesterdays shattered underpants or I indulged myself in some mild cross-dressing fetishism. On balance, the latter seemed to offer more exciting possibilities so I pulled Robin's knickers slowly and sensuously over my trembling thighs. Initially they felt rather odd somewhat snug and constricted around the front and overly loose and floppy around the back. But once I got used to them, they began to feel more and more natural and more than a little bit empowering.
I finished dressing and then went off to work, trying very hard not to walk with a lisp. I knew that today I would have to be extra careful when I crossed the road. A friend who is a nurse tells me that a significantly large number of men who are run over and taken to hospital turn out to be wearing their wife's knickers. The nurses snigger about it in their coffee breaks. Clearly male pedestrians who wear ladies underwear are a major cause of traffic accidents. I did not want to become an object of derision to the local nurses and so I looked both ways. Twice.
I arrived safely at the office.
Good morning, Alan.
Morning! I said.
I bet you can't guess what I'm wearing underneath my trousers, I thought to myself as I headed off to my classroom. I don't know what Robin's knickers were made of, but rubbing my legs together as I walked had generated lots of static electricity and the hairs on my legs were now sticking straight up and poking holes through my trousers. I was beginning to understand why women made such a fuss about shaving their legs.
As the day progressed, I began to feel extremely fond of my new underwear. The silky, sexy smoothness next to my skin was amazingly comfortable and it filled me with confidence in my own abilities and defined my Alan-shaped place in the world. I am (wo)man, hear me roar. My students clearly detected a change in me and basked in the security of my authoritative aura.
I took lunch at a restaurant close to the office and because I was now brimming over with self-confidence, I ordered a dish I'd never eaten before. It was yummy and I decided to eat it for lunch every day from now on.
Being now fully empowered and wanting to make some practical use of the huge boost that Robin's knickers had given to my ego, I went back to the office prepared to work miracles. Clearly I was now a super hero. I mentioned my astonishing transmogrification to a work colleague. He looked me up and down and shook his head sadly.
No, he said, you can't possibly be a super hero. Real super heroes wear their underpants outside of their trousers for all the world to admire. It's something to do with showing off your masculinity, I think. Superman (TM) does it all the time.
Ah! Perhaps I'll take a pass on that aspect, I said as I considered the flowers embroidered in the waistband of my sexy knickers and what they might say about me if I showed them to the world. When did Superman change his surname to (TM)? I thought his real name was Superman Kent.
When the movies got popular, explained my colleague. I think he had to do it for tax reasons.
I went back into the classroom ready to face any computer-related questions that my students might have for me. One of them called me over. How does this work? he asked. I'm very puzzled. The program keeps telling me it can't find the data that it needs.
Ha! I said. Watch this!
Long ago I learned that when you are showing things to students you never say anything more detailed than Watch this! Then it doesn't matter what happens next, you can always pretend that you expected it to happen.
I cast a magic spell and suddenly the student's program began to work properly.
Gosh, he said, impressed. How did you manage to do that?
Easy, I explained. I'm wearing my wife's knickers.
He gave me a spot-the-loony look. I suspect he thought I was teasing him.
I was almost sorry when the training day came to an end. Seldom had a course run so smoothly, seldom had I had so many brilliant answers to so many detailed technical question. Some of the answers I gave were even correct. I found this astonishing.
I walked back to the hotel in a euphoric frame of mind. Again, none of the cars that roared past me noticed my unusual underpants and I arrived unscathed. I dined at my favourite restaurant and read an enthralling book. I tested the toilet. It still worked. Reluctantly I got undressed and went to bed.
Bye, bye knickers. I found myself dreading the approach of Thursday and the mundane normality of my underwear.
Both Thursday and Friday were anti-climactic in exactly the same way as each other, and then it was time to go home. I packed my suitcase with dirty clothes and rammed my toilet bag into whatever space was left over. I wended my way to the airport.
Oh thank goodness you're back, said Robin, hopping up and down with eagerness. The adoration in her voice was thrilling to hear. Hurry up and get unpacked. I desperately need to go to the toilet.
Air New Zealand lost my luggage, I said. My toilet bag has gone for a holiday in Honolulu. We should get it back next month.