My Pants-less Subway Experience
After participating in the ‘No Pants Subway Ride,’ I’ve begun seriously questioning the need for pants at all.
By Josephine Werni, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
For as long as I can remember, I have had a distinct fondness for disrupting social norms in both simple and creative ways.
From pranks to flash mobs, I’m all about it. For this reason, in January of last year, I was drawn to the No Pants Light Rail Ride. I first heard about this little shindig from my friend’s younger brother, who had participated the previous year.
The No Pants Light Rail Ride is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: People take off their pants (only their pants) on the light rail. It takes takes place in Minneapolis, and is actually only one branch of an annual, international flash mob known as the No Pants Subway Ride. Minneapolis doesn’t have a subway system, so the event takes place on the light rail instead. Anyone that has nothing better to do that day than to strip on public transport can hop on at the starting point at the Mall of America and hang out, literally and figuratively, for however long they please.
Although I had participated in several flash mobs in the past, I’d never been a part of something quite like this. The No Pants flash mob was certainly the most organized and risqué one that I’d ever taken part in, but I’m glad I did. It was a delightfully weird day, and I feel as though I learned a lot about both what goes into this sort of thing, and a bit about myself as well.
Firstly, I learned that there is a lot of preparation involved in planning the perfect pant-less morning commute.
This was true in terms of the organization of the event as a whole, as well as what I needed to consider personally. The night before, I found myself struggling with loads of ultra important questions: Should I shave my legs? What underwear should I wear? Does a thong count as public nudity? I mean, your whole ass is out. How much of a statement do I want to make on top of the statement I’m already making?
I realized I’d need to remember to bring a purse big enough to store my pants in. I had to think about shoe choice as well. I wanted the pants removal process to be as swift and effortless as possible—none of that awkward yanking pants legs over heels business or shoelace bullshit.
I spent a couple minutes feeling envious of those who were participating in cities with warmer climates. Shorts would have been much easier to deal with. In Minneapolis, the weather that day was a high of two degrees, pretty typical of a Minnesotan January. I decided on sweat pants, slip-ons and a pair of underwear that was flattering but covered most of my butt, just in case.
In addition to figuring out the intricate details of how I wanted to pants myself, I needed to remember some basic rules that the flash mob laid out. Most importantly, the first rule of the No Pants Light Rail Ride is that you don’t talk about the No Pants Light Rail Ride. The whole point of the flash mob was that we were all supposed to act as regular as possible. If anyone asked what was going on, we were instructed to essentially answer with anything besides the truth. The more normal and boring the answer, the better.
This turned out to be one of the hardest things to do and ended up being precisely how I learned that I’m kind of horrible at improvising. When the ride was happening and the few brave people who weren’t just totally avoiding making eye contact came over to inquire about what was going on, none of my crappy answers sounded the least bit convincing. It was as though I removed most of my brain along with my pants, both of them crumpled in my backpack and taking a break from their regular functions.
Some of my brilliant comebacks to questions of what I was doing or where I was going included:
“I was just really warm.”
“I don’t know, where are you going?”
Throw in some stuttering here and there and you get the idea.
Another thing I learned on this sans pants journey is that, aside from the small amount of people who did vocalize their curiosity, most will try their absolute darndest to act as though they don’t notice what’s going on at all.
As I mentioned before, I’ve never seen so many people deliberately avoid eye contact with me in my life. While I thought this was sort of funny in the moment, I thought about it later and realized that although I would be pleased to witness something like this, I would also probably be one of the silent eye contact avoiders.
I think this stems from the fact that openly acknowledging a strange scene would require effort, which is something most people generally don’t feel like putting into their morning commute. If they did, they’d be out biking to work or something.
Lastly, a stop or two after pants removal, when I’d gotten over the initial rush of self-consciousness and warmed up a bit after the brief arctic exposure, I learned that not wearing pants is damn comfortable. Nothing is restricting the attractive way that your thighs double in width when you sit down or cutting of your circulation in strange places.
As a very short person who can’t yet afford to have my clothes tailored, I’m always dealing with the bottoms of my jeans bunching up at my ankles where they meet my shoes. Even shorts, which are more freeing than pants and usually don’t come with the same length concerns, have a tendency to stretch weirdly if you try to cross your legs. Taking pants out of the equation, I found, maximized sitting comfort significantly.
After my first experience with the No Pants Light Rail Ride, I felt more confident taking part in public, organized flash mobs.
I didn’t know anyone who participated personally before the ride, but you tend to from quick bonds with other people when you’re all gathered, pant-less, in a place that technically does not have any “no pants, no shoes, no service” signs on display, but you’re still hoping that no one calls the police anyways. I also now know that it’s always a good idea to have a couple prepared excuses handy when you’re doing something that draws a good amount of attention.
An official list of all of the cities that participate, which includes locations on every continent except Antarctica, is available at improveeverywhere.com. If you’re ever bored someday in January, having just made a new year’s resolution to step out of your comfort zone and you happen to live in a city with either a subway or light rail system, there’s a good chance that there’s a No Pants Ride of some variety that you can join.