Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Tightest Spot Yet

Disclaimer: For those of you easily skeezed out, this is not the post to read. If it wasn't for Dan's insistence, I would not have posted it. He thinks it is one of the funniest things to happen to me to date in Belgium, which makes me question not only his sense of humor, but whether he truly cares about me at all! Don't say I didn't warn you ... it's disgusting!

I have a love/hate relationship with public transportation. From a save-the-environment, reduce CO2 emissions sort of way, I love that I rely on public transportation. As someone that rides public transportation, I hate it, and not in the "I hate it because I'm a princess" sort of way, but more the, "I hate it because truly freaky things happen to me while on it" sort of way. Trust me, there is a difference.

To get to my French class, I have to take the metro to the Parc stop and then transfer to either tram 93 or 94 to Vleurgat, which means that I spend at least 20 minutes on the tram --- that's a whole lot of opportunity for something weird to happen.

The other day, I jumped on the tram at the Parc. Every seat was taken, but there was plenty of standing room. I grabbed a spot directly behind the driver's booth, next to the little orange box where you validate your tickets. I was facing the rest of the tram (my back to the driver), at the start of the aisle. There was a guy to my right, inside the little cubby space between the first seat and the driver's booth. The door to the tram was on my left.

We got to the Palais stop (the very next stop) and about 10 people shoved their way on -- pushing me into the little cubby space with the guy. I was still facing the rest of the people in the tram, but now I was tightly jammed into the cubby space, with a plexi-glass partition in front of me separating me from the first seated passenger, the tram window on my right, and the guy now directly behind me, also facing the rest of the tram.

As the tram jostled and shook, we alternated between me backing into him and him pushing me into the plexi-glass divider in front of me. Every time I was shoved into him, I turned my head (which was the only thing on my body I could move in the confined space) and apologized to the window. I could see from the reflection in the window, that he was staring out the window and not even looking at me, much less paying attention to my apologies.

As the train jerked its way toward the Arts Museum, I kept feeling something poking me in the butt. I thought it was the guy's hands, but when the tram lurched and he put both his hands on the plexi-glass divider in front of me to brace himself (one hand on either side of me), I realized that I had horribly miscalculated as to what it was poking me in the rear! I desperately tried to move sideways, closer to the door, to get away from this "uncomfortable" situation, but there was simply no room. Every time I tried to move sideways into the aisle, I got shoved back by a sea of people.

When we reached the stop by the Arts Museum, even though the tram was well beyond maximum capacity, it did not stop this one little lady from pushing her way on. Surprisingly, the people that were standing in the doorway and at the front of the aisle (where I had been standing before being shoved into the cubby hole) started parting so that she could get by. I was shocked as I have never seen anyone that polite on the tram, much less a group of them.

It wasn't until the lady had worked her way to within a couple of people from me that I could tell why she was getting so much deference -- the woman stank to high-heaven! Seriously, something crawled into this woman and died and was now trying to work its way back out. And, of course, the lady was headed straight towards me! She wedged herself between me and the orange box, facing the driver's booth.

I'm not sure if it was Ms. Stinky or Mr. Happy, but the longer and the rougher the tram ride got, the more skeezed out I became. Finally, I had totally mentally grossed myself out to the point where I had to vomit. The only problem was that there was no room for me to throw up! In front of me was a glass partition, to the right of me was a glass window, there was not enough room for me to turn and throw up on Mr. Happy, and if I turned and threw up on Ms. Stinky, then I was sure to hit my entire left side, along with my computer bag hanging at my feet.

So, I ended up throwing up in my mouth, which I then had to swallow, which started another vicious cycle of gagging/swallowing. Finally, I caught my breath enough to scream that I had to get off the tram!

Yes, riding public transportation is a real uplifting experience.

©2007 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.

An Even Tighter Spot

You know that famous quote about those that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it? Well, I'm doomed.

Like the total and complete idiot I am, I ventured out the other day in the only pair of tights I owned (having thrown the bright blue ones in the trash), not knowing that a little pair of black tights could lead to the second most humiliating day in my entire life. (Don't ask me to share the most humiliating day with you!)

