Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Brave New World of Pajama People

I walk into the office to find Belinda at the window with Marge and Henrietta. They are staring at what appears to be an entire family wearing pajamas in public. “This pajama wearing is out of control,” Belinda says shaking her head. It’s an ongoing conversation we’ve been having for the past year or two, but these Pajama People sightings seem to be multiplying as of late. 

The social order is disintegrating before our very eyes. Anything goes. People wear pajamas to work and shoes to bed. Ridiculous reality TV personalities who were only supposed to amuse us and THAT IS IT have become viable political leaders, like battery-operated laughing Elmos suddenly given free will, world power and a menacing brow. 

No one's laughing now. Elmo's in charge.
Meanwhile, as newly sentient puppets and demonically possessed clowns take over the planet, turning fiction into reality and reality into fiction, and as millions suffer and starve under oppression, corruption and the indifference of those who could help but don't, some guy with too much money spends $100,000 on a Cheeto and doesn't even eat it.

Demonically possessed reality TV clown...and leader of the "free world".
We've officially transitioned into Bizarro Land where the absurd is reasonable and the reasonable absurd.

But the above absurdities aside, at the moment we're focusing specifically on the Pajama People outside our window.

“Look!” Belinda exclaims, “we have a mother, father AND their kid in pajamas! And look over there!” 

She gestures further up the street where two young women are strolling in terrycloth bottoms, one covered in hearts and rainbows, the other in Playboy bunnies. 

The one covered in bunnies does not appear to have brushed her hair. 

"And here!" We look and there's an oddly attired man and woman approaching the building. The woman is wearing a horned Viking bicycle helmet adorned with two long braids made out of yellow yarn, completing her ensemble with a pair of lightening bolt fleece. 

The man isn't wearing pajamas, but he is wearing oil-stained grey sweats that sag, but are too short for him and ride up his legs to reveal the mismatched orange and purple striped socks he's wearing. They're both carrying steaming Tim Horton's cups so it's not like they were in a panic to get here, which would have been a reasonable explanation for neither of them bothering to get dressed properly.

I stand beside Belinda, Henrietta and Marge, glad that others are just as perplexed as me by this strange phenomenon. How hard is it to put on a pair of pants? 

The other day I saw a grown man walking his dog in the middle of a subzero afternoon. He was wearing a one piece Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle number in flannel, as if he was a toddler who had just escaped nap time and was making a run for it with the family pet. 

Marge pipes in that she has been noticing a trio of Tigger, Pokeman and a purple dinosaur who stinks like weed all over town. She sees them in various unexpected locations like the courthouse, the library and wandering aimlessly around the waterfront. 
The conventions of civilized society are bullshit when you're a dinosaur. 
She thinks the dinosaur is permanently stoned, not just because of the stench, but because his eyes are always bloodshot and he seems to trip on his tail a lot. 

"And the dinosaur's pajamas are in terrible condition," Marge confides in the hushed, conspiratorial tone she normally uses when gossiping about coworkers, "all dirty and tattered around the cuffs and neck. I had to fight the urge to go up to him and ask 'what's wrong with you, do you need help'?"

Marge's unkempt dinosaur reminds Henrietta of a recent experience using public transit. There was a shifty-eyed guy on the bus wearing a Kermit the Frog onesie that looked like it had never been washed. He kept casting agitated glances towards another female passenger, who happened to be wearing a scarf covering her head and was sitting quietly staring out the window. 

It would seem Kermit had taken offense to the scarf, evidently deciding it meant the woman MUST be a religious nut whose very existence on the bus was infringing on HIS freedom of speech...as he freely ranted with spit, crazy eyes and raised fist at the stunned woman minding her own business in a public space.

Henrietta watched this scene with a mixture of growing concern, adrenaline and dare I say excitement (ever since she caught wind of the "safety pin campaign" she'd been prominently wearing an over-sized safety pin on the lapel of her jacket wherever she went. She had dreams of one day being someone's hero. Every once in a while we'd ask her if she'd had any luck with the pin, but she never did and was so disheartened over it that she didn't notice we were making fun of her. Really, until Kermit came along, the only attention she got for the pin was harassment...the very thing the pin was supposed to prevent).

