Wardrobe malfunction

com·man·do (kuh-man-doh)

1. A member of a military assault unit or team trained to operate quickly and aggressively in especially urgent, threatening situations.

2. One who chooses to dress without underwear. Word uses include going commando; commando-style.

Call it what you will – commando, freestyle or Jockey-less – there’s an elite corps of humans (many of us Durangoans) who opt to keep their fruit out of the looms. For many, living without the constrictions of those tight whites has led to enhanced quality of life, an absence of waistband rub and fewer trips to the dreaded Wal-Mart.

That said, there was once a time when I viewed commando-style with extreme disdain. You see, my dad was a master free-baller, having abandoned his tighties for looser living shortly before enlisting in the Army. Dad believed in hanging it all out there and never bought into the “additional support” argument. In his world, the cotton undergarment was little more than an adult diaper – there to keep the man down and any embarrassing spills far from the public eye.

I, of course, rebelled against his naked sentiment with enthusiasm. To counter his free living, I spent nearly two decades wrapped in the so-called “comfortable cotton fabrics and carefree cotton blends” of Fruit of the Loom. While my dad strolled around the Southwest in a Bohemian state of bliss, my younger brother and I lay trapped beneath the exclusive Comfort-Loom™ waistband, imprisoned inside the legendary reinforced seams of the company’s Classic Briefs.

Fortunately, we all come to embrace some of the parental passions we once rejected, and my personal indenture would be short-lived. Shortly after graduating high school and leaving home, I happily fell into my father’s dirty little habit. In an understated ceremony, I burned my cotton briefs and left the Comfort-Loom™ waistband along the side of the road. I’ve done very little “Jockeying” in the nearly two decades since, and there have been few negative side-effects (visit Plumber’s Crack or Hanging Brain for elaboration). Of course, that all changed recently.

First for a little background, let me say that I enjoy a very special commute to and from the Office (both the place of work and the drinking establishment). It’s approximately 6 miles between the area formerly known as the underwear drawer and downtown. And I make that trek day-in and out almost exclusively by bicycle. Sadly, there aren’t many heroics to share – the ride is a relative breeze on all but the coldest and snowiest mornings.

Nonetheless, a night in the more enjoyable of the two Offices can turn that casual pedal into a ride of Bataan Death Pedal proportions. A wandering front wheel always adds another mile or so to the trek; the bike occasionally works better as a walker than a pedaler; and peril is often waiting behind every corner. There’s one stretch in particular – the 250 pitch-black, river trail yards behind the high school – that has repeatedly dropped this commando rider and his steed.

As chance had it, a recent visit by the brother-in-law inspired one of my biannual late nights at El Rancho and a return to this dreaded section. Though many fluid ounces fell and several tall tales were spun, the bike handled surprisingly well as I approached that midnight gauntlet.

But blame it on fate or habit, a front wheel wobble did materialize. That hiccup developed into a swerve, and before I knew it I was out of my pedals in a last-ditch attempt to stay off the asphalt. That’s when my commando skills became more detriment than benefit.

During that slow-speed tumble I just happened to hook the right-hand pocket of my “work-shorts” – the lone curtain between the privates and the public – on the nose of my saddle. Like a piece of notebook paper, the canvas split with an audible tear from belt loop to lower leg (thank you, Carhartt). And at that moment, I went from a happy (and buzzed) bike commuter to a dazed (and drunken) man wearing what appeared to be a pair of assless, canvas chaps.

The commando was officially down.

However, there were upsides to that most public of humiliations.

A mere four miles remained on the bike ride home; no police officers happened to be patrolling said four miles; it is extremely dark at 1:30 a.m.; my brother-in-law magically picked up his sluggish pace and insisted on riding at the front thereby offering me a much needed draft; and a pair of tired old briefs were waiting in my bedroom dresser once that deadliest of missions was accomplished.

The truth is that my Jockeys are still usually on the shelf and most often I can be found frequenting the trenches. But I also learned a rare and valuable lesson on that fateful night. Sometimes a man needs to turn back and embrace those carefree cotton blends. And there are moments when he is most definitely in need of additional “support.”

– Will Sands