The other morning, which in keeping with the spirit of the stalled spring was not at all pleasant, but gray and misty and cool, I saw a fellow outside in shorts, a T-shirt and bare feet. There was a time when I would have thought that he was just a fellow so aching for a change of seasons that he decided to push it, but now I think he was probably just a slob.
In fact, just a day before I saw the guy in shorts and bare feet, it was reported to me that people shopping in grocery stores are wearing pajamas.
"Why?'' I wondered.
"Because people are slobs,'' the guy told me.
Well, then I began to pay closer attention. We definitely have a slob problem. The slob problem is different from the low-slung pants problem. Pants worn so low that they would seem to impede movement are considered a fashion statement or a cultural affectation. Personally, I think it is a slob statement, but I guess if you compare it to pajamas in the grocery store you would almost have to think that somebody is well-dressed if they at least bothered to put on pants in the first place.
I have not seen pajamas in the grocery store, but it is among my faults that I do not spend enough time in grocery stores, and when I do go to a grocery store I have a favorite neighborhood market where the people tend to know each other and would be embarrassed to show up in PJs because the people in the store would think that they are sick.
But I have been noticing pajamas on the downtown streets of St. Paul, Minn., and it is a bad look. I have tried to figure it out logically. If you have pajamas, it implies that you have a bed, and if you have a bed, it implies you have a roof over your head, and if you have a roof over your head, it implies that you probably have a pair of pants.
And if you have pants and you don't wear them in favor of just staying in your pajamas, it can imply only one thing: You are a hapless slob. You are thumbing your nose at the most basic of unwritten social contracts, which is, when you are out in public, you are supposed to be dressed for being out in public.
Actually, it could be worse than ignoring a social convention. It might just be that it is a total unawareness of there even being a social convention, that we have devolved so thoroughly into a self-involvement that people get up in the morning and say to themselves, "I know I have to go to the bank, but I am just going to stay in my pajamas.''
In other words, they don't even know that they are slobs. There is no excuse for it. I believe that bus drivers should be given the authority to refuse boarding to anybody wearing pajamas. Same with bank clerks, fast-food-counter workers and grocery-store cashiers. No pants, no service.
I am not sure there is a connection, but I have been reading about a serial groper at a grocery store in Stillwater, Minn.. A couple of women have reported that they have been groped in the parking lot. Yes, while that might suggest on the part of the groper a problem of some sort of sexual deviance, it is still a slob thing to do. You just don't go up to a gal who is loading the groceries into the back of her minivan and give her the old honk on the buttocks. No, at best you are a creepy slob and at worst you are headed for long-term counseling.
But I can't help but think that if people get away with walking around in public in their pajamas we are in store for more and more stories of lousy public behavior. It occurs to me to hope that the women who got groped were not wearing pajamas.
That wouldn't excuse being groped, but in a world of slobs wearing pajamas in public, anything can happen, none of it good.