When Henrietta realized Kermit and the fellow human being he was victimizing were not noticing the safety pin, she stood up from her seat and went to sit by the woman as a show of solidarity. This did nothing to deter Kermit, who had worked himself up to the point of TEARS (bigotry is emotionally draining), and Henrietta had to yell at the bus driver for assistance. But Kermit wouldn't listen and the bus driver had to kick him off the bus  beat it Kermit! 

No one was hurt, but the woman was visibly shaken and Kermit should probably see a clinical psychologist, preferably one who does not have tenure at the University of Toronto, but that's another, completely unrelated issue. Besides, Toronto is a long way away and considering Kermit's mental state, I don't know if we should be putting him on a Greyhound going anywhere without meds and supervision.

As for Henrietta, she has never been an associate professor in the Psychology Department of Harvard, but she does have a heart and a soul, so she was able to comfort the harassed woman without any formal training or a prescription pad. She's fairly proud of how the whole thing went down  safety pin vindication! – but does admit she's a little wary of frogs now.

Goodbye, Henrietta. Godspeed with the pin.
"But why are people doing this?" Henrietta asks, again bringing our focus back to the subject of public pajama-wearing. She's relatively new to the conversation and has not yet heard our various theories. She actually had never noticed the Pajama People before standing with us at the window and having them pointed out to her.

Belinda didn't notice them at first either, until she'd had enough of my constant grumbling about social entropy and how if you want proof it's happening, look outside at all the infantile adults walking around in pajamas with coloring books in their Hello Kitty backpacks. Out of exasperation and to hopefully shut me up, she grabbed Marge as a witness and finally did take a look and now she too, as well as Marge and Henrietta, cannot stop noticing pajama people everywhere they go.

In answer to Henrietta's question regarding why people are doing this, I tell her that I thought for a while we could chalk it up to another consequence of the welfare state mentality. You know, low-functioning citizens, proud of their ignorance and lack of employment. They never finished high school, barely made it out of elementary school and weren't raised to know any better. They've been left without any job skills and are either apathetic or angry, or a combination of both, in addition to being dumbed down and emotionally crippled from generations of abuse, addiction, poverty, bigotry and the ever widening wealth gap. They can't conjure up the effort it would take to get dressed because what's the point?

Instead, they sleep until noon in dank rooms, with frayed flags and wolf-themed throw-blankets covering nicotine-caked windows that haven't seen Windex in years. They smoke rolled up cigarettes, argue about whose turn it is to go to the bottle depot, and drink cheap beer instead of buying milk for the brood of children they started having at 13 years old. 

They proclaim 'no one's gonna tell ME what to do or how to dress!' It's the only area in life where they have any authority so you can't really blame them. Then they say 'fuck it', slip their feet into a pair of ratty slippers, throw the baby in a plastic covered stroller and head to the liquor store in their pajamas.

After listening to me rattle on, I sense Henrietta, who does volunteer work with marginalized people, becoming righteously offended by my insensitive stereotyping. 

I put my hands up before she can get mad at me, "Take it easy. I know not everyone who struggles in life fits the "welfare" stereotype or that even if they do it's necessarily their fault. Not everyone can claw their way out of the shitty circumstances they've been born into or escape the monsters that pursue them". 

For some unfortunate souls, the only thing that makes the wait until death bearable is a drug habit, even in spite of the guaranteed troubles that come with addiction (which isn't an endorsement of drug abuse, just an understanding of why it happens). However, none of that is what I'm talking about here.

"All I'm trying to say", I tell Henrietta before she writes me off altogether, "is that I realized the other day my assumption about Pajama People might be inaccurate. I realized this when I noticed a couple of upper-middle class Stepford wife types walking into Whole Foods sporting pajama bottoms, diamond studs and Hermes handbags. So it would seem this pajama wearing might actually be a trend like neck tattoos, cartoonish lip injections or this latest thing where young women with healthy eyes are using glaucoma drops to grow their lashes freakishly long".

My explanation seems to appease Henrietta and instead of storming out of the room she ponders, "But where did the trend originate? Is it possible it started from the bottom of the social hierarchy among the poor and working classes and made its way up to the well-to-do, like ripped jeans and distressed leather? A kind of class appropriation?"

