This post originally appeared on Medium.
I work for a really big mall. One of the biggest malls in the world, in fact. I usually work downstairs in the offices in the mall’s basement. But last week, I was sent aboveground to help set up an art exhibit on the second floor.
Curators had laid out on the floor images taken by talented photographers in the area. The pictures were organized on the ground in the same arrangement as they would appear on the wall. My job was menial and simple: take each photograph, apply adhesive to the back of the print, and replace it on the ground for the curators to mount on the wall.
The job wasn’t labor-intensive. All it required was bending over to pick up the photos. Unfortunately, it was the simple act of bending over that did me in.
Not long into the job, I went to retrieve another photo — again bending at the waist to pick it up off the ground. This time, a loud POP accompanied my motion, and an alien breeze on my ass let me know that my pants had ripped from taint to tailbone.
I snapped to attention and backed into a wall as I looked around to see who might have noticed my mishap. A coworker standing near me apparently had, because she immediately doubled over as she burst into uproarious laughter. My face turned red and I’m sure I started sweating. I motioned for another coworker to come over. This coworker, yet unaware of my predicament, stared at me inquisitively, apparently confused by the look of panic on my face.
“Here’s the plan,” I started when he’d reached my spot on the wall. “I ripped my pants.”
A wave of new laughter rushed over my female coworker, who had stifled her guffaws long enough to hear how I would breach the subject when I called the other coworker to me. Blinking through tears, she pulled out her phone and snapped a picture of me, standing awkwardly against the wall and conferencing with my colleague. (The picture she took, which features me, beet red and flipping off the camera, quickly made its way into the phones of half a dozen colleagues with the caption, “Here’s the plan. I ripped my pants.”)
“My credit card is in my briefcase downstairs,” I continued. “I need you to grab it, run to H&M, and buy me a new pair of pants just like these.” My male coworker then turned to the other and mirrored her laughter — the two of them barely able to stand upright as they clutched their abs with glee. I reiterated my point: “I need you to go buy me a new pair of pants.” I gave him my size and implored him to hurry.
When he finally composed himself, my coworker departed to retrieve my card. Before he left, he made sure to tell the curators what had happened; and they joined in the laughter, now reverberating loudly in the exhibit area. I just hoped that it wasn’t enough to draw attention from passerby.
Let me remind you that I work in one of the largest malls in the world. So there I was, ass to the wall and paralyzed as I waited for my colleague to hunt down a pair of pants.
Five…ten…fifteen minutes passed. Then my phone buzzed in my torn pants. “These work?” the preview text read. I opened the message to see a photo of obnoxious, brightly colored sweatpants. “Ha ha,” I responded. Another text came in, this time of navy blue slacks identical to the tattered pairing airing out my butthole. “Perfect. Thanks.”
Another ten minutes passed before my colleague returned with the pants. My back still against the wall, I slid to a corner mostly out of the public’s view. My coworker stood guard as I dropped my damaged drawers and pulled the new pair on. Of course, that’s when I realized that H&M’s products run small — and my new pants didn’t fit in the slightest.
They were so small, in fact, that I couldn’t even button them around my waist. The pants hugged my legs so tightly I couldn’t pinch the material between my index finger and thumb. My ass, previously treated to an unexpected breeze, now clamored for air as the tight pants refused to relinquish their stranglehold. I looked at my coworker; and for the second time that day, panic flashed on my face.
“Oh my god,” he grinned, the laughs building in his belly. I tried and failed again to button the pants. Gradually, I began formulating a plan to escape this predicament for good. I untucked my shirt and pulled it over my too-tight waistline. I slipped on my shoes and, restricted by the pants, neglected to tie them.
“Is the receipt in the bag?” I asked my coworker. He nodded. I stuffed my old pants in the bag, gave him a look of determination, and then set off toward H&M.
Allow me to reiterate: I work in one of the most gigantic malls in the entire world. So there I was — shirt untucked, shoes untied, and walking stiffly through the mall in dress pants so tight I belonged on stage at an emo-punk concert. I shuffled along, avoiding eye contact with mall guests and hoping that they didn’t notice the absurdity of my dress.
About halfway through my journey, I heard a whoop from a balcony above me. There stood four of my coworkers, hanging over the ledge to enjoy the show. “Looking good!” they joked, drawing the attention of more than a couple shoppers. Blushing, I waved and smirked knowingly, looking forward to the day some misfortune befell each of them. Straight-legged, I trudged onward.
I rounded a corner and finally saw the neon red H&M emblem, like a life-saving beacon in the fog of a stormy night. The store teemed with shoppers, scurrying in and out the large front doors. Clutching my H&M bag, I wound my way to the men’s section, picked out the right size of pants, and made my way to the check-out queue.
When the cashier finally called me to the register, I leaned over the counter and said quietly, “I’ve got a unique situation here.” I went on to explain my problem and that I needed to exchange the pair of pants I was wearing for the pair off the rack. All tattoos and gauged earlobes, he laughed sympathetically and told me I’d just have to purchase the new pair before taking them to the dressing room. Fine, I agreed, and I swiped my card before moving swiftly to the dressing rooms, where I once again explained my predicament to the attendant.
At long last, I closed the door to the changing room and began arduously tugging the unyielding pants from my suffocating legs. But as I pulled the properly fitting pair on and sighed deeply in relief, I thought to myself: thank god I work in this massive mall.