Editor’s note: This guest contributor story came to us from South Carolina author Bob Spearman. Bob is not related to our publisher Robert Spearman (Bob is much funnier) but they claim to be “brothers from a different mother.” We hope you enjoy his story.
My wife has been on my back to buy some new underwear. I don’t know why. Most of my tighty-whiteys are less than ten years old, still have some elastic stretching in the waistband, and only a few small holes here and there, nothing major. These undies are familiar and comfortable. But she says, it’s time to restock the drawer.
So I agreed to at least look next time it was convenient. I listen and try to please my wife when it’s reasonable. While in Walmart last weekend to snag a few standard consumables, I walked past an aisle of men’s underwear. All the big brand names like Fruit of the Loom, Haines, Jockey, and others were advertised on sale. So I thought what could I lose except a few minutes to browse for wife-pleasing replacements.
One reason that I procrastinate on buying new underwear is due to the hit or miss issue of comfort. It’s the reason that when I find a brand and style that fits, I wear them until the elastic won’t hold, even with a pin or some duct tape or until the holes become embarrassing even to me. I delay because some brands just don’t fit, too tight, no room to breath.
You men out there understand exactly what I mean. Unless you’re walking around with the ‘I was in a gang in prison look’ or you were Tom Cruise fake singing in a movie, nobody else sees our undies except our wives, maybe our kids, or occasionally one of your gym buddies. Our gym buddies don’t care, because their undies are just as crappy looking as ours, so you just move on, they aren’t looking anyway.
Finding the right pair can be a challenge. The store clerks are not keen on men in the dressing room trying on underwear. It’s tricky to put the undies back in the plastic package and who buys a pack that has obviously been tampered with? Not me, thank you. It’s not like getting a discount at Lowes on an inadvertently opened back of potting soil or fertilizer. It’s not cool to take a packaged of pre-opened underwear to the cashier. She’ll think you did it. Unlike a fancy suit or dress, you can’t return the things after a night on the town, and you decide, these don’t fit, I’m chafed. Anyway, I digress.
At Walmart, I found the Haines section for men’s basic white tighty-whiteys. Haines is a well-known brand and usually provides what they advertise. The shelf was stacked with packs of four, a good number to test for comfort without breaking the bank. These packs were on sale for seven dollars. Not a bad deal considering that I might wear them for five, or six, or maybe even ten years if they hold up. So, I grabbed a pair. The package size read, SMALL. Wouldn’t fit. I looked on the lower shelf, SMALL. After a few minutes, I discovered the underwear packets stacked on the entire shelf, top to bottom, and front to back were all SMALL. A SMALL is what, 28 to 30. No man older than 30 wears a waist size of 30. Unlike golf, where shooting your age is quite an accomplishment, wearing your age is not a good thing with regards to your underwear waist size.
I continued to search. Nothing but SMALL on the shelves. So I moved on, the middle of the aisle was empty, utterly void of men’s underwear. At the other end of the aisle was a bag that had nine pair of undies by Fruit of the Loom, but I’m sorry, that’s too big of a commitment for me. The pack was only twelve dollars, but still, nine pair is like changing out half of my tried and true undies, I couldn’t make myself do something like that. How stupid would I feel if I went home put on a pair and they were too tight or too loose? I would feel foolish for having been duped by the smiling guy on the front of the pack.
I moved back to the middle of the aisle. I just wanted a small pack, three or four pair to test. I would have paid as much as seven dollars for a three pack; you can’t be cheap with this piece of clothing that guards your manhood. There were empty Haines boxes where the medium, large, and extra large belonged. Nothing. What happened? Walmart was out of this essential human commodity.
This situation got me thinking about what could have gone askew. Was a Walmart eighteen-wheeler in a ditch somewhere, held up in traffic, or the shipment delayed due to a lack of drivers? I drove behind a Walmart truck on my way to Walmart that had a sign on the back, ‘Drivers Needed, Benefits and Bonus.’ You know they are desperate. Stores like Walmart keep their shelves stocked at all times, so maybe it was a short term issue; a driver shortage issue.
The Walmart store with the empty underwear shelf was just off Gandy Boulevard in Tampa. It’s the closest Walmart to MacDill airbase, the headquarters for Central Command and SOCOM. I thought maybe there had been a new group of trainees at the base that all needed new underwear after their first parachute jump, or maybe there was a special mission where the guys had to leave quickly and left all their undies back in the middle east. So they sent the logistics guy to Walmart to refill the rucksacks of a platoon of good men. I don’t know, but for Walmart to have empty shelves, something is wrong, some national crisis must be lurking.
When I returned home, I shared the dilemma with my wife. While explaining the shortage, I was scanning through the TV channels for the evening news. The broadcast teed-off with another story about the Chinese tariffs, and it hit me. The reason for the tighty-whitey shortage was the tariffs on China. The announcer said these tariffs were likely to hit Americans where it hurts the worse. I had to agree. They noted that soybean farmers would be taking it on the chin. I wasn’t sure what soybean farmers had to do with the underwear shortage, but the whole issue now seemed clear, and the chin is not the worst place to be hit. The news reporter seemed to be confused about how tariffs are applied.
I told my wife that until we can get a new trade deal with the Chinese, the underwear shelves shall remain vacant. Then I told her that it’s a good thing I’ve got at least another two years before my current well-fitting undies will be a disgrace. She told me that time was two years gone by. I told her that we were all suffering and had to make sacrifices for the good of the nation. We can only hope that a deal with China will soon be reached, that Walmart hires more drivers and that undies made in America will soon fill our shelves.