The plan, as announced on urbanprankster.com, was simple: Meet up at 2 p.m. Saturday with a few dozen strangers at Dalva in the Mission. Get liquored up. Take pants off and ride public transportation. But it didn't happen quite that way.
Although about 50 people showed at Dalva, the bar happened to be closed. The prepared attendants took swings of pocketed flasks, while others stole furtive glances at each other and waited for a leader to emerge. Finally, one did. He was a shaggy-looking guy in his mid-twenties who was not interested in dallying.
"Alright," he said. "So we're gonna head down to the BART, and we're gonna get prepared." With that, the crowd began undoing belts and buttons to reveal various funky undergarments and brightly-colored socks. After announcing the route -- a BART train to the Embarcadero, then a MUNI train to the Castro, and finally, a descent upon Dolores Park, the leader reassured everyone that this would be a good time. "Be normal," he instructed. "Everything will be fine."
"Is a good time mandatory?" someone yelled.
These kids weren't the only ones running amok and pantsless on public transportation. A New York-based group of
pranksters that call themselves Improv Everywhere started the ritual
eight years ago, and supposedly this year enlisted flung-cities such as Adelaide,
Australia, Seoul, South Korea, and Calgary, Canada.
Our city's procession set out down 16th Street towards the BART station, seemingly very pleased with itself. The occasional passerby gave a quick smile, but most seemed unfazed by the large-scale absence of pants. As the swarm crossed Valencia, it engulfed a blind man with his walking stick. He sensed the chaos, and innocently asked, "What's going on?" The crowd informed him of his surroundings, and the man laughed. "I missed all the fun," he said, then threatened to disrobe.
At the BART stop on 16th and Mission, the group headed down the escalator and lined up to purchase their tickets. One by one, they passed through the turn stall, attracting a bit of attention from regular passengers. "Is it underwear day?" asked a teenage girl in a wife-beater. "Did I miss the memo?" Nobody really answered her, since pretending nothing was amiss was part of the hilarity. (Nevermind the flashing cameras).
When the entourage packed an inbound train, two girls began to complain that it smelled like weed, and that it was too hot. "I hope they get off soon," one girl said aloud. The pants-less passengers ignored the comment and made small talk. It turned out, a couple of them recognized each other from another event they had attended last year -- the masturbate-a-thon.
The real drama started after the group boarded their MUNI to the Castro, right alongside three young boys who wore their pants around their ankles but had nothing to do with the prank. One of them instructed his friends to check out the "bitches and faggots" with no pants on, which induced an angry if off-topic reaction from one girl. "If you touch my ass I will fucking punch you in the face," she said. "Learn some manners boy."
A regular passenger in big earrings stretching his lobes almost past his chin surveyed the scene with interest. Somebody asked him if taking his pants off had crossed his mind, and he shook his head. "Some other things have crossed my mind, heh-heh," he said. Soon after, the train lurched and the lights went out momentarily, triggering a moment of extremely uncomfortable silence.
When the group exited the MUNI station into the Castro, they found themselves sandwiched in an on-going protest between a Pro-Palestinian GLBT group and a Pro-Israel one. The two groups were shouting into megaphones, beating drums, waving flags, and chanting things like, "Free free Palestine! We're here! We're queer." The Pro-Israel answer to that was "Free Palestine from Hamas!"
A guy in tighty whiteys joined in the chant, only he altered it just slightly. "Free Palestine from...PANTS!" he proudly roared. Some pantsless girl behind him started telling her friend that if only Israelis and Palestinians shed their pants in public more often, then maybe that would solve the conflict.