Friday, November 16, 2012

A Parachute Pants Rollercoaster

The first fashion frenzy that I remember being a part of was parachute pants. I actually wasn't a part of it, because I didn't own any when the frenzy was on, but I remember when it happened, and how everyone in the world HAD to have a pair of parachute pants. It was 1983. Kids were bringing flattened cardboard boxes to school and practicing their breakdancing backspins on them at recess. Parachute pants were so huge, because they were what break dancers wore. And who was cooler than a break dancer after all? No one, that's who.

I did finally get a pair of parachute pants, six months later, when they were old news and hitting the clearance rack. My mom knew I wanted some, and now that they were cheap, she picked me up a pair. Unfortunately for me, maroon was the only color available by this time. All the cool black, red, grey and white ones had been bought up months ago. And doubly unfortunate for me, they weren't all that cool anymore either.

Years later, in 1987, there was a day when all my pants were dirty as I tried to head to school in the morning. My mom made me wear the hand-me-down pair of parachute pants that I'd received from my older brother to school. At this point, parachute pants were about as cool as bell-bottoms were. Acid wash jeans were the craze this year. The time of parachute pants had long passed. I was so embarrassed to be wearing parachute pants to school, and I just prayed that no one realized what I was wearing. They might mistake them for Bugle Boy pants or something, which were super cool at the time now.

Alas, my fears were realized when a girl named Amy got in line behind me at the pencil sharpener and asked with disdain, "Are those parachute pants?"

All I could do was mutter an embarrassed yes, and make haste back to my desk.

As you can see, parachute pants made an impact in my life growing up. The experience of being the poor bastard who couldn't have them made a lasting mark. So, I was very surprised years later to be talking to my wife and have her tell me that she thought parachute pants were those big, poofy 1001 Arabian Nights-type pants that MC Hammer danced around in on all his music videos. I'd never once heard those called parachute pants in my life.

She was willing to admit that she might be wrong about their name, however. After all, she'd grown up in a town so small, it was officially classified as a village, because it didn't have enough people to earn the name of town. Not necessarily on the cutting edge of fashion.

Just the other day, however, I was talking about parachute pants with someone else who wasn't willing to admit that they might be wrong. I moaned about the fact that I might be the only person left in the world who didn't mistakenly think MC Hammer's pants were parachute pants, and I was unequivocally told that I was the only person in the world who was wrong in thinking that they weren't.

I let it slide off my back at the time, but something about it bothered me. I got more and more worked up about it as time went by. The first thing in the morning, I got onto the internet to try to discover if I really was wrong. I read the Wikipedia article on parachute pants, which told me that I was possibly both right and wrong. Parachute pants were the breakdancing pants that I remembered, but as the years passed, they might have evolved into the idiotic pants that MC Hammer wore around.

Still, I was all ready to get on my blog and have it out. Parachute pants looked like this:

Not like this:

I was ready to hurl insults in the direction of the person who dared to call me wrong. I had several very specific memories involving parachute pants to refer to after all. I knew I was right!

But before I could get some time on a computer, I had to hit the streets for my commute. With a little bit of time now, my anger was already beginning to fade. I started to wonder what my deal was. Why did I get this indignant fury when I knew (or at least thought I knew) that I was right. My wife runs from any argument with me, because she knows that I'll get this way.

My parachute pants blog post was taking a different turn, but it wasn't even done yet. Just minutes from my destination, traffic started going crazy. The cars in front of me all suddenly jammed on their brakes, swerving to avoid the other cars in front of them that were also pounding their brakes. What was going on?

Then I looked to my right, and understood. The dust hadn't even settled yet from a rollover accident. There on the side of the road, a Kia Sportage lay on its side, windshield shattered, body pummeled. But what really freaked me out was the toddler that had just struggled its way out of the car. She was the only one out of the car yet, and she was only feet from the roaring traffic of the freeway. I had to get pulled over, and make sure that kid didn't wander her way in front of a car.

Luckily for the kid, there were dozens of other people stopping as well. By the time I got to the car, it was mobbed with people, the car's occupants were all removed, 9-1-1 had been called, and the people in the car all seemed to be fine. Which is crazy, considering they were inside of this car:

Here I was again, riding another loop in an emotional roller coaster. Could who was right and who was wrong about parachute pants have seemed more trivial than it did at this time? The answer is no. Suddenly, the random and capricious nature of life and death was what was weighing on my mind. I was really freaked out as the cops arrived, and, realizing that I served no purpose here, I made my way back to my car and continued on my commute.

I found myself unable to control my emotions for the last five minutes of my trip, tears flowed, dried up, flowed again. It was weird. Maybe I was experiencing shock or something like that. I don't know.

Making things worse, I arrived at work, and told everyone about the accident, and everyone's response was, "Was this the rollover on I-80?"

It wasn't. Apparently, this morning there had been an earlier rollover accident in which the driver was thrown from the vehicle and died.

Two rollovers. One I witnessed. One I didn't. One everyone walked away from without any serious injuries. One with a fatality. Life and death are capricious and random. And at any moment, Death's scythe could be swinging toward me or you. There's just no knowing.

It makes you think, for sure. And it also makes you realize that there are things that are important in life, and things that aren't. And I'm pretty sure that parachute pants aren't.


  1. Two accidents, one with a fatality. I'm guessing that the only difference was that the family in the second car took a few seconds to buckle their seat belts.

    And parachute pants? I couldn't afford any either.

  2. It's funny, I felt that same way when you refused to believe it wasn't Led Zepplin that recorded that terrible song. You wouldn't accept even the possibility that we weren't talking about the same version.

    Then I killed a homeless guy with a second-hand pair of garden shears, and I felt better.

    See? We're the same, you and I.

  3. i remember them i had a dresser draw filled with the things to wear to the roller rink. At the time I thought I looked like Joe Elliot (Def Leppard fame).