Sometimes in life, you see something you can’t forget—terrible things that leave a stain on your soul and make a return to normalcy an utter impossibility.
It happened to the boys in ‘Nam. It happened to anyone that paid the price of a movie ticket to the see the big screen adaptation of The Last Airbender.
It happened to me one unassuming afternoon in the parking lot of the local Target.
It was there that I spotted him—my doctor—Dr. Green.
He was shoving shopping bags into the rear of his SUV with someone I imagined was his wife. Noticing my doctor in a parking lot doing exactly what people generally do in a parking lot shouldn’t have affected me the way it did.
This is basic stuff, right?
The image shouldn’t have burned itself into the folds of my brain, planted a flag, and pitched a tent. It shouldn’t have made me want to punch young children and shove the elderly down the stairs. It certainly shouldn’t have caused me to question the whole of humanity and its purpose in the universe.
Which is exactly what happened.
You see, it was his pants.
The light brown khakis Doc Green was sporting were literally pulled so high they were tucked underneath his man boobs. They were so high that if he lowered his head, he could have rested his chin on his belt. They were so high he could have pulled his nipples through his fly in an awkward and desperate attempt to entertain the guests at the next family barbeque.
With his pants so high on his chest, the fabric of the legs came to an abrupt stop just below his knees. My wife calls them Gauchos.
My sixty-plus-year-old doctor looked like he was wearing Gauchos.
Below the dangling fabric of his khakis was an inch or two of hairy leg before a pair of striped socks appeared.
Striped socks? Dear God Almighty.
Oh, and he was also wearing sandals.
Brown ones—with Velcro.
Someone stab me in the eye.
Look, I’m not a member of the fashion police or anything. I don’t really follow trends. No one would ever consider me cool. I sometimes go six months without getting a haircut and a month before I bother to shave. I own maybe two pairs of pants and wear the same five shirts week in and week out. I’m scruffy. I’m scraggly. I’m lazy, and I generally don’t care.
If the doc had been sloppy, I could have dealt with it.
Sloppy I can understand.
Sloppy I can wrap my brain around.
Unfortunately, there was nothing sloppy about his attire. Everything he had on was neatly pressed. His shirt was starched, and the lines were as crisp and sharp as a Johnny Unitas buzz cut. His sandals were spotless, and his socks whiter than the light from heaven itself.
He took time to choose his outfit. It was obvious that he cared about his clothes and was concerned with his appearance. The pants wedged underneath the sweaty beef of his moobs were exactly where he wanted them to be and looked exactly like he wanted them to look.
He was a madman.
The whole thing was simply too much to handle. I felt like I was watching a snuff film. It was wrong—wrong on every conceivable level.
My brain exploded.
Instead of actually making the trip into Target to purchase the items my wife sent me to purchase, I hopped in my car and drove home.
It wasn’t right—having to see what I’d seen—it just wasn’t right.
It was plain old wrong.
How was I supposed to believe anything this man told from that point on? How could I entrust my health to him? How could I ever have faith that he could diagnose what was wrong with me when his belt buckle was most likely getting tangled in his chest hair?
I couldn’t. Not with the image of those pants burned into my gray matter and crazy-glued onto the reverse of my eyes. It was asking too much, and I wasn’t that strong.
No one is.
Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the garage and stumbled into the house like I’d just gone ten rounds with the Champ. I dropped onto the couch and coiled into the fetal position.
More than my obvious suffering, the wife noticed I was without the merchandise she requested. “Steven?”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t even blink. Blinking no longer existed. For the first time in my life, my eyes were open to the true horrors of the world, and they would never close again. I watched as the shadows on the wall slowly morphed into a pudgy Jewish man in a pair of high-waisted pants.
“Steven? Are the bags in the car?”
I forced myself to respond. My response was breathy, however. My words hung in the air and floated upward, each one sporting both sandals and socks.
“There are no bags.”
“What? What’s the matter with you?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and closed my eyes. The shadow doctor on the wall was waving at me, smiling from behind his salt-and-pepper beard and mocking my resolve with his high-pantsed atrocity.
Son of a bitch.
“I need to find a new doctor.”
“What are you talking about? Are you okay?”
It was a simple question.
Unfortunately, there were no longer simple answers.
“I saw Doctor Green at Target.”
“His pants were pulled really high. He was wearing sandals with socks. I can’t see him anymore. I need to find a new doctor.”
When the wife didn’t respond, I opened my eyes and stared blankly in her direction. She was standing on the opposite end of the room, looking at me like I’d just dropped my pants, drawn a pair of eyes on my butt cheeks, crammed a carrot up my rectum, and started talking out of my taint.
She sighed and shook her head. “Are you serious? You didn’t go into Target and drive all the way back here because your doctor’s pants were too high, did you?”
“Don’t forget about the sandals.”
“You can’t be serious. Are the bags in the car?”
“Oh, I’m being totally serious, and there are no bags.”
“Steven, go get the bags from the car.”
“There aren’t any bags in the car.”
Her expression transformed from confusion to anger—maybe something in between. I’ll call it confuser. Is that a thing? If it’s not a thing, it really should be a thing. It’s fun to type.
With a frustrated huff, she stomped through the kitchen, into the garage, and up to my car. A minute later, she was standing above me with her hands on her hips.
“You didn’t see how high these pants were. You don’t know.”
True to my word, I got on the phone and found myself a new doctor the very next day.
You’re probably reading this with an expression fairly similar to the one my wife tossed at me on that fateful day, and I honestly don’t care. You’ll never understand because you weren’t there.
Consider yourself lucky.