So I didn’t include the usual No Work Monday exultations yesterday. Believe me. This was not because the joy of such an occasion has lost its luster, and neither was I forced into corporate servitude shortly after the holiday weekend. No.
It was because a substation in Columbus exploded yesterday, taking out two transformers and knocking out power for nearly 30,000 people. I wasted nearly an eternity in thought, counting the number of non-existent tiles on the ceiling and aimlessly wondering what would have happened to me if I had finished several of my as yet incomplete degrees. The two in question were History and Electrical Engineering, and the possibilities included therein would likely have taken me to a place where they have not only larger paychecks than the opportunities either of my completed degrees (Information Systems and International Strategic Management) offer me, but stable access to electricity as well!
Decisions. Decisions. One morning you make the right choice and end up meeting the person of your dreams in some fancy café where the drinks are far too expensive, the flowers glint brightly in the sun, and everybody in attendance wears a beret and a dark existential mask which belies a central belief that life really is a play and they are the star instead of the Shakespearean ideal of a lonely person strutting and fretting their Warholian fifteen minutes before they are forgotten entirely. Another day you make a bad decision and you end up sitting on your living room couch in the dark, wondering where it all went wrong.
The ticking of the clock slowed exponentially and in the eon between 7:05:04am and 7:05:06am, I had a thought. That thought was a little song I used to sing from time to time when the happenings of the day made little sense
“Pants. Pants. A revolution in my pants.”
It isn’t an invention of mine. It was, in fact, an invention of a former employee of mine from way back in the lonely days and nights I spent managing the Circulation Department of the Medical School Library at the University of Cincinnati. The author was Tim Hall, a student worker who majored in both Philosophy and Jazz Guitar. He shared my disdain for both formal education and real work. His motto, aside from the aforementioned ditty, was “Why have one useless degree when you can have two at twice the price?”
This is a maxim of life to which I have remained faithful these many years.
Tim was an interesting fellow. He was lanky, unkempt, and habitually unshaven, and he had a nervous nature that reminded me of a young Woody Allen or Elvis Costello strung out on cocaine and a constant influx of expensive coffee.
Rather than save his money to purchase the acoustic guitars he used to create his music (with complex philsophical lyrics!), Tim taught himself the art of guitar-making. He and his fiancé lived in a small two bedroom apartment just off campus. One room was the master bedroom and the other was his workshop. Tim didn’t just purchase the guitar parts from the manufacturer and piece them together with a few happy nails and squirts of wood glue. No. Tim bought planks of specific wood, molded them according to the templates he had created on his own, and fashioned them together in artistic precision. He fashioned the various frets and stands that make up a guitar from specific pieces of metal, and he spent countless hours in the back room of his apartment tweaking everything just so, all with the intent of crafting the perfect musical instrument.
“Why don’t you go all out and just cut down a few trees to get your supplies,” I said, astonished at all that went into making even the simplest of guitars.
“Because that would be stupid,” he said with a straight face. “And besides, it would take far too much time.”
He was a good humored atheist, which made for interesting conversation. I once told him that it was pointless to think that way since being a person of faith affords you the opportunity to believe a host of crazy things whereas atheists, requiring proof for everything, never have any fun. He countered one day with the pronouncement that even the Dewey decimal system had the right idea when it cataloged the Bible under the call letters “BS.” BS, of course, is the acronym given to bovine excretory substances. In case you didn't know.
It might not sound like it, but we had a lot of fun working together.
One evening, while hanging out at the Circulation Desk with nothing to do, Tim stood from his seat, looked directly at me, and said, “Pants. Pants. A revolution in my pants.” He then walked out of the room as if he had merely stated that he would like to purchase a bottle of soda or that he needed to visit the restroom. He came back a few minutes later and promptly sat down at a computer to check his e-mail. Never did he offer an explanation.
“What he hell was that?” I said, almost screaming.
“What the hell was what?” he said calmly, not looking away from the monitor.
“You know. That whole pants revolution thing you just said.”
“Oh that. It was too quiet in here. I needed to break the monotony.”
“What monotony?” I said. He turned away from the computer and look at me with a smile waiting just behind his eyes.
“In case you haven’t noticed, Joe, we work in a library. It’s all monotony.”
“What does it mean?” I asked, still confused.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s like one of those Bhuddist chants. There’s no meaning. The advantage is in the repetition.”
“But it’s funny.”
“So what?” he said, “Just because its funny doesn’t mean it doesn’t fulfill its purpose. Just try it. It’s really quite relaxing.”
I tried to forget it. I really did. I wanted to let it go, to forget the chant, to move on with the rest of the boring day that remained. But it has a catchy beat to it, as idiotic as it was. And, as anybody who has listened to Annie Lennox knows, stupidity is sticky. It gets into your head and waits. Just when you think it’s gone, it comes back with reinforcements, replaying itself over and over, driving you mad.
For the rest of the evening, I had Tim’s little Bhuddist phrase running through my head. Pants ... Pants. While I checked e-mail. Pants ... Pants. While I read a story about George W. Bush on CNN. And while I sat at my desk, staring at the clock as the last moments of the work day faded into oblivion. A revolution in my pants.
“It’s stuck in your head, isn’t it?” Tim said after we had closed the library and made as we made the long walk across the parking lot to our respective cars.
“Yeah, but it’ll go away soon enough,” I said. “These kinds of things rarely last long.”
He smiled at me with that stupid smile as I got into my car, and though I warded it off with all my might, the only thing I could think was “Pants. Pants. A revolution in my pants.”
Memories of the past are strange. They come to you of their own will and for their own reasons we cannot know. They just are. One moment you’re at work, typing out an analysis report, and you have trouble recalling red letter days of your past with any sort of clarity. And then, for no reason at all, you find yourself sitting on a couch in the dark, desperately trying to think of anything other than the mantra which runs through your head without end.
Pants. Pants. A revolution in my pants. ... It still doesn’t make sense to me.