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I had finally had enough. I needed a new dryer. For 10 years my old one worked fine. But in the last month, all my shorts were shrinking and getting tight around my waist.

I've had a 34-inch waist for the past 25 years. I was active in sports; softball two nights a week, rollerblading, tennis, biking and golf. I could eat anything I wanted and never gain a pound. I knew it couldn't have been my fault. I tried to remain positive and think this through.

I began noticing the dryer problem about two weeks after I tore my knee muscle in June playing softball. The doctor ordered, "No sports or activity that require knee bending for a month." So what was I to do?

Although these were beautiful summer evenings, I was limited to the same boring routine. I grabbed a beer, an ice pack for my swollen knee and headed to the front porch. I propped my leg up on the railing and mumbled, "Gee! A bag of chips would go good right about now."

Two beers and half a bag of chips later, I hobbled back to the living room. I was getting a little restless being so inactive. I glanced at the ab toner in the corner by the end table. You know the one -- that sit-up contraption no one uses after the first week they buy it. I pulled it out, dusted it off and set it in front of the television.

No sooner did my head hit the support, the rest of me began to relax. Three sitcoms later I was in that same position, semi-comatose, conceding that maybe tomorrow was a better day to exercise. It was time to dump that three-pound piece of metal back where it belonged.

I went to my drawer to put on a new pair of shorts. "Damn that dryer!" I screamed as I barely hitched the snap. As the feeling slowly returned to my numb fingers, I realized this dryer had seen its last load.

Every night I came home from work only to waddle to the front porch to ice my knee and knock off a few brain cells. The only exercise I got was opening the refrigerator and kicking the ab toner out of the way. I was miserable. Everything that made summer fun for me, I couldn't do. As the weeks rolled on, the distance from the pant snap to the other side couldn't be seen without a pair of binoculars. I even started hand-drying my shorts over the shower curtain, but it was fruitless.

It wasn't until I went golfing that the answer came to me. It was a cool and windy day. My friend offered me his extra pair of 36-inch jeans from the trunk of his car. "Well, they'll probably be too big for me but it's warmer than these shorts," I said to myself. As I snapped the jeans on, they fit perfectly, just like mine used to. It felt good to put a pair of pants on again without the possibility of dislocating one of my fingers in the attempt. Now I was puzzled. How could these oversized jeans fit?

I tried to understand the logic. His jeans have a 36-inch waist. I have a 34-inch waist. It wasn't until I drove halfway home that the only possible explanation became obvious to me.

My friend's dryer was shrinking his pants, too.

JIM SCHNEEGOLD lives in Cheektowaga.

For writer guidelines for columns appearing in this space, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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