Recap: 2009 Arizona No Pants Ride

The following is a recap of the 2009 No Pants Ride that happened nearly a year ago.  It was the event that got ImprovAZ started, so I didn’t have a place to post it at the time. It’s been a fun year since this happened, and if you’re interested in the No Pants Ride coming up January 2010, join our mailing list or watch this blog!

No Pants AZ
Image by ousooner44 via Flickr

I used to do improv with the Oxymoron’Z and Jester’Z troupes here in Phoenix, so have long wanted something like Improv Everywhere to get rolling locally. I know, I know… Improv Everywhere isn’t really improv, but they’re cousins enough that I longed, nay, yearned.

So last January I decided to help give it a push and organize an Arizona version of the No Pants Ride as part of the Improv Everywhere global No Pants Ride. It seemed like a great way to break in the Valley’s new fangled Light Rail. Shorthanded as “nopantsaz” on Twitter and Flickr, the ride was an almost unqualified success.

Planning

I had no idea what to expect up front, or if there would be a mass chickening out at the last minute. I secured about 10 stalwart companions to ensure I wasn’t alone, but in spite of 100+ RSVP’s on the Facebook group I figured we may top out at 30 people total. Wanted to keep it super simple since this was our first event and the Light Rail system isn’t that complex. Two starting points, one finish point, coffee, then return. Piece of cake!

Biggest worry was that Light Rail or security would shut us down. I’d checked with the police that wearing your underwear in public was legal, so it came down to whether there would be a disruption that they thought would interfere with the line operating.

Launch!

The plan was to catch the first train past 3:00 at the Apache and Dorsey station in Tempe. Trains run about every 15 minutes, and one left around 2:50, so I expected one around 3:05.  Nothing. I got paranoid at one point they halted the train to get security out there. By 3:00 there were easily 90 people on the platform. I walked up and down the line a few times trying to spread people out and giving instructions. It’s a tad awkward to ask “Are you here to take off your pants” to strangers, in case you’ve never done it.

It was worse because of a local cameraman who clearly had never heard of “subtle” or “covert”. I asked the media I spoke with to meet us at the end so as not to blow our coverage, but this guy had a full shoulder camera and kept it right in my face. He asked me things like if it was illegal, which had me uttering the truly brilliant line that we weren’t “breaking the law. We were just… fluffing the law. Frosting the law.” Right. Moving on.

Ride Out

The trains were PACKED! Figuring another wasn’t coming for 15 minutes, we found space and as soon as the train began moving, dropped and hid our pants. Not easy in a full, moving train, but I think there were a lot of contortionists present. Reactions varied from shock to amusement to horror. An older woman seated next to me grumbled to anyone who would listen how terrible it was that we were being obscene in front of children, even though it was just a bunch of bare legs. You’ll see a lot more skin on the Rail in August in the Valley, that’s for sure.

After a while people began cheering when non-participants joined or left the cars, and the people riding for a while started to relax into the joke. I loved the look when people got on, pressed together with the crowd, then glanced down and realized there were a lot fewer pants than people.

We rode to the Campbell and Central station for a much needed break.

Coffee Pit Stop

The media was waiting in force at Lux coffee shop when we arrived. All attempts at being nonchalant about the affair were long gone. We strode with pride over to Lux, and the shop ambiance took a sharp dive off a cliff as the Pantsless Army queued up for beverages. “Puzzled” doesn’t quite cover the looks the patrons were shooting us.

At this point one group went to George & Dragon Pub, still pantsless, to knock back a pint. Others reboarded the train for the ride back.

Ride Back

It was less eventful overall, but had some better reactions because the train was more open. People were crowding near the doors to avoid mingling with the pantsless. One gal actually ran off the train after she asked me a question about which stop she should use, then realized the situation. She decided the current stop was just peachy keen by her without another word. Pulled back in around 5:30, for a 2 1/2 hour event.

Afterthoughts

The event was a blast, and I met some great people. There is a pile of excellent pictures and a great video (bel0w).

Also major thanks to Heather, TJ, Tyson, Clintus, David, Evo, Brian, Jill, RailLife, Lux, and everyone else who chipped in and spread the word. It was a community effort.

The media’s involvement was a mixed blessing. I think it helped show that this was intended to be fun and nothing bad came of it, but totally destroyed the covert nature of it. I got some tips from the national IE group about this, so will apply it a bit different next time.

We now have this blog, and an ImprovAZ Facebook Page that we’ve been using to organize new events. Personally, I think Phoenix needs more events like this. Shake things up, give people something to talk about, just have fun. Too many people in this town just ask Why, and I think more need to be asking Why Not?

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