01:12:31 pm on
Wednesday 24 Jul 2024

The No-fly Zone
David Simmonds

I’m not saying that I’m cheap. I just buy the lowest cost items I can find, especially in the undergarments department. I figure since none can see them and so as long as they do the job, why buy pricier products?

What does, “to do the job,” mean?

I was initially quite pleased when I passed among the racks at an off-price retailer and came across a three-pack of upscale men’s boxer briefs at what seemed as a very reasonable price. I found I had to reassess just what it meant to “do the job.”

I waited until the next day to put a pair on. I became puzzled. I put them on one way and realized I had put them on backwards.

I reversed them and put them on again. They were still backwards. That didn’t make any sense.

I turned them inside out and tried again. Same result. What was going on?

To put the matter as politely as the subject at hand will permit, there was no fly. T the access point that allows you to use a washroom standing up, at least where the bodily function in question will permit. Instead, there was a panel sewn across the front. Access denied.

The label on the box said “with front panel” …

Then I looked at the package. The label on the box said “with front panel,” a statement that had meant absolutely nothing to me at the time. Now, if it had said, “without fly,” I would perhaps have thought about my purchase more carefully.

I checked that I still had my receipt. I did, but a quick check on the back confirmed the worst: “no returns on undergarments” it stated clearly. I was stuck with them. My feeling of being hoodwinked felt all the more intense because I had just realized that my clever purchase last year of a five-year renewal on all my Sears warranties as part of a "special promotion" wasn't such a smart move after all. I am convinced that somewhere in retail land, there is a chorus of off-duty underwear and warranty salespeople watching purchasers like me through one-way glass, doubled over with laughter.

To me, making underwear without a fly makes no sense. Would they consider selling a kettle without a spout? Who would make a bathtub without a drain?

I can’t for the life of me see how removing a fly and substituting a panel makes it any easier to get the job at hand done, at least standing up. I don't have a degree in trigonometry, but I'd wager that directly through, rather than up and over, is the most efficient manner of delivery of function number one - for men, at least. What comes next? A tunic that’s doesn’t have button? How about this, a one-piece boiler suit, once known as a union suit, but, now, for outerwear?

As judiciously as I could, I checked the internet for an explanation. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the subject explored, fully. Nobody ever went broke overestimating the ability of the internet to fill cyberspace with picayune matters of dubious taste.

Offered were all forms of explanations. The rise of spandex was one explanation, as was the need for multifunctional underwear, for another. The growing preference for the seated position, the increasing popularity of casual wear or simply fashion trends were frequent explanation.

One source even said it had to do with the fact that men take their smartphones everywhere. The implication being that standing and performing a one-handed manoeuvre is somehow easier when wearing underwear without a fly. That prompts me to resolve never to stand in a public washroom next to a man holding a smartphone.

My future purchases will not include underwear sans a fly.

For any number of reasons, over the past couple of years, panel fronted underwear has apparently grabbed a significant market share. I prefer to see the glass as half full and say that underwear, with a fly, maintains a solid grip on the market despite some erosion of its market share. I for one will be making my next purchase with much more care, never to repeat my inadvertent contribution to that erosion.

I am too cheap to consign my new fly-less underwear to the recycle bin. I will probably leave it in my starting underwear rotation until it wears out. Reluctantly, I enter the no-fly zone. For three days a week, I may at times be wearing a particularly pained expression.

Who knows? Maybe I will become a convert. Yes and, maybe, someone will come out of nowhere and volunteer to honour my Sears warranties. 


Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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