Undies Across Europe

Getting to the Bottom of World Travel

There is this guy I know (he won't let me admit to you that we're married because of what I'm about to reveal) who travels abroad a couple of times every year on business. On these whirlwind excursions he manages to cram in visits to at least eight cities in as many different countries over the course of about two weeks. Professionally these are referred to as "Marketing Trips”. We have a different name for them around here.

This is how the ordeal typically unfolds (or in this case, how it typically folds.) The man I'm talking about – let's call him "Maynard” – begins packing for his semi-annual journey that will include stops in Brussels, Copenhagen, Frankfort, Madrid, London, Paris, Zurich, Edinburgh and Dublin. As per his usual custom, he starts by sorting through his current stockpile of underwear. Every pair is closely scrutinized. Each waistband is rigorously tested for elasticity and flexibility. The seams are examined for signs of fraying. The fabric is meticulously inspected for evidence of dinginess, excessive wear, and other shortcomings. After each pair is judged, it is then placed into one of two stacks – "still good” or "ratty”. What may surprise you (unless you know Maynard) is that the "ratty” stack is ultimately the one selected for his trip.

You see, rather than throwing out his old underwear like a normal person would, Maynard prefers instead to hang onto it until it's practically threadbare – at which time he packs it in a suitcase and hauls it across the pond. Once over there, he puts on a clean pair every day, and then at night, instead of placing it in a laundry bag to bring home, he simply tosses it in the trashcan.

The "bottom” line is this: Maynard may leave home with an impressive supply of "big boy pants” in his luggage, but by the time he returns a fortnight later, if he has calculated correctly (and he usually does, barring a flight delay requiring an extra night's stay) he's down to his very last pair. In other words, as he travels throughout that vast and colorful continent his unmentionables are being blithely deposited all along the way – hence our affectionate name for these jaunts – the "'Undies Across Europe' Tour”.

Of course even from here I can tell what you're thinking: "What on earth would make an otherwise perfectly sane man like Maynard behave in such a random and bizarre fashion?” and the short answer is I have no idea, although I'm fairly certain he's not trying to make any kind of statement by it. By that I mean he doesn't strike me as the type to consider disposing of a pair of worn-out drawers in a Geneva hotel wastebasket to be some kind of retaliation against the Swiss for introducing Americans to fondue (which he hates) back in the 1960's. The truth is, what he's doing falls completely within the bounds of foreign diplomatic protocol, and as far as I can tell his actions do not violate any of the terms set out in the Geneva Convention. After all, it's not like he's draping his drawers across the balcony at Buckingham Palace or running them up a flagpole at the Notre Dame Cathedral in protest. He's simply throwing them in the trash, that's all.

A much more likely explanation for his actions can probably be tied to the fact that he's frugal, thrifty, economical, prudent, parsimonious and cost-conscious to a fault (translation: he's cheap) so if anything this quirky little ritual just further demonstrates his reluctance to get rid of any item that might have even a whisper of life still left in it. In short, he will part with no pair of shorts before its time.

Naturally, one of the great benefits of leaving one's raggedy old underwear behind in every city one visits is that it gradually frees up a great deal of space in one's suitcase, which can subsequently be filled up with other stuff for the return trip home, should one choose to do so.

Does this mean that the traveler in question arrives at his own front doorstep bearing exotic gifts for his beloved wife that he has procured from far-off places? As a matter of fact, it does – in the form of an endless supply of free hotel soaps, shampoos, conditioners, sewing kits and shower caps.

As for those of you who were expecting him to bring home something more along the lines of fragrant Parisian perfumes or decadently rich Belgian chocolates or even a cheesy snow globe from the Vatican – well obviously you don't know Maynard like I know Maynard.

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