Marge disagrees with Henrietta and suggests Hugh Hefner as the obvious culprit.

"But people are not all dolled up in silk and black lace with complicated ties and bows," I argue. "They are slobbed out in easy to pull up polyester with elastic waists or full body jammies zipped up to the chin."

Belinda thinks it's the $3 pajama bottoms she saw at Walmart that's doing this. "Half the people in this town are broke. A pair of pants for three bucks is appealing when you don't have any money," she opines.

I wonder if it has something to do with school pajama days running amok and spreading to the community at large like a zombie virus.

Regardless of the reason, however, whether apathy, the disintegration of social norms and graces, conforming to a rogue fashion trend, class appropriation, a symptom of hard economic times, or social contagion, the Pajama People are proliferating at an alarming rate and frankly they all seem pretty mindless no matter what strata of society they spring from. 

And this mindlessness is making things less safe for the rest of us. If some careless driver enters through the exit, you can be rest assured it's a Pajama Person. Someone runs out into traffic without looking? It's a Pajama Person. An argument breaks out in the express lane at the grocery store over item limits? A Pajama Person is involved.

Last week a Pajama Person, unable to make ends meet because jobs are impossible when methamphetamine rules you, was caught on camera robbing a local cold beer and wine store. Once the pictures went public, she was immediately identified by her skull and bones pajama pants. This balaclava-masked mastermind of stealth and cunning went to great lengths to disguise her femaleness under plaid, denim and padding, but then failed to change out of her pajamas, the most identifiable thing about her.

So that's it. We are officially transitioning through the looking glass. Adults are over-stimulated children in PJs hyped up on propaganda and porn. Children are sober-minded adults attempting to calmly and rationally explain how the financial system works and is ultimately corrupt, how climate science is sound and yes the world should be concerned, and finally how infinitely more meaning, satisfaction and purpose can be found in a life that is lived in wonder and in the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, spiritual truth and genuine social connection and mutual understanding, rather than one lived solely in the egotistic pursuit of power, status, sadism and material trinkets, whether fleshy trophies, fast-driving CO2 emitters, or gaudy, gargantuan playhouses.

Putin and Trump screwing the world in matching pajamas, discussing the practicality of enforcing mandatory bedtimes. 
It's a Bizarro World where reality TV has become reality and reality "fake news". At this rate, soon our world dictators will be showing up at state-sanctioned press conferences in sleepwear. They already cater to whatever hedonistic compulsion strikes them. In this brave new world, public displays of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and the Sultan of Brunei in classic men's pajamas only seems the next logical step. I haven't looked into it, but you can probably find Donald Trump butt flap onesies online with a high demand for the color orange.

It's not a smoking jacket, but baby steps.  First, pink PJ bottoms and the
Conservative leadership race. And then...a silk kimono and eviscerating Trudeau with a
spatula. And then...Prime Minister of Canada in a pair of Spongebob Squarepants slippers. And then...the world! He'll be so invincible by this point, he'll have the guts to tell homophobic Putin to go fuck himself and they all can come out of the closet together, holding hands in frilly, see-through numbers with plunging necklines.
What's next? Kevin O'Leary becomes Prime Minister of Canada, addressing the nation in a vintage smoking jacket robe via Skype from his home in Boston? Maybe we can get the Real Housewives of Toronto or Vancouver established as provincial or territorial Premiers? They can bobble around the country giving strip-tease speeches in lingerie and heeled slippers.

"Now you're just being silly!" Henrietta shrieks at me, this time storming out in a fury, much to Belinda and Marge's bewilderment.  It turns out Henrietta is a closet Real Housewives fan and I had offended her yet again. I didn't realize I was musing aloud. But, seriously, who could predict that of all the things I say that piss Henrietta off, mocking reality TV personalities would be the one thing, the final straw, that she would NOT tolerate.

What can be said? People are strange and humanity is a confusing place. It's not even mid-morning and already I cannot wait to get home and get into my pajamas. I suspect, though, that as a member of this confusing humanity myself, it's only a matter of time before I too find that I'm stepping out into public, perhaps in front of a moving vehicle, wearing an Elmo-colored housecoat and not realizing what I'm doing until it's too late.

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