A New Pair of Pants
Baker’s pants were too tight. He finally decided he needed a new pair. Maybe two. He’d packed on some flab since the pandemic began. He called it “covid weight”. His shirts had grown tighter too but he wanted to wait. He hoped the weight might fall off sometime in the future and, though the shirts were tight, they weren’t too tight like his pants.
Baker drove to WalMart for some new pants. He wanted Dickies Classic Fit, the ones that rest a little below the waist, not above. But he knew from experience not every pair of Dickies with the same waist and length fits the same.
Baker strapped on his mask and walked into the store and found the fit and size and colors of pants he wanted. He walked over to the dressing rooms to a women in a blue vest he thought was the attendant. She looked at him.
“Yes?” she asked.
“I need to try these on,” he said, showing her the pants.
“Dressing rooms are closed,” she said. “Been closed for a long time due to the virus.”
“I can’t try them on?” Baker asked.
In a soft, pleasant tone, she said, “Buy them. Take them home and try them on. If they don’t fit, bring them back, no questions asked.”
Baker began to fidget. He pulled at his mask to get a little more air.
“I don’t have time for that,” he said. “If I didn’t need to try them on first, I’d have ordered them online and saved myself this hassle.”
“Sorry,” she said.
Cursing under his breath and the mask, Baker marched back to the rack of pants and threw his on a pile. He was pissed. He’d been considering new pants for weeks and now that he’d finally pulled the ripcord, he was getting stymied. He was storming out of the store when he got an idea.
Baker strode back to the men’s department with renewed confidence for getting his pants. He picked up the same pairs he’d carelessly thrown back on the shelf.
On his way to the men’s room, he looked for the sign stating no merchandise is allowed in the toilets. There was none, though Baker was well prepared to say he hadn’t seen it if there was.
He stepped into the restroom with his pairs of pants. He smelled feces, even through the thick fabric of his mask. For once he was glad to be wearing it, though it’s overall effect against the stink was minimal. There were only two stalls – side by side – and one already occupied. Baker pegged this guy as the culprit of the odor since it’s heaviness suggested freshness too. He could hear the guy speaking. He saw the guy’s shoes and his belt and pants down at his ankles. And he had plastic sacks sitting on the floor. Through the thin plastic, Baker caught sight of a box of cheese crackers.
Baker weighed his options. Forget the whole thing? Or move forward in spite of the interloper and his odor?
Baker really needed those pants. He’d been putting them off for weeks and he didn’t wanna wander around the store anymore waiting for this guy to leave and his odor to dissipate.
Baker went into the adjoining stall and locked it.
The guy next door continued his mumbling. It was something about his dick. From what Baker could make out, he was saying, “It’s my dick. Don’t you bother with it. Don’t worry about it. It’s my dick.”
Baker couldn’t tell if he was mumbling to himself or somebody on the phone. Under different circumstances Baker might have taken an interest in the conversation, but he was, at the moment, too focused on the matter at hand.
Baker took off his shoes. Then slid out of his pants.
The guy next door ended his discourse about his dick to ask Baker what he was doing.
Baker told him to mind his own business.
“You stealing over there?” the guy asked.
“Finish your shit and whatever you’re doing with your dick,” Baker commanded. “And pick your goddamned snacks off the floor. It’s a restroom. There’s piss all over the floor.”
“You’re a thief,” the guy said. “And don’t you worry about what I got in here. They’re in sacks so they’re protected. Why you looking at my stuff so hard anyway? You planning on stealing it too?”
“I’m just trying on a pair of pants, motherfucker. Now, like I told you, mind your own business,” Baker said.
The guy flushed before Baker heard any ripping or jostling of the roll of tissue in its dispenser.
“I’m telling ’em you’re in here stealing,” the guy said.
“I not stealing,” Baker said. “I’m just trying on a pair of pants since the dressing rooms are locked.”
Baker could hear the guy buckling up. Baker heard the rustling of plastic as his neighbor picked his sacks off the floor, then left without washing his hands.
Baker hurried in and out of one pair of new pants, then into the other. Both fit well so he put his own pants back on and left the stall.
