Pajama Phenomenon


Twenty years ago I went to a U2 concert in the Sports Arena. Though this is not a music entertainment review, there is entertainment value. Returning home from the shadows of this Joshua Tree occasion, the seven boys along with myself, one girl, found ourselves diverted from our normal exiting from the Los Angeles Sports Arena and relegated into the bowels of LA, at 1:00am, into Watts. Our transportation, that yellow 1978 station wagon with wood siding, failed to carry us safely home.

Remembering a gas station a few feet back before we were immobilized, we got out and marched-afraid, singing and mumbling the Eagles “Hotel California”, single file like dead ducks, into the busyness of a Watt’s night. Helicopters splashing rays of spotted light down upon us, in front of us, above us, behind us. Sirens up close and in the distance the red whirling splashes tripping on white gyrating cylinders of light, mixing pink into the ever-present indigo, making for us a violet lit night. The officers in a black and white stopped at the sight of us, and asked us why we were out here. Telling them our station wagon died while proceeding home, they directed us to the gas station where we shortly met up and sat down on the gas station curb, side by side, like sitting ducks. The police officer asked me where we were from as he directed me to the front seat of his car, laptop on console, typed in our names and addresses to find that we were, as I had said, from Oxnard. Then he suggested we get transportation back-and left.

At the gas station at 2:30am lights and sirens still blurred into one another as we took turns on the pay phone to see what would turn up. Call by call we all watched the movement of the night. A man in a worn trench coat and faded clothing came up to us. Performing unshaven and wild-eyed, he pulled out an eight track tape deck player and started auctioning this lavish technological object off for fifty dollars. Staring at him we started laughing unconsciously because, although we were not aware of CD premonitions, this obscure artifact tickled our artifactual memories of childhood. He laughed too insisting upon his auction-till he ended his final stint at a five dollar bid-unanswered. Cars rolled in and out of the evenly bright lit shelter from swirling lights. Drivers getting out quickly, dropping change at the pay counter, then getting quickly back to their cars to fill their eight to twelve gallon tanks – a little-momentarily in urgency. Then we saw them trickle in.

One by one, at three o’clock in the morning, they started coming to the gas station. Coming and going in their rollers and bathrobes of assorted pastel colors-open with their pajamas for show, underneath. They carried an assortment of needs; half gallons of milk, loaves of bread, orange juice and even bacon, from the gas station swerving and swirling past coming and going cars. Soft-plush flower printed cotton flannel tops and bottoms encapsulating the stealth of the figures moving in and out of our waiting lives. We were mesmerized into thinking, “How does someone go outside of their house, into public places, in pajamas” and even more silently “rollers?” We had to call for a cab. One boy’s parents foot the bill for all of us being returned safely home. Them, to their parents, and I, to my rented garage converted studio.

Twenty years later I sat, as an English major, in our upper division British Literature class while our Professor’s twelve year old daughter sat-in as well. Our Professor explained to us that her child’s ‘pajamas’ were what the kids were wearing now. All the rage, I later noticed, as I walked my nephew to school, that his pajamas were symbolic of his participation in “Pajama Day” at his elementary school. Teachers with pajamas in tight solid bold knitted cotton tops and bottoms with bathrobes open too, going about their school day. I later, delivered my own child to her kindergarten class at our local elementary school. Promenading down the u-shaped driveway in front of the school with sleek luxury sedans and SUV door’s opening and closing CLACK! CLACK! Mommy’s bringing their children out of their vehicles into the school classroom, still in their pajamas. No rollers, just perfect hair, lipstick, designer sunglasses and their companions pajama bottoms, topped off with the standard brand name sweatshirt/jacket. No rollers…no milk, bread or bacon. I could not configure this intermittently jerking dance. Stopping and starting as if there were somewhere important to be. Monday thru Friday pajama day for adults are also Daddy’s unshaven, with their designer sunglasses, in gray flannel, fleece and bedroom slippers. Wanting the violet of an indigo swirl of deadly charm and unconscious laughter, I sit as a duck for color. The sunlight beats too brightly– too hurriedly – rushing to say “I love you my precious child. Little angel”, angels watch over you, I think- in between the times that catch us all- asleep.

~Melinda (a best kept secret)


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