am walking in the woods with my dogs. I am peaceful. Centred. At one with The Great Green Goddess. I spy another couple walking down the path. I know them slightly and we pause to chat.
But something is amiss. We palaver amiably enough but they seem ill at ease, unwilling to meet my gaze. They look to the heavens; they study their shoelaces. They crane to the east and they peer to the west. They will not look me in the eye.
After several awkward moments we part company and I am left with my dogs to wonder — a forgotten slight? Something I wrote perhaps? A few hundred yards down the trail my hand brushes across my thighs and I solve the mystery.
Oh crap. My fly’s open again.
I don’t know if it’s a harbinger of impending geezerdom or mere wishful thinking, but I find my fly seems to be at half mast more often of late. Odd, when you consider that ‘doing up your fly’ is something all lads are supposed to master before they get out of knee shorts. Doubly odd when you consider that a gaping fly is a no-win condition. Mortification all around.
Geoffrey Chaucer and his Middle Ages pals didn’t have to worry about accidental breaches in their breeches. They wore codpieces — a kind of sliding manhole cover (think of it as a ‘man bra’ but with only one cup).
Codpieces were functional but less than subtle, fashion-wise. Along about 1700 tailors came up with what they called a ‘fall front’ — a flap of fabric that functioned something like the breech-clout that North American Indians had figured out centuries before.
When you think about it mankind has never had a rock-solid solution for the codpiece/fall front/button/zip fly problem. What complicates the conundrum is that men are lazy slobs. We want to get ‘er done with a minimum of interruption and inconvenience. Women don’t have a fly problem because they sit down and do the job properly.
And obviously, women don’t have an ‘open fly’ problem either. If they did, they would doubtless have come up with a diplomatic, non-humiliating way to say “Hey, buddy…your fly is open.”
Not that there haven’t been some splendid attempts. General euphemisms for informing someone that their clothing is in need of adjustment abound. I’m rather fond of “Paging Mister Johnson….Paging Mister Johnson…”
I’m also intrigued with the idea of putting on a big black studly voice and rumbling: “I’m talkin’ Shaft — can you dig it?”
“Security breach at Los Pantalones” isn’t half bad, nor is “Our next guest is someone who needs no introduction …” But personally, I prefer the personal touch — warnings custom-crafted for the poor schlub with the open portal problem.
For a dishevelled computer nerd: “Excuse me, but you have Windows on your Laptop.”
For vegetarians: “Don’t look now but the cucumber has left the salad.”
For rock fans: “Attention, attention…Elvis Junior has left the building.”
For nautical types: “Now hear this: Sailor Ned’s trying to take a little shore leave.”
For airline passengers with a fly problem: “Time to bring your tray table to the upright and locked position, sir.”
For lovers of classical literature: “Quasimodo needs to go back in the tower and tend to his bells.”
What’s also missing is a suitable retort to the news that your fly is open. Usually it’s a mumbled “Oh, Geez, thanks eh?”
Winston Churchill knew how to handle such a situation. Using the facilities in the House of Commons one day during his final years in office, Winston turned from the urinal to the washstand, only to be confronted by a fellow MP who fluttered about trying to tell him the bad news as delicately as possible.
“Ah, Sir Winston, you should know…ah, that is to say, er. You…um….Oh dear. It seems your flies are open.”
“What of it?” growled the 90-year-old Churchill. “Dead birds don’t fall out of nests.”
Arthur Black is a regular News columnist.
He lives on Salt Spring Island.