Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I took my pants off on the subway for the first (but probably not the last) time.

On Sunday, January 9, I met up with hundreds of strangers at Foley Square, all with one goal in mind: to take our pants off on the subway.  This annual event, which now takes place in 50 cities in 24 countries, as I was told when I arrived, is a prank/comedy event that involves a whole bunch of "undercover agents," like myself, gathering together to ride the subways in our skivvies.  The only real requirements are that you wear underwear (or something resembling underwear...) and that you act as if you have no idea why anyone else has their pants off, and come up with witty lines when people ask you why you yourself are removing your pants or have no pants on, such as "My pants were getting uncomfortable."  Participants are assigned to a subway line and car, and take turns removing their pants and placing them in a backpack or bag.  Then they take turns exiting the subway car, waiting for another subway to arrive and boarding.  Then they simply ride the subway for awhile, without any pants on, along whatever path they have been assigned, eventually converging on Union Square.

Considering that this was the 10th Anniversary of the No Pants Subway Ride in New York, hosted by the ever more infamous Improv Everywhere group, which boasted 3500 participants this year in the New York ride alone, I was surprised to find that many New Yorkers were still shocked, some appalled, but most amused, by our pantless display.  As predicted, at least a few subway riders asked me why I had no pants on, and I gave my rehearsed answers, "I forgot my pants today," or "It was getting hot so I took my pants off." If this provoked a response of, "Well, why are there so many other people without their pants off?," the natural answer was, of course, "I guess they were also getting hot/forgot their pants," or, "Didn't you hear about the warm weather we're supposed to have today?"  (It was 30-something degrees out, Fahrenheit).  Not everyone was fooled though... One young man did ask me, "So, is today Improv Everywhere's No Pants Subway Ride?"  I stared quizzically at him and responded, "Improv Everywhere? What's that?."

What surprised me the most about this day was not the size of the crowd itself, nor the willingness of participants to remain in their underwear once the event ended, and then to carry on the rest of their evening in such state of (un)dress, nor the announcement that the age of the oldest participant was 76, and the youngest was just shy of one year old.  Rather, I was impressed by the total cooperation we received from the New York City Police Department.  Our fine men and women in blue were there to facilitate throughout the whole process, at each of the six meetup points across Manhattan and the outer boroughs, while we rode the trains, and through the end of the event, ensuring that the ride went smoothly and safely.  All in all, everyone had a good time.

Oh and, Mom and Dad, if you're reading this, don't worry, I wore boy shorts.

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