I have found that moments of inspiration do not happen too often for me. And when such moments strike, I need to make an effort to do something about it quickly. If not the moment is lost. The worst that can happen is that you forget about the subject that got you excited originally. The other possibility is that you end up thinking more and more about the subject and decide that it was not so inspiring after all. You end up making a judgement about something without even trying. You could end up fooling yourself. I say this from experience.
So it is with the way I write. There is that eureka moment when I think to myself that I have something to say, and if the moment lasts, I can get it on paper. But if I do not do anything about it, it could be a moment lost. You have to give it a shot even if you sometimes end up with something uninteresting, uninspiring, and off the wall.
I had such a moment last week where I did not get a chance to act on my instinct. But this time the thought, that spark in my imagination, persisted at the back of my mind. I do not know what will be lost in the delayed translation, but I am about to put the thoughts down on the virtual page.
It happened one Thursday, the day after an impressive snowstorm hit town. It had snowed the whole day on Wednesday. People had stayed home from work since no attempts were being made during the storm to clear the local roads. I decided the next morning that I should drive the Subaru to Great Falls on the Potomac River to see how things looked after the storm. It was bitterly cold that day, and the roads were not in the best of shape, but that was not about to stop me. I dropped Teresa off at her place of work before heading out.
On the way to the park, at a gas station (petrol bunk?) where I had stopped to fill up on petrol, I ran into the building rubbing my frozen fingers (through which I could not feel anything) and enquired about using the restroom. The woman looked at me somewhat blankly, and wordlessly pointed me to a door with no sign on it. I tried the door a little warily since there were a bunch of cops standing around for some reason or another. The door did not open. I turned around and headed quickly back to the car before I could get into trouble with the law. But I still needed to pee. (As some can attest, the cold does that to me often!)
So it was that I ended up at the Burger King on Shady Grove Road looking around desperately for a restroom. Once in the facilities, I proceeded to take care of business. But it was after that moment of relief that the moment of inspiration took place. My zipper got stuck! No amount of effort would make the darned thing move. Things were made worse by the fact that I had not yet completely recovered sensation in my fingers. Since I had encountered the situation of the stuck zipper once before and had managed to resolve it, I knew that there was a solution. But it appeared that the solution was not going to present itself immediately. The long jacket that I was wearing provided a perfect cover as I slunk out of the facility with my front unzipped.
But the moment of inspiration was not specific to a stuck zipper, something that in itself is quite amusing. The inspiration was to write about my experiences with buying clothes, more specifically pants that fit me, while I have lived in the US. It is this ongoing adventure that had brought me to this particular moment in the restroom at Burger King.
I came to the United States in 1980 as one skinny kid. I was most certainly underweight by American standards. Back in India there was no issue with getting clothes that fit you because the normal practice in those days was to get them stitched to your size. This was certainly not the case in the US. However, that having been said, I did not really have an issue with pant sizes during those early days. The natives of this land may have been bigger than me in general, but not big enough that they did not make pants in my size. A statistician might say that my waist size was just a few standard deviations off the mean waist size, and this justified the vendors actually creating pants in my size. And perhaps vendors were more willing to cater to people who did not meet the “average”.
But things slowly started to change. I began to have more difficulty finding pants that fit me. I think there were two factors in play. One was that the manufacturers were tightening up their production to try to cater more to the customers who had waist sizes closer to the average. The other factor was that Americans were becoming bigger around the waist in general. I could find something that fit me, but it took a lot of searching. It did help (in a sense) that I began to put on weight during those days. (This phenomenon of putting on weight was something that used to happen to a lot of people who moved from India to the US.) But I would also guess that my rate of increase of girth did not quite match some impressive achievements by some other people from the Indian subcontinent in this regard. While others kept up and could get pants in their size, I was always on the threshold.
And then something else changed. I began to lose weight once again. This time it was because I was forced to try to do so because of my health. This turns out to be a mixed blessing when it comes to matters of clothing. While my waist size continues to drop, the general population is trending in the other direction. Getting proper fitting clothes has become an issue with both shirts and pants. During the last few years, on more than a few occasions, I have bought pants that I knew were too loose. I did this because I had no other choice. I have become dependent on the use of a belt. My hope was that the loose shirts I was wearing would hide the fact that the pants were scrunched up and tightened around the waist to a size less than what they were designed for.
As a last resort, I have started looking for pants in the “young men” sections of stores. I have started looking online knowing that warehouses are most likely to stock fringe sizes. (Buying clothes online is risky endeavor for other reasons.) After a long search I recently managed to find something that seemed to work in the kids section of a department store. The problem is that the cut of the pants in this section is different from what I am used to since the product is targeted towards a different demographic. It seems that kids wear their pants quite low and tight these days, perhaps to emphasize certain aspects of their physique. The crotch area is snug to say the least, and it takes quite an effort to attend to nature’s call quickly. When you are in a semi-public place and when your fingers are frozen from the cold, it gets more interesting. Somehow the design of the front-end is optimized for looks rather than purpose. And if the zipper has a tendency to catch, the situation becomes all the more interesting, leading to moments of inspiration!
I can tell you of another amusing incident with regards to pants that do not fit. I was wearing this pair of jeans than had fit me reasonably well in the past but had become quite loose around the waist. Since it was quite old, I had decided to wear it in the working environment at Manna where it was likely to get dirty and/or ripped up. But fortune (or misfortune, depending on the way you look at things) had another adventure in store for me. My belt broke while I was working. The pants were loose enough that they could have slipped completely off my waist. It was an emergency situation! I looked around for something I could use as a replacement for the belt. Luckily I was able to find a plastic strap that had been cut off one of the boxes. I did not want to walk through the warehouse holding my pants up with one hand, and holding a strap in the other. I found a quiet corner of the facility close to where I was working where I could do the required re-engineering, managed to tie the strap around my waist with a bow in front. I got through the day without losing my pants!
And so the search for a solution to the problem of oversized pants continues. I was lucky very recently to find a department store where they had a pair of pants in the adult section in an abnormally small size, smaller than anything I had seen anywhere else. Hopefully the store will not go out of business, the store will continue to sell that particular product, and specifications for that product will also not change. I will find out the next time I need new pants whether there is still hope for me in the future.
And so I have come to the end of my delayed effort to recreate the moment of inspiration. I do not know if this has been a successful effort, but I have to admit that I did enjoy writing this little piece.
Catch you later….
Here is a picture taken during my trip out that day.