Sunday, I tried to buy pants. It seems simple, doesn’t it? What could be complicated about that? You go in and try them on. Pick the best fit. Pay and off you go. But alas, this is 2023 and nothing is simple anymore.

First, I went to a store that we’ll call “Macy’s” in order to protect the establishment’s identity.*

This was at a mall that was once a nice upscale place to shop. Now it’s a demilitarized zone that routinely winds up on the local news for shootings and other mischief. But I’m a smart shopper and know that the criminal element is usually sleeping in on Sunday mornings.

The place was a disorganized mess. No employees, just lots of guys wandering around like zombies —having had the life sucked out of them by the piles of random pants in no particular order. Each of them resigned to the fact that they wouldn’t make it home before the kickoff of the Colts game.

And if the disorganization and lack of customer service didn’t keep you from purchasing, the merchandising would. There’s a whole new jargon around the fit of jeans. They use names like tapered, athletic, slim, skinny, and people-who-only-eat-fortnightly size. For guys like me, there are “classic” and “relaxed.” Relaxed is code for “we put in extra room because you got the large order of chicken wings again.”

Despite the obesity epidemic in the U.S., the store had about 50 slim/skinny jeans for every 1 pair of relaxed. I looked around and didn’t notice many skinny guys. But they were all buying the skinny option. Maybe these were magic jeans? Maybe they would make me look much slimmer than I am?

So, I grabbed a pair along with the relaxed ones and headed to the dressing room. This, by the way, was the first time I encountered an employee. Up until now, the only non-shopper I saw was a security guard.

The employee at the dressing room was not there to help me or advise me on such things as style, fit, and fashion. Nope, her only purpose was to tell me the dressing room was closed for service, and I needed to go to men’s suits. Men’s suits were three departments away from men’s jeans, but I made the journey dodging perfume snipers and a random dog. It was at this point that I double-checked my phone to make sure I was in Indianapolis and hadn’t traveled through some wormhole to a third-world market.

When I arrived at the dressing room, a rack blocked the entrance, but guys were going around it. Apparently, this was the only one open in the entire men’s apparel kingdom and it was very busy. Once inside, I tried on the skinny jeans. These were going to make me look like a younger, skinnier man I was certain.

And I was certainly wrong. They didn’t even make it all the way up. There was no magic in those pants. I felt like I had been hoodwinked by a magic bean salesman. I took them off and tried on the relaxed pair. They went on fine, but they were mismarked. The length was at least three inches longer than what the tag said. I looked ridiculous. So, I left the dressing room with the intention of finding more to try on. And as I opened the door there was a line of guys 10 deep waiting to try on magic jeans.

I tried to save them the wait and the humiliation by telling them the pants weren’t magic. Suddenly an employee appeared and asked me to leave. Where was she when I was trying to find pants?

In the end, I didn’t buy any pants. Which, based on every signal the store sent to me, is exactly what they wanted. My wife says that there are no magic jeans. But there is magic food and it will accomplish the same thing. So, I’m typing this in my old jeans and looking forward to the broccoli I’ll have for lunch. Of course, one of those two statements is a lie. I’ll let you guess which.

Carry on, Citizens!

*It was Macy’s.