He of Pants Unsuitable

Several years ago I designed a couple of chess sets, and among the feedback I received there was an e-mail from a gentleman named Ray, who also made chess sets and had, in fact, won some awards for his "themed" chess sets, which included a set made from various makes and sizes of fire hydrants. Ray was an interesting guy; during the course of our correspondence, I learned that he was about 50, that he lived with or near his mother, and that he'd served in Vietnam. He was single, and one of the last times I heard from him he'd taken off around the world to meet a Russian mail-order bride he'd been conversing with via e-mail. He got as far as Paris, as I recall, before chickening out. He sent a long group e-mail to myself and others of his friends describing the journey in lavish and sometimes eccentric detail. As an example of the latter, I recall a confrontation he described between himself and an airline employee at the Denver airport in which he was told that his "pants were not suitable for flying." His e-mail did not include a description of the pants in question, leaving the nature of their unsuitability for us to imagine. The incident is described in passing, as Ray's experience of the Denver airport was simply in passing, but I found the phrase evocative and it has since become one of my favorite idioms: "His pants are not suitable for flying" has, in my mind, approximately the same meaning as "his elevator does not go all the way to the top" and "he's one card short of a full deck." I say "approximately" because, while the latter expressions clearly imply lunacy characteried by deficiency, of one sort or another, "his pants are not suitable for flying" seems to lack this perjorative connotation. One whose pants are not suitable for flying is crazy in an entirely benign way; as long as there are responsible personnel to remind him to change them before boarding an aircraft, no harm can come of him.

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