Yesterday was the 3rd annual No Pants Subway Ride in DC (and the 9th annual national event, since it started in New York City way back in 2002 before spreading to other cities) sponsored by Capitol Improv (formerly DC Defenestrators). It’s exactly what it sounds like – riding the metro with no pants on. About 300-400 people (including your favorite HR Intern) gathered at a predetermined location in advance, separated into smaller groups, headed onto the metro and promptly took off their pants. After that, for a two-hour period, these pantless riders went up and down the metro lines, pausing to switch trains in the most popular stations (including Metro Center, Union Station, Dupont Circle, Gallery Place/Chinatown and L’Enfant Plaza).
Before you say anything, no, this isn’t a prompt to get you to take off your pants at work. My office has a pretty lax dress code, but I’m fairly certain even we would be a little uncomfortable.
As we rode, my fellow riders and I started talking about which was funnier – the outrageous looks we got, or the people who acted like they didn’t notice us and pretended that nothing out of the ordinary was going on. I opted for the latter.
In a workplace, if someone is being harassed and a third party knows what’s happening, we call them the observer. Sure, they could choose not to do anything like 95% of the people on the metro did yesterday. But that doesn’t help anyone. In a harassing situation, staring out the window doesn’t help the person who is being harassed. The offended party often needs support to come forward. That’s why I give props to the people who came up to us to ask why we were without pants. They wanted to get to the bottom of things and figure out what was happening. They followed a metro system rule of thumb: If you see something, say something.
So next time you see someone riding around the metro without their pants, use your voice and speak up. Ask what’s going on. You might find out that it’s oddly satisfying.