My childhood was active enough. I was as fearless as any toddler. I frolicked in the mud and climbed on now-banned metal jungle gyms. I was rambunctious. Then I met the pajamas with the feet.
At first I remember loving the idea. Those PJs were unassuming, but warm. Comforting. The itchy brown fabric was completely tolerable because it offered me spacesuit-like cocoon protection against those cold New England winters.
The gloriously padded feet sported rubber bottoms that provided me with just the right amount of grip for taking hairpin turns at the bottom of the foyer stairs and into the family room. Indeed, where socks would have sent me tumbling into the family's ancient grandfather clock near the front door, these pajamas caught firmly, and allowed me to perform running maneuvers around the house that were the envy of my less fortunate and less pajama-fied best friends. I trusted that clothing absolutely and completely. In hindsight, such naivety was probably my downfall.
You see, I was young. The contraption on the front of these pajamas was alien to me. The zipper. I didn't "get" it or how it managed to take two separate pieces of fabric and join them together. So, my mom had to help me get dressed.
At first, the arrangement was uneventful. Mom would hold up the pajamas with the feet like a NASA technician, and I would jump into them, eager to get it all over with so I could bolt down the stairs and orbit around the house at close to 10 mph. But before that, I would have to turn 180 degrees so mom could lock me in by pulling up the zipper. This is how things went for the first few months of winter. Jump in, turn, zip up, run away. Safe and sound.
But then one day, as I vaulted into those welcoming PJs with the feet, something was different. Perhaps mom had a bad day at the office. Or maybe it was the fact that it gets dark at 4 p.m. in Massachusetts during the winter, and she was depressed. I have no idea. Whatever it was, it had distracted mom to the point where she wasn't taking into account all the variables in the task she was about to perform.
Son in PJs yet? Check.
Turn to face me? Check.
Grasp zipper? Check.
Execute zipper pull? Go for launch.
Missing in that checklist, of course, was any mention of my penis or its location at the time.
Now, before we get to the part that sends roughly 60% of Gizmodo's audience into a pathetic fetal position, a brief aside. Many of you might think calling a mere zipper a "machine" is as big a stretch as any, but to that I say you've definitely never experienced what I, Ben Stiller's character in There's Something About Mary, or millions of other unfortunate men have experienced throughout history since the invention of the blasted zipper. Or you're lying about having a penis.
Whatever your story is, I deliver this aside about "the machines" because, believe me, I'd take a run in with a T-600—flayed skin and personality disorder and all—over another run-in with that zipper any day of the week. Those teeth. That unforgiving gnashing sound as the mechanism slowly grated its way northward toward my junk. The muffled, organic yank the zipper made as it bit into my flesh. The Pinch. The—
Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I seem to have fallen out of my chair.
Anyway, to this day, some 20+ years later, I still subconsciously think of this story when I put on a pair of jeans, or do up a pair of slacks. Button flies are a godsend, in my opinion, and I was forever a changed man after that day. A little more tentative; a little more cautious. Especially with you know what.
Everything works fine now, I assure you, but those feeted pajamas went into the garbage that day so fast the plastic bag melted against the can. My mood at the time was the antithesis of that final scene from Terminator 2. Whereas John Connor wept, my relief at seeing that damned invention heading into oblivion was palpable.
The big bag of ice felt pretty damn good too.
Machines Behaving Deadly: A week exploring the sometimes difficult relationship between man and technology.