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Flashback: Nantucket Reds and DC in the Summer

About mid-winter I get a little antsy and feel the need to organize. It is likely a touch of Cabin Fever. Having gone through all my physical possessions, I dug into my hard drive last night, and came across this email I wrote a college buddy about five years ago. I still think its funny:

To work today I donned a pair of Nantucket Reds--usually reserved for the weekends, but I felt that it would be all right, since I have a drink thing tonight at the Club and really just feel like being that guy.

Now, I know these pants evoke a certain reaction among people, and it may be the mid-July heat, but it is only 9:14 am, and I can’t explain the bizarre hostility I've received from people on the street. Its not like these are a rarity down here, but the looks...sheesh.

Making things worse, I decided to jump on the bus (such a mistake). Alighting, I was greeted by stares.  Fine, whatever--hubris carries us through. I paid the fare then sat near the front. I didn't feel like trekking to the back past the tired eyes of government workers, who "work 9 to 5, live for the weekend, and are constantly disappointed by rainy days and Mondays." The bus rumbled forth. And it began.

“Pink pants, nice,” the guy across from me, who looked like he just finished a midnight shift in a dumpster, said rather drawly.

Certainly, I’m not a confrontation type of guy, but given the heat (“With devils and those caves and the ragged clothing! And the heat! My god, the heat! I mean, what do you think about all that?”), such a remark could not go overlooked this morning. So I felt I had to explain: “Thanks, but they’re not pink. They’re red.”

Clearly not getting it: “Look pink to me, mister.”

“Well they’re not.”

“Where can I git me some pink pants like that?” Chuckles emanated from my fellow bus-riders, and even the driver. He was being quite loud. 

I wanted to, but I couldn't ignore him at this point. “These are (Elaine gulp here) from Nantucket.”

“Oh. They only wear pink pants on Nan-TUCKET?” 

“No, but that’s where they’re from.”

“They only make pink pants on Nan-TUCKET?”

“Um, no.”

“What’s so special about Nan-TUCKET. Goddamn pink pants.” He was really angry at this point and gesticulated wildly in a dismissive manner.  

Disregarding the fact that DC is in the midst of a “crime emergency”, I said: “They’re red. Nantucket Red.”  And with my ire up, I continued.

“See they’re made from the dried resin of cranberries grown in protected bogs on the island. Small Native American children pick the berries and crush them with their feet in large vats. This isn't what makes them special though,” I said leaning in a bit and lowering my voice. “You see lots of companies try to imitate this color, but no one can quite get it right. This is because this red is not just from the cranberries. Every now and again, one of the children slips into the vat, and...well…you know.” I winked at him.

The guy looked at me with wide eyes and was completely silent. I leaned back upright, and said causally: “Now, I’m not saying this is condoned, or that OSHA isn't aware of it. I’m just saying these pants are special, and have been for a long time. So, you know, people look the other way.”

The chuckles and smirks vanished. And the bus pulled up to a stop. The driver turned around and shouted: “You!” Pointing at me. “You git the hill off ma bus. Now git. Go!”

“Its true!” I said.


So I did. I had to walk a few extra blocks in the heat to work and sweat through my damn shirt. Fortunately, I work in the same building as a Brooks Bros., so I ran in to retrieve a fresh shirt. Rolling up to the register, the cashier looked at me and said: “Nice pink pants. We sell those!”

No wonder there’s a god damn crime wave in this city. 

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