I set out the other day in a black suit, hot pink shirt, black heels and black tights. Determined not to fall victim, again, to the poor lighting in my room, prior to leaving the house I asked my friend, Rach, who was staying with us, to please make sure that all my blacks matched -- right down to the tights. She said that they did.

Not that I don't trust Rach (but I don't -- she would so totally throw me to the wolves), I went to every room in the house and checked my colors. Yep, everything matched. As I was leaving, I commented to Rach how weird it was to wear non-control top pantyhose after all these years. It was as if I wasn't wearing anything at all.

I took off walking to the metro, wearing my long black full-length coat, which stops just below my knees, and carrying a large black purse on one arm and a computer bag on the other. Since my coat is a little bulky, the shoulder straps on my bag and computer bag kept slipping, so even though the straps were over my shoulders, I had to hold onto the bags with my hands so they wouldn't slide off.

As I was walking down the street, double-checking the windows along the way to make sure that my blacks were, in fact, all black in the light of day, I noticed that my tights kept slipping at the waistband. Since my hands were holding my bags, and my coat is pretty thick, it was hard to get a good yank on the waistband of the tights to pull them up. But, God knows, I tried. For quite possibly the first time in my life, I took comfort in the size of my hips. Deep down, I knew that there was no way that those tights were going to clear my hips. My comfort was misplaced.

By the time I got to the second corner, about to turn onto Rue Antoine Dansaert, which as irony would have it, is the fashion center of Brussels, I could tell by the winter chill on my bare ass that my tights had cleared my hips. I took comfort in the fact that I was wearing a knee-length skirt and a long coat.

Since I was stopped at a crosswalk with an abnormally large crowd of people, and my tights had slipped low enough that there was no discreet way to pull them up without giving away their location to all those standing around me, I had to come up with Plan B. I decided that I would cross the street and walk the short block to McDonald's and then pop into the bathroom and take care of the tights issue. I figured that if I took really long waddle strides, then, at least, I could keep my tights above my knees where they would still be hidden by my coat.

So, I took off across the street, walking slightly sideways and taking as long strides as the tights allowed. To my credit, the plan worked until I reached the front of the Marriott. I didn't have to look down to see how far my tights had progressed during the short walk up the block. I just had to watch the changing expressions on the Marriott Doorman's face as I approached. It was as if he was looking at a train wreck. Horrified, yet unable to avert his gaze.

In what can only be described as cruel, yet perfect, timing, the very moment that I was right-smack in front of the Doorman, my tights fell to just above my ankles! At least the Doorman had the decency to turn his head in embarrassment for me. The same cannot be said for the taxi driver and the impeccably dressed couple walking toward the Marriott entrance. (For the record, I don't care how talented a designer Calvin Klein is, tights around your ankles will completely destroy the look.)

In hindsight, I should have put my bags down, grabbed my tights from my ankles and pulled them as high as I could -- bare ass and Doorman be damned -- and continued on as if nothing had ever happened. But, you know what they say about hindsight being 20/20. Instead, I waddle-ran the rest of the way to the side door of McDonald's. I then waddle-ran through the restaurant, staring straight ahead so as not to catch anyone's eyes, and then waddle stepped down the flight of stairs into the bathroom -- all with my tights firmly around my ankles.

A smart person would have just taken the tights off and immediately thrown them away. Rather than think myself stupid, I prefer to think that the sheer humiliation caused my brain to misfire and forced me into yet another ill-conceived plan. Since I had just run through the restaurant with my drawers around my ankles, there was no way I was going to back upstairs and ask for a stapler or a rubber band or a clip of some sort. So, I rummaged through both bags and all my pockets looking for anything that I could use to MacGyver the tights up. No such luck.

Enter Plan C. In a sheer act of genius, I decided to pull really hard on the waistband of the tights, stretching it far enough so that I could get enough of it to tie a knot into the waistband. Voila! I had solved my problem with the tights. Now, I just had that little problem of walking back through Mickey D's.

As it turned out, there were some massive freaking flaws in Plan C. You might say that the plan came a little unraveled on my walk to the metro. I don't know what kind of material tights are made of, but I do know that, whatever it is, it doesn't like to stay knotted. And, to make matters worse, when stretched really hard, oh like say when trying to tie it into a knot, the material loses whatever "holding" property, if any, it may have had.

