Recently I had to have a medical procedure, the preparation for which required me to sit on a toilet for several hours. The ominous gurglings emanating from my bowels brought to mind Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “what comfort can the Vortices of Descartes give to a man who has whirlwinds in his bowels”.
Rather than seeking solace in Descartes’ vortices, I found myself scrutinising the label of the inside of my briefs. I have already pondered the meaning of the warning “keep away from fire” – yes, it was there again – but this pair had another somewhat mystifying notice, “part of a three piece set”. Without anything else to do and fearful of the consequences of moving from the porcelain throne, I mulled this over in my mind.
When I buy underpants, there are a number of criteria that that the garments have to satisfy. They have to be capacious enough to accommodate my nether regions comfortably, they have to be of a fabric that won’t irritate, there has to be the correct number of pants in the packet and they have to be of a colour that wouldn’t cause me to die of shame if I was carted off to hospital unexpectedly and they were revealed to the medical staff. I can understand that the reference to my briefs being part of a three piece set being marginally useful at the point of sale, but is there a deeper meaning, I wondered?
Slightly horror-struck, I began to wonder whether I had been wearing underpants incorrectly throughout the years. Perhaps they had to be worn in layers, three being designed to provide maximum comfort. And rather like a matryoshka doll, was each imperceptibly bigger than the other to ensure that perfect fit? And how do you know the order in which to put them on? When I was able to liberate myself I saw that the other two pairs of briefs had the same label. No help there, then.
Perhaps I had inadvertently bought a packet of briefs designed for the exclusive use of triplets. You can imagine the scene. A person is found wandering the streets. The helpful sign in their underpants alerts the authorities that they are one of three. This sort of knowledge may help enormously in returning the lost soul to the bosom of his family.
Perhaps on a more mundane level, the label is designed to engender some order into the drawer containing your briefs. Helpfully, the label will allow you to store two other pairs of briefs bearing the same label with this one. But the system breaks down if you are wearing a pair – clearly there will only be two in the drawer – or if you were foolish enough to buy several packs of briefs bearing the label. Think of the chaos.
The only sane conclusion was that it was of no interest to the wearer but at least pondering the question gave me something to while away the time. Fortunately, the results of the procedure were rather like my bowels – all clear.