Opinion » Bill Cope

Mr. Cope's Cave: It's My Birthday and I'll Talk About Any Damn Thing I Want


Are you getting anything special for your birthday, Mr. Cope?

Already have, Junior. My wife got me some new sweatpants. Two of 'em, in fact.

You must be excited.

You bet I am. I should be set for sweats for another year.

That's great, Mr. Cope. I'm glad you're happy. Now, I wanted to ask you about...

Yessir, I could have half my sweats in the wash at once, and still have plenty for a good two weeks without worrying about the smell.

You must be very pleased. But listen... about this thing of NASA finding wa...  

Take my word for it, Millard, a fella can't have too many sweatpants.

I'm sure that's true, at least for a person of your age. Now, I'm sure you've heard about...

Why, I must have 10 pair, myself. Maybe 12. More than that if you count those nylon slick things with the stripes down the legs. I call those my dress sweats. Like, for special occasions, you know? If I were a church-going man, for instance, I'd wear my dress sweats for Sunday services, see? And I'm saving my very best dress sweats for when my daughter gets married. Or to be buried in... whichever comes first. You know... really special occasions.

I have to ask... do you even have any regular pants anymore?

Oh sure! Somewhere. I probably have three or four dozen trousers stuck away wherever my wife puts 'em when I can't get into them anymore. Fact, I have some corduroy slacks that go back to the Carter administration. Grew out of them during Reagan's first term. I even have some jeans I used to wear to class when I was an undergrad. Vintage, I bet. Probably worth a lot of money.

Well, this sure isn't what I came to find out, but now I'm curious. Exactly when did sweatpants become your lower body clothing option of choice, Mr. Cope?

Ah! Funny thing. It wasn't one of those snap decisions, let me tell you. At first, I'd come home after spending all day in pants that needed a belt, just itching to get out of them and into something more pliable, know what I mean? So for years, it was regular pants in public, sweats at home. Except for holidays and anytime company was coming over, of course. Then one day, I was shuffling through the mens' section of some department store, and I come across a pair of red sweats. Bright red. I could pass for a big maraschino cherry when I'm in them. And I thought to myself, Damn, Bill... those are perfect for Christmas! After that, it was just a matter of finding the right sweats for every occasion.

So when's the first time you left the house wearing sweats?

Hummmm, let's see. That would o' been about the time I was totally retired, Grover. One day, I didn't feel like changing into them, what I call, "hard pants" just to drive down to a convenience store for a paper. I was pretty nervous, that first time. Was hoping all the way there some cop wouldn't haul me off for vagrancy. But when I got to the store, see, this guy walks in ahead of me wearing some pajama bottoms with a picture of Ozzy Osborne on the butt. With him there, I don't think the clerk even noticed what I had on. After that, it got easier and easier. Anymore, I don't think twice about going to Wal-Marts or the Jack in the Box in sweats. I just try to stay away from five-star restaurants and art show openings is all.

Uh, this is all very interesting, Mr. Cope. But actually, I didn't come today to hear about your history with sweat pants.

Soooo... what? You came to wish me happy birthday?

Uh-uh. I didn't even know it was your birthday until your wife told me when I got here. I just came to find out what you think about them finding liquid water on Mars. You've heard about that, haven't you?

'Course I have, Quincy. What do you think I am?... ignorant? Just 'cause I'm in sweatpants instead of those fancy, pleated Dockers you always have on doesn't mean I keep my head stuck up my...

No no. That's not what I meant. I just want to know what you think of water on Mars, is all.

OK. Fine. Sorry for snapping at you, Rutherford. Us sweatpants folks get a little sensitive when we think someone's judging us by what we choose to wear from the waist down.

I understand. Now... about the water on Mars.

Well, I have to admit when I heard NASA had a huge announcement, I was hoping it would be something a bit more... uh... let's say, lively.

But that may be coming, Mr. Cope. There's a lot bigger chance of finding evidence of life now that they know there's running water.

Yeah, yeah. Itsy-bitsy microbes and maybe some pond scum or something. But all my life, I've been hoping I'd be around when something really cool gets discovered. You know?... something that talks back.

Intelligent life, you mean.

Yeah, intelligent life. Or something with at least as many brains as a goldfish, maybe. But I realize now that if that ever happens, it's damn unlikely it'll happen anytime soon enough for me to see it.

So you don't think it's a big deal that Mars has liquid water.

Oh, sure, it's a big deal. Just not an exciting deal... if you see the difference.

Not like getting two pairs of sweatpants for your birthday.

Calvin, now you're just making fun of me.

Not at all, Mr. Cope. Not at all.