Here is a valuable lesson I recently learned: Before leaving home, make sure your shirt isn’t inside out.
It hadn’t occurred to me before. I have been putting on shirts for years – pants, too, for that matter – without any serious problems. Sure, there might be a faded spaghetti stain here or there or maybe a small hole of little consequence, but no major shirt-related mishaps had befallen me in the past.
That is, until the Monday after a trying weekend of attempting to stay warm during a record cold snap with a semi-functioning furnace and a myriad of other problems I will not go into due to space and time limitations.
I awoke on that frigid morning facing a deadline three hours earlier than usual due to impending bad weather and quickly gathered up an ensemble to protect me against that impending weather -- heavy work pants, a three-button thermal shirt and a pair of boots. It’s not a look suitable for the boardroom, but it would do for a small-town newspaper editor who might later be in the alley trying to get the delivery van started.
I slipped out of the house without facing a mirror or seeing anyone, only the dog and she said nothing about my shirt, although, thinking back, I may have heard a snicker.
At work, I peeled off my coat, scarf and hat and began pouring coffee down my throat, knowing it takes about a quart until I attain the jittery confidence to face the start of another work week.
Co-workers came and went and we exchanged pleasantries.
“How about our favorite sports team?”
“Indeed. It’s a gutsy squad.”
“I wholeheartedly agree. Did you ever post your brother-in law’s bond?”
“No, we decided to let him sit in jail a few more days and maybe he’ll think twice before taking a sledge hammer to his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend’s truck.”
Those are just examples and may not reflect actual pleasantries.
During these conversations, no one said anything about my shirt being inside out.
I proceeded with my work day, one eye on the impending weather and the other on the clock, which was hard because the window and the clock are on opposite sides of the room. I had to squint to make it work.
Just before lunch, our receptionist called and said a gentleman was downstairs in the lobby if I had time to talk to him. She did not use the code word identifying that gentleman as a disgruntled reader with an AR-15, so I did not have to decide on which coworker to use as a human shield to make it out of the building alive. Things were looking up.
The gentleman was there to discuss matters above my pay grade, but I listened, made a few notes and nodded in all the right places. At no point did he say, “Oh, by the way, your shirt is inside out.”
I discovered that on my own while microwaving leftover beans and rice for lunch. I looked at my sleeve and saw a seam that should not have been visible. I reached up and felt the buttons at my neck and the exposed tag in back. Yep, inside out.
Remarkably, no one had said anything.
But, if they had, I am good at thinking on my feet – much better than I am at dressing myself – and several responses flashed through my mind.
“Congratulations. I was conducting a social experiment, noting the varied reactions to someone who has committed a fashion faux pas and you’ve contributed greatly to my important research.”
Or: “It’s Spirit Week at the newspaper. Today is Inside Out Day and tomorrow is Pajama Day. Did no one get the memo?”
Or: “It’s a hip-hop fashion trend I’m starting. Don’t be a hater.”
I went to the bathroom and reversed my shirt, a lesson learned. And, for good measure, I double checked my pants.
Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C. and a humor columnist/ Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.