Me, the German and my Underpants

 

Let me say first that this story is true and nothing is made up.

On our first night on the VdlP in Guillena we did our laundry and had to hang our clothes inside, since it was raining. The next morning I got up still an awkward, inexperienced pilgrim. It also didn't help that I was intimidated by the other pilgrims, who were far more skilled and practiced than me. I walked over to the drying rack and started to retrieve my clothes. I soon noticed that my underpants were missing. I double checked and found a pair that were similar to mine. It was obvious that someone had taken my underpants from the drying rack by mistake.

underpants

I looked around the albergue for someone with the same build as me and saw a tall German man in the kitchen who looked like he might be the person. I walked up to him with the underpants in my hand, told him mine were missing from the drying rack, showed him the underpants and politely asked if they were his.

He responded, "Yes".

Silence.

I was expecting a little more. Maybe, "Oh, so sorry. My mistake. I'll go get your underpants." Nope. He just stood there looking at me.

I stuttered a bit and asked, "Well, could I get my underpants?"

His only reply, "I'm wearing them."

You have to understand that he was bigger than me with a steely air of assurance. And I was a newbie feeling smaller and smaller by the second.

I got the message. I looked at the underpants in my hand, looked back at the German, realized I could wear his underpants, said "fine" and walked back to my room. Pilgrims must be flexible.

Five minutes later as I sat in my room packing my bag the German walked in and said, "You know, you got the better part of the bargain. I've had those underpants for a couple of years. They've walked across the Alps, been on hikes in Italy and France and been worn on the Camino Francais." He smiled and then left the room.

Never thought that underwear could have a history.

Okay, I'm not a complete wuss. I grumbled to myself for a minute or two and then went to find the German. I walked up to him and said, "Okay, I'll take your underpants on the condition that when you and I die and, if we wind up in Heaven and you've got a better pair of underpants than me, they're mine." I'm a real comedian. He looked at me in a strange way for a few seconds, seemed to get the joke and just half-snorted. Then we went our separate ways.

Forty-four days later as I walked into Santiago I secretly wished I would run into the German in the plaza in front of the Cathedral. He would walk up to me and ask, "Can I have my underpants back?" And I would say, "I'm wearing them." But no such luck. I never saw the German again after Guillena.

And the kicker - I was so flustered by the underpants that I forgot to retrieve the rest of my clothes from the drying rack. I left my best pair of pants at the albergue. For days afterward I would be having dinner with new friends on the Camino and someone would tell the joke about the idiot who left his pants behind in the albergue and I would have to admit that he was me.