It was the year 1984 and I was a dashing 19-year-old. On that fateful morning, I woke up to the shock realisation that I had overslept my alarm. In a panic, I threw on last night’s jeans and rushed to the 9.15am Sunday Service at Liverpool Uniting Church. It was a day I will never forget…
I was a new member to the church and as a budding amateur guitarist, I had recently joined the music team. The church had long been traditional, but with the new “move of the Spirit”, the church had introduced more contemporary music.
As I stood on stage, playing my acoustic guitar and tapping my foot, I began to feel something uncomfortable in the right leg of my Levi jeans. With each tap of my foot, the uncomfortable feeling on my right leg grew… I dismissed the odd sensation and continued to play along to the song, as the congregation worshipped the Lord. To my relief, by the end of the song, the uncomfortable feeling was gone! The congregation quietly took their seats, humbled by the worship. The Reverend John Hall stoically stood at the pulpit until all of the musicians and singers had vacated the front of the church.
One by one, I switched off all the amplifiers until I was alone on the upraised platform. I began the descent down the steps, with the distant goal of reaching the back pew where I had earlier placed my Bible. It was at that moment that my nightmare truly began. As I lowered my head respectfully, I noticed a white object, flopping about on my foot — terribly contrasted against the blood red carpet.
It’s hard to adequately describe the utter embarrassment I experienced as my eyes fell upon a pair of underwear, flying up and down like a Mexican wave on my shoe. It wasn’t a very nice pair either… actually, it was my worst pair of underwear — once white, but now a streaked beige colour with badly stretched elastics.
My mind went back to 1975 at Miller Public School. I was 10 years old and we were walking in two lines towards the Michael Wenden Swimming Pool for an afternoon of free play and swimming. As my Mum had instructed, I bought with me a clean pair of undies to wear afterwards, which I had carefully wrapped in my towel. The were the white Bonds kind, with a joey pouch at the front and dual green stripes around the circumference of the elastic. I don’t know how they made it from the secure confines of my towel to the brown dust under my feet, but I do know that when my classmates started kicking them around in the dirt, laughing and yelling “Look, someone dropped their undies!”, I heartily joined in, not daring to admit the perverse game of self mocking that I was partaking in.
Fast-forward nine years, and the next few moments played out like a slow-motion action thriller. Adrenalin shot through my veins as the soiled undies flopped sideways on my shoe, as if nothing held them there but gravity. In a quick-thinking moment of brilliance, I bent down as I was walking, trying to tuck the underwear back into the leg of my jeans whilst still progressing forwards. The action was unsuccessful. I felt the eyes of the congregation peering into my soul, as if questioning the righteousness of one with such soiled undies.
I was about 3 metres from the first row of pews when I noticed a spare place in the second row. In an apt impression of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I darted into the seat just as Reverend John Hall began speaking. As discreetly as possible, I started tucking the undies back up into the leg of my jeans and into my sock so that they wouldn’t fall out again. At that moment I said a little prayer.
Firstly, I thanked God that the undies were not sitting in the middle of the aisle for all to see and silently judge… I wondered what I would have done in that case. Would I have pretended they were not mine as I had nine years before? Yes, I think I would have.
I also thanked God that Mary Lou Jones, the pretty, blond, blue-eyed girl I had a crush on was teaching Sunday School that morning. If she had witnessed my undies floating around on my foot, the world would have surely ended for me that day.
Occasionally, I have a bad dream that the undies are sitting on the red carpet and Reverend John is looking down, pointing and booming in the voice of God, “Who dropped their undies on the carpet?!” and someone points at me and exclaims, “They are his!”
Yes, everyday I have a lot to be thankful for.