Well, I missed it again. While I was at home nursing a cold, thousands of people around the world were dressing down in January to ride public transit in their underpants.
This seems to be the official video from New York, where the event originated in 2002:
Looks like wacky fun for the whole family, doesn't it?
Improv Everywhere, "a New York City-based prank collective," started the event in January 2002, when seven men rode the MTA in their skivvies. The next year, 30 people participated, including several women. By year eight, the numbers had grown to 2,200 in many cities. It now seems to be an international juggernaut.
According to the sponsors, "The idea behind No Pants is simple: Random passengers board a subway in the middle of winter. The participants behave as if they do not know each other, and they all wear coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. The only unusual thing is their lack of pants."
The high temperature in New York yesterday was 37F. (Gee, I think, I didn't even participate, and I STILL got this crummy rhinovirus.)
No Pants seems to conclude in every city with a big get-together at a bar. (Personally, I would have suggested a sauna.) Presumably the underpants people like to share snickers about disapproving reactions they observed on the faces of shocked squares.
That's fine, of course, but I'm guessing it's getting difficult to find suckers willing to react in any way to their fun prank. The New York subway offers a great variety of human strangeness even on regular days. Not much shocks those riders anymore.
Still, there are at least few places where such a display would not be welcome.
Just last week, a heavily armed man declined to shoot a woman worker in a Paris magazine office. Instead he told her she should read the Koran and cover herself. In his ideal world, women most likely would be dressed like this:
Imagine his distress if he had lived long enough to see something like this on the Paris Metro:
Here's another thought. What if a student from an American women's college found herself in a train car full of people in their underwear? Imagine the horror.
Just last year, a temporary statue of a man in underpants -- not even a live guy -- on one such campus prompted so much dread and fear that a petition was launched immediately to remove the traumatizing artwork.
(Trigger warning: A photo is below.)
People do love to participate in things. We have flash mobs, all manner of demonstrations, selfies taken with celebrities or in famous locations, crowds scooting to Banksy graffiti sightings, naked bike rides, crowds outside the windows of network morning shows and thousands of people standing for hours in freezing cold to watch a ball drop on New Year's Eve.
Who knows what to make of it all?