On a cold January Sunday in 2018, I had set out with a DSLR and an old film Leica and hopped on a northbound Red Line train to see if I could find a cadre of great people who wanted to bring a little joy and laughter during dreary and dull winter times. An annual, coordinated event across multiple cities, the No Pants Subway Ride would have participants ride public transport in a state of pantlessness, all for the humour of it. Until then, I had only heard about this event but never encountered it, always missing it for some reason or another. 2018 was different, though, for I had finally found their event page and information for when they would meet and set out for their “commute.”
I had left my flat a bit late, and by the time I hopped on the train, I had missed the set meet time on the far north side of the city. But I pressed onwards. I knew the pantless riders were heading south towards me, so I began extrapolating based on the time and location of my train where I may be able to intercept their train. It was that stereotypical algebra problem of two trains heading towards one another from different cities. In reality, however, it was just me once again making it up as I go along.
Getting off my northbound train at the Addison stop in Wrigleyville, I waited on the platform, constantly looking at my watch and running the maths through my head. A southbound train passed by, but it looked like all its passengers were indeed wearing pants. So I waited for the next one. It was cold; my dry face started to sting a bit against the wind. I started to wonder if I had miscalculated and had already missed them. I decided to cut my losses and head back on the next train.
I got on the train, and immediately I felt a strange vibe. I looked around. Some of the riders looked slightly traumatized, but all were wearing pants. There were two photographers on the other end of the car with flash-mounted DSLRs. All of a sudden, a woman stood up, walked down the aisle, yanked off her pants, and began to dance. Talk about luck.
I followed her when she disembarked the train at the Belmont stop, and there I encountered more pantless riders. From there, I played the photojournalist game; kept close to the group, followed them with my cameras, and shot indiscriminately.
Roosevelt stop was the regrouping point for all of the pantless riders. There, they danced and celebrated all things pantless before taking a victory ride back up north.
The ride back northwards was quite lively. Although I still had plenty of gigabytes left on my CF cards, I only took two rolls of Kodak with me for the shoot, one colour, one black and white. I shot the last frame as the train approached the Wilson stop. By then, I figure that I got enough photographs for the day and decided to egress on a highpoint.
Sitting on the southbound train returning home, I could not help but to smile and chuckle to myself over the whole thing, the surreal ludicrousness of it all. And it was exactly what I needed on such a bleak, gray, cold winter day.
Post script: In the tradition of George Lucas, Episode II, the 2019 No Pants Subway Ride, was published earlier this year and can be viewed by clicking HERE!
© Khoa Dao, K. Dao Photography, 80 Proof Photos