Being a reporter can be pretty stressful work. You're often asked to visit strange, unfamiliar, and, sometimes, dangerous places, and when you get there, you're not always the star of the party.
That part, I've gotten used to. There's one thing, however, that nobody ever tells you in journalism school - the sheer number of pants you will destroy. I usually try to cram a four-day-weekend's worth of fun into my two-day weekends in anticipation of the hard week ahead. Rather than hitting the town, I spent last Saturday night in Walmart, replenishing my supply of pants.
It was really that much of an emergency. If I hadn't made the late-night "pants stop," I may very well have had to go to work on Monday in board shorts, exposing my bony, chicken legs to the horror of all.
Pushing my squeaky shopping cart through a surprisingly crowded Walmart, I was reflecting on the fact that I have obliterated five pairs of pants since starting at the Clayton News Daily. Some of that has happened in the field, but most of the clothing carnage has happened right here at the office.
The first few pair of pants I destroyed were done just by sitting in my chair working.
Originally, my desk had a wooden, slide-out keyboard tray. The tray was completely useless, as it constantly jammed into my knees (I'm six-foot, two inches tall ), so I removed the tray from its hooks.
Now able to feel my legs, I assumed I would be extra productive. However, the hooks, which I had failed to remove, constantly scraped against the top of my pants, just below the pockets.
The result was khaki pants that resembled tattered relics from the 1980s. I eventually got under my desk with a screwdriver and removed the hooks altogether.
The next two pairs of pants I destroyed were suit bottoms. Those are harder to replace. Even more frustrating, the two pairs of suit bottoms were destroyed in the same week.
For some reason, when I have to sit for long periods of time, I usually sit on top of my left foot. I remember reading somewhere that the habit means you are an extremely thoughtful person. The habit, however, is apparently terrible for people who like to wear pants.
In the same week, I developed large, "L-shaped" holes around the right back pockets of both pairs of pants. With a jacket on, nobody could see it, but without it, clearly more than my pockets were exposed.
I tried to salvage the pants by taking them to a tailor, but it only made the damage more obvious. I might as well have repaired the pants with a "Strawberry Shortcake" iron-on patch.
As a consequence of my job, I carry a lot of pens in my pockets. Sometimes, I forget to put the cap back on and they mark up my pants. Occasionally, the pens explode.
Another pair of khaki pants recently bit the dust by way of ink damage.
Last week was by far the most brutal on my britches. While trying to take pictures of a century-old, abandoned graveyard, I unexpectedly was required to go on a "Man vs. Wild" trek through a six-foot-high briar patch full of thorns, thistles, snakes and insects.
Without a machete on hand, I was forced to blaze a trail with my own body, tearing my pants to shreds in the process.
I've worked in warehouses, stockrooms and other labor-intensive jobs in the past, but, somehow, I have always walked away with my pants. I guess journalists don't have that luxury.
The next time you see someone wear the same pair of pants two days in a row, don't snicker at their lack of fashion sense. They might just work for a newspaper.
Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.