I had barely made it out of McDonald's when the knot gave way. Rather than have a repeat of the incident that just played out in front of the Marriott, I put my hand in my coat pocket, quickly grabbed at the waistband of the tights before it slipped past the waistline of my skirt, and held it in my fist. I walked all the way to the metro with my hands clenched in a fist inside my coat holding up my tights. When I got to where I was going, I took some black alligator clips, folded my tights over my waistband and clipped them in place.

When I got home, I resorted to Plan D, which was to throw the tights away!

© 2007 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

In a Tight Spot

Living in Houston, Texas and then Southern California, I never really got the whole "tights" concept. Yeah, they're cute on a two-year old little girl, but add thirty-five years and I don't see the attraction, or use, behind them. Besides, they are too thick and don't look good with most of the heels I own.

But, now that I live in Belgium, I've completely changed my tune on tights. You might say that I see tights in a whole new light. And, for that matter, I now get why European women wear not only thick tights, but jeans under their dresses --- It's called cold weather!

Before I left San Diego, I bought a pair of navy tights and a pair of black ones, thinking that I might, one day, have the opportunity to wear them in Brussels. That day came a couple of weeks ago, when I was invited to attend a European Union Parliament House Subcommittee Meeting on Human Rights, followed by a cocktail reception sponsored by the Canadian Embassy. To say that I was looking forward to the event is a gross understatement. I was beyond excited.

For the special occasion, I pulled out my dark navy suit, a black, navy and cream striped silk blouse, and my "oh-my-God-where-did-you-get-those" navy heels. Since it was a balmy 28 degrees, it was a perfect day to break in the new tights. I grabbed my long black coat, scarf and gloves and headed out the door, feeling tres European and absolutely giddy about the day ahead.

While on the metro, 2 stops from my destination, I looked down to admire my shoes when I noticed, for the first time, that my navy tights were not, in fact, navy. (I always knew that the lighting is bad in our bedroom, but, until that very moment, I couldn't appreciate how bad it really is.) My tights were not "admiral" blue as falsely advertised on the package, but more "asphyxiation" blue. Ever seen a cartoon where the guy starts choking and turns bright blue? That was the color of my tights -- surrounded by a sea of dark navy.

Freaking out, I did what most women would do under the situation. I started evaluating my options. Since wearing my full-length coat all day long was out of the question, and I did not have time to take the tram home and change, nor did I have time to pop in and buy some new ones even if the stores were open (which they weren't), I reverted to the standard fall-back -- I started looking around the subway train to see if anyone was dressed worse.

Ok, I thought to myself, at least I'm not wearing gold lame' knee-hi boots like the lady sitting directly across from me. Of course, any comfort I received from this thought was short-lived when I realized that I had just compared my "professional" outfit with one of a professional hooker's. So, I continued to recon the train. When we hit the Schuman stop, I relaxed a little when a lady got on wearing a bright lime-green full-length puff coat. At least I'm not wearing that! But wait, she can always take the coat off. Merde!

At this point, I am at my metro stop, cursing whatever color-blind marketing hot-shot thought up the label "admiral", cursing why tights would even be sold in San Diego, cursing my bright blue legs (yeah, I know, a real slimming color!), cursing all the 7-Eleven stores on every street corner back home with their sorry-ass supply of off-brand pantyhose that I would have killed for at that very moment in Brussels, cursing Dan for listening to me for once and buying cheap lighting fixtures because "why spend a fortune on light fixtures that we are just going to have to sell or leave here?", and cursing the weather, because it was too cold for me just to take the bright blueies off and go commando. That's a whole lot of cursing for a girl brought up in a God-fearing southern household!

Faced with no other options, I slipped into deep denial mode. By the time I had reached the office where I was meeting my host and escort, I had thoroughly convinced myself that the lower half of my body was invisible. I went about the day acting as if everyone was not staring at my tights wondering what the hell I must have been thinking when I put that outfit together.

So, it's a bittersweet memory for the Belgian Years. Yes, I had an experience of a lifetime and had the opportunity to attend a Subcommittee Meeting and even meet several members of Parliament, as well as the delegation from Quebec, but I did so in choke-me bright blue tights.

Copyright 2007 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.