The woman had made the usual greeting, then a look of dissonance flashed across her face.
I'd seen that look before when I've thoughtlessly put a shoe on tatami, or walked into the Ladies. I had done something egregious.
And I recalled she was looking towards my crotch when that look flashed.
I did a quick zipper-check. Oops, wide open: I was doing the flashing.
Real hikers don't wear underwear, at least that's what I've read. Mercifully, I'm not a real hiker
But the zipper wasn't just open, it had failed. That these pants hadn't entirely fallen apart was a minor miracle. They're my favorite hiking pants, my pants of choice for six years. But the Velcro pocket fasteners were half-hanging off, the fabric looked tugged upon, elastic was no longer elastic, and the zip-off legs were a different shade from the rest of the pants.
I had a mountain to climb, a hikers' bus to ride, a hotel lobby to walk through, and a gaping fly. I started to feel anxious.
When he was about five, my youngest nephew would scrape the tip of his right shoe against the sidewalk to slow down his scooter.
The shoe finally split open. To this day, I can see his little toes scraping along the sidewalk.
He suggested using a Band-Aid to repair the shoe.
I tried and failed to close the gap in my fly with a Band-Aid.
Brilliant for a five-year-old.
I finally realized I just needed to put on my jacket.
Back in my room, I was going to sew the fly shut, but I only had needles, no thread. I eyed the duct tape I carry just in case, but decided it might not survive a hot drier. Two safety pins solved the problem, and I continued to wear the pants, dignity intact. The repair even survived a washing machine spin cycle.
Once I was in the big city of Fukuoka it was time to buy a new pair. Thanks to a helpful assistant, I walked out of a hiking gear store with a fine pair of Montbells. (Montbell is headquartered in Osaka, Japan.)
The old pair hit the trash after I rescued the safety pins.