“Well, that was an awful experience!” Andy said.
Nobody else said a word, they simply agreed silently, each with the slightest of nods.
“And to think! People used to live that way! How could they stand it?”
“It must have felt like spending your life in a jail cell – never leaving – all the while being in the possession of the key.”
Tina looked up. “That’s exactly what I thought,” she said silently, “except I couldn’t find words to express it.”
“I’m going to have to watch the whole thing again,” said Judy.
“Why?” Andy and Tina both asked at the same time.
“I couldn’t concentrate… err… I couldn’t see past all those rags. I have no idea what the movie was about.”
“You and me both, Judy,” agreed Andy.
“Ditto,” added Tina.
“You’re awfully silent, Smarts,” Andy said, turning to a boy with hair so black it seemed to radiate darkness.
Sam looked up. “The fat guy was my namesake.”
Another round of laughter.
“What did you think of the movie, though?” Andy asked.
“Well, I knew people in those days wore excessive amount of clothes, I just had no idea it was that extreme.”
“Hey there, what’ll it be?” It was the waiter coming to serve the company.
They sat at a table in the park with an old-fashioned cafe in the middle, after the old-fashioned movie in an old-fashioned movie theater had ended. Each ordered his drink and meal.
“I’d never trust a fully clothed waiter,” Andy said, looking thoughtfully at the waiter leaving. “Who knows how long he’d been wearing all those clothes, let alone where he’d been with them.”
“Clothes were washed quite frequently. It was part of the problem, because the detergents were very hard on the environment. In fact, the entire process of making clothes used up a lot of resources – particularly water that could’ve been used more productively,” Sam said, then continued from where he was interrupted by the waiter. “I heard that people back then were worried about spreading germs by, for example, sitting down with their bare bottoms, but it sounds more like an old wive’s tale!” Sam continued their conversation from where they left off.
“They had tap water, why would they be worried?” Judy said.
“They had what?” Andy asked.
“Tap water. It’s like homespring water, except it was neither synthesized where it was needed, nor was it collected from rainwater most of the time. Instead, it was brought to the location from nearby lakes, rivers, or other sources of water by a complex system of pressure valves, pipes and pumps,” explained Judy.
“They were rightly worried,” said Tina as Andy was busy visualising Judy’s explanation. “After defecation they used to wipe feces off with just paper.”
Tina smiled at the commotion she caused, then continued, “It’s true, I’ve read it in ‘Humanity’s Greatest Blunders’. It’s ranked as a top blunder after World Wars and even beats Keynesian economics.”
There was a moment of silence as everyone was digesting this information.
“Wiping your ass with paper,” pondered Andy. “Did they also have armpit paper?” When there were only curious looks instead of answers, he continued “I mean, if they wiped with a paper, then maybe they also wiped sweat from under their armpits with a paper.”
Now there was a chuckle from everyone, but the kind of a chuckle saying “Who knows, maybe they did.”
“I read about that period of time, it was quite ghastly. A dark age for mankind. It was claimed that the people then enjoyed freedom, but nobody was truly free. They could get arrested for being in public without clothes and sometimes even got hassled for wearing no shoes,” Sam said. “And that’s just talking about the innocent personal freedom of the choice of attire – or lack thereof.”
“What difference did it make to anyone what someone else was wearing – or wasn’t wearing for that matter?” Tina interrupted.
“None whatsoever…” said Sam, then corrected himself, “I’m not sure, really.”
“It was considered sexual,” jumped in Judy. “Not wearing clothes was considered sexual.”
“That’s preposterous!” Tina exclaimed as others nodded in agreement. “I know some people who dress up in winter not for warmth, but to look more attractive! Even in summer they do so just to attract attention. A human body on its own has no way to place such an accent on certain body parts.”
“Well, yes,” agreed Sam, “but consider a world in which everyone wears clothes – like they did in the movie. These certain parts are hidden from view all the time. Once those parts were uncovered, the people witnessing them would feel hyper-stimulated, the more so the longer they were hidden. It’s like when you’re in the dark for a long period, then suddenly see sunlight and it’s too bright even though it’s just normal sunlight. But, since the function of the parts we’re talking about is – among other things – sexual…”
“Clothing is like some form of sensory deprivation!” Tina noticed, shocked.
“In more ways than one, yes,” agreed Sam. “Sensory deprivation is usually inflicted by blocking off the senses from the outside world; when everyone is clothed, then in addition to that I suppose the world – or a certain part of it – is blocked off from your senses as well,” replied Sam.
“Well, our lunch is coming and I’d hate to upset my tummy with such morbid subjects while I’m eating,” Judy said. “Let’s talk about some nicer things, shall we?” When everyone nodded, and the waiter served their meal, Judy continued, “Andy, I hear you’re visiting parents this weekend. Are you looking forward to it?”
“Yeah, I can’t wait…” Andy said, then paused. “Though, to be perfectly honest with you, I’m more excited about swimming in the old lake.”
“Did you know people used to wear clothes even when they went for a swim?” Sam jumped in.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME!” Everyone spat out the first bite in utter surprise at the statement.
“It was called ‘swimwear’.”
Everyone had nightmares the following night.