Previous Contents Next

Alan Upgrades His Unmentionables

Once every thirteen years I buy new underpants whether I need them or not. And every quarter century I buy new socks. It’s a timetable that I stick to quite religiously because I strongly suspect that the universe will come to an end if I don’t. After all, my gradually shattering underwear is living proof that I am single-handedly making a massive contribution to the increasing entropy of the universe. This makes me feel warm inside. The universe needs me...

Most mornings the cats watch me get dressed and sometimes they are moved to make comments. I was pulling on a particularly raggedy pair of pants one day when Bess said, “You appear to be wearing a hole with an elastic waistband. And the elastic has perished. Why would you want to do that?”

“There’s not much I can do about it,” I said. “I won’t be able to buy new underpants for at least another three years. So meanwhile, I’ve just got to put up with the general disintegration. However I must admit that the erotic holes in these particular pants are leaving less and less to the imagination.”

“I don’t think you need to do anything,” said Harpo. “Those underpants make it so much easier for me to bite you on the bum. Let me show you.” He bit me on the bum.

“Ow!” I said. Drastic action appeared to be called for and so I ignored my schedule and headed straight for the underpants shop where I bought a packet of six.

When I got my new underpants home, I unpacked them and attempted to put a pair on. To my horror I discovered that the operating system had been significantly upgraded since I last bought any underwear and the new user interface was completely non-intuitive. Since the documentation was conspicuous by its absence – there was no operating system manual included with the garments – I simply couldn’t think what do do with them.

Earlier releases of the operating system had the label on the outside front of the mechanism. Orientation was simple – just point the label at the wall, step into the underpants, pull them up and Robert’s your avuncular relative! But when I tried that with the newly purchased pants I experienced a sickening trans-dimensional hyperspatial shift and it quickly became clear both to me and to my audience that I was now wearing my underpants back to front.

“Oops!” I said.

“What’s wrong?” asked Robin.

I explained the counter intuitive nature of the user interface and the serious lack of documentation.

“Hmm,” said Robin. “Perhaps they’ve shifted the paradigm and adopted the female use-case.”

“I’ve always hated paradigm shifts,” I said. “Somebody once shifted a paradigm into the doorway at the office. I tripped over it and bruised my deliverables when I arrived at work. Tell me, how does the female schema leverage the strategic synergy of the dressing experience?”

“Ladies underwear always has the outside label on the side rather than on the front,” Robin explained. “It reconceptualizes a holistic but, nevertheless granular, adaption of transformational theme areas that enhances the performance based mechanistics without having any adverse effect on the integrity of the model-based client-focused core competencies.”

“Really? I didn’t know any of that. I seldom wear ladies underpants. They don’t have enough willy room.”

“The lack of bandwidth in the organ space is indeed a disempowering metric of deleterious cross-functional performance related matrices,” agreed Robin.

“I wonder which side the label is supposed to be on?”

“Dexter focused informational embroidery is seldom implemented as an infrastructural mechanism,” Robin explained. “I suspect that sinisterial methodologies are most likely to succeed as an enterprise-wide strategic implementation of service schemas.”

I followed her advice to the letter. Lo and behold! I was successfully wearing underpants again. And the moral is: always minimise your therbligs.

Once I was dressed, I began to consider the problem of packing a suitcase for the weekend. Robin and I were planning on attending a science fiction convention and it was necessary to decide what to take with us. I threw things into a suitcase and so did Robin. We set off and checked ourselves into the convention hotel. Arriving safely in our room, we began to unpack again and that was when I made a terrible discovery.


“What’s wrong?” asked Robin.

“I think I must have been traumatised by my underwear experience,” I said. “I completely forgot to pack any underpants. And what’s more, I didn’t pack any socks either.”

“Well the shops are still open,” said Robin. “Why not go out and buy some more underwear and socks?”

“But I’ll be thirteen years too early,” I pointed out. “And I’m not due for new socks for at least another two decades.”

“I think the universe will forgive you,” said Robin soothingly. “Just this once. After all, your only other alternative is to spend the entire weekend wearing the same underpants and socks that are currently adorning your nether regions.”

“Actually, that’s not a bad idea,” I said. “I can enter the masquerade as a mobile aromatherapy machine. Come one, come all; fix anything that ails you with the healing power of AlanSmell(TM).”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea at all,” said Robin gently. “Not everybody has as poor a sense of smell as we do. The aromatherapy you will be offering could easily be construed as a less than delightful experience.”

“Good point.”

Robin and I discovered many years ago that neither of us has much of a sense of smell. This, we are firmly convinced, is the secret of a happy marriage. We are seriously considering setting ourselves up as marriage guidance counsellors. We could make a fortune out of nasalectomies.

Meanwhile, underpants and socks were calling to me from the shops in the central city. I went exploring and it wasn’t long before I found a packet of pants and a clump of socks. I paid $46 to a bored cashier by simply waving my credit card in front of the machine – it’s called payWave. Note the trendy capitalisation – what could possibly go wrong? PINs are not required with payWave and neither are signatures. All you do is pass close to the machine and money is automatically debited from your account. Several people walked past me while I paid, and presumably they too were charged the cost of my underpants and socks as the cards in their wallets came within the sphere of influence of the active payWave machine. I began to contemplate the advantages of building a Faraday Cage around my hip pocket. Or perhaps a tinfoil condom would be more effective...

I returned to the hotel and examined my purchases. The underpants proved to be old stock which still had the original Mark I operating system, the one with the forward facing label on the front. I was much relieved. The socks, however, were something else again. They appeared to have been born with a genetic defect in that their lower leg area was completely absent. Each sock was simply an ankle attached to a foot. I put them on gloomily – it appeared that I was doomed to suffer a weekend of nether area chills as the draughty weather took advantage of my lack of limb protection.

“They look just like the things that my dad puts over the business end of his golf clubs,” said Robin. “They keep the clubs safe and warm and protect them from scratches and predatory insects.”

“Perhaps I could pretend I’ve got a club foot?”

Robin regarded the short ankle socks thoughfully. A slow smile spread itself all over her face. “I think we are seeing another paradigm shift,” she said with a mischevious grin. “Socks are the new willy warmers.”

Previous Contents Next