Nervously, Baker exited the restroom. A portly, white-haired cashier was outside waiting. She was wearing some sort of mechanical looking orthopedic boot and standing there propped up with a cane. It immediately struck Baker he could probably shove her to the ground and take off. Then again, he considered, she might be pretty skilled with the cane.
“Sir, there’s no merchandise in the restrooms,” she said.
“There’s no sign saying you can’t take merchandise in the restrooms,” Baker insisted. “I checked before going in.”
“It goes without saying,” the woman said.
“Well, the dressing room’s closed,” he said. “I was just trying these on.”
Baker held out the pants.
“Dressing room?” she asked. “You mean the fitting room?”
“Yeah. Same thing,” Baker said, “I figured it went without saying.”
“I’m going to have to call security,” the cashier said.
“There’s no need. All I took in was these pants.”
“It’s policy,” she insisted. “Stay here.”
She went to her registered and called the supervisor who called security.
A few minutes later, a kid in a WalMart shirt walked up to Baker. The kid looked maybe 18 and very thin – not malnourished, just not fully developed yet. Carrying an opened bottle of Pepsi, he walked up to Baker looking bored, skinny and indifferent and like he couldn’t beat up most of the girls of his same age.
“You security?” Baker asked.
“I was in the back taking a break and keeping an eye on the monitors for a while. So I guess so.”
“You didn’t see me on the camera going in there with these pants?”
The kid shrugged. “I didn’t care. But somebody ratted on you, so now I’m involved.”
“What about a manager? Or a supervisor?” Baker asked.
“I’m all you got, bro. So tell me what’s up. And let’s make it easy. I don’t wanna have to fill out any paperwork.”
“I was just in there trying on these pants. Your dressing rooms are closed.”
“You gotta take them home to try them on,” the kid said. “You know the restroom’s not for that.”
All Baker wanted was some new pants.
“You gotta be kidding me,” Baker said. “I can go into the filth of that nasty bathroom with piss all over the floor but not the dressing room? I can take a dump in the same goddamned stall as the guy who stunk the joint up but I can’t use the same dressing room as him? I can use the same stall where his cock and balls and nasty ass were out, but I can’t use the same dressing room? You kidding me? How do I know that guy in the stall before me didn’t have the virus? We can share the same toilet in the same stall but we can’t share a dressing room?”
Baker what livid. He pulled at his mask again for more air
“It’s just policy, sir,” the kid said. “And please, keep the mask on. It’s store policy too.”
“It’s a sty of filth and germs and viruses in there,” Baker said, referring to the restroom. “But that’s okay. But the dressing room’s not? Fecal plumes. You know what fecal plumes are? You’re probably too young. And some guy had his goddamned snacks in there.”
The kid pulled down his mask to take a drink of Pepsi, then replied, “I don’t know about fecal plumes or about anybody taking their snacks in there. But it’s a free country and if he wants to eat his snack on the commode, then he can so long as he’s got a receipt.”
“But I can’t use the dressing room?”
“No. And you can’t take merchandise in there that’s not been paid for.”
Baker, furious, looked all around, pretending to be bewildered.
“It’s like Stalinist Russia,” Baker fumed. “And it doesn’t make sense.”
“C’mon. It’s not that bad,” the kid said. “Listen, I’m not even gonna pat you down. You want those pants or not? If so, just pay and I’ll let you go. No hassles.”
Baker had already lost. But he wanted a little taste of revenge, at least. If nothing else, he thought he might coax the kid inside to get a deep, healthy whiff of the heavy shit stink he’d been so demoralizingly subject to.
“It smells to high heaven in there,” Baker said. “I think you ought to check it out. I think somebody might have had an accident. It could be a serious health risk.”
“Odor’s no crime,” security said. “Besides, that’d be a matter for housekeeping, not loss prevention.”
In his final act of defiance, Baker dumped the Dickies at the kid’s feet, declaring, “I’m done.”
“Well, there’s nowhere else to try on a pair of pants,” the kid said. “Fitting rooms are locked up everywhere.”
Baker stormed out, flipping security the finger.
“Maybe all the dressing rooms are closed,” Baker said. “But not all the toilets.”