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No Pants Subway Ride coming this Sunday on the MBTA

Posted by Your Town  January 9, 2013 01:50 PM

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Some participants of the 2012 No Pants Subway Ride waited at Downtown Crossing for a train to Harvard Square. (David Stewart/ Staff)

You probably won’t see London or France on the train this Sunday, but you will definitely see underpants.

Boston's 6th annual No Pants Subway Ride, hosted by the social arts and event group BostonSOS, will take place on Sunday, January 13. On a typically mundane train ride, passengers may suddenly find themselves surrounded by pants-less peers.

James Cobalt, the executive director of BostonSOS, said the event is great because it has a guaranteed shock factor.

“No matter how popular it gets . . . there are always a ton of people who don’t know what’s going on,” Cobalt said. “For me, the most interesting thing of all (with this event) is to see how people try to perceive and understand what’s going on. For me, it’s just silly . . . For a lot of people, that’s not enough.”

The No Pants Subway Ride is an annual event that was started by New York’s Improv Everywhere in 2002. Since then, the event has grown and now takes place in cities across the world. When the event started in Boston in 2008, about 70 people participated. Last year, about 350 people willingly de-pantsed themselves on the train.

For the event, participants will board the train and then remove their pants at a designated time and place. From this point on, pants-less people are encouraged to interact with other passengers without revealing the truth about why they’re not wearing pants.

Cara Brooks, a Boston-based web producer and fourth-year participant, said she loves interacting with the passengers and seeing what kind of questions people ask her.

“You can kind of tell that [we’re] average Joes or Janes, just not wearing pants,” Brooks said. “You feel comfortable asking because you can relate to [us], minus the pants.” She said that some of the reasons participants have given for not wearing pants include: they’re at the dry cleaners, they were too itchy, they forgot, they didn’t go with my outfit and it was too warm.

Cobalt said that the most common reaction from passengers is stifled giggling. Every year, there is also a group of random passengers that will be convinced to take their pants off, too. He said one of the funniest reactions comes from the people who pretend that everything is normal.

“You’ll get the people that try to act like nothing unusual is happening, nothing at all,” he said. “You can try to interact with them and they will try to act, 100 percent, like nothing is strange. Which is the strangest.”

Nick Carlisle, co-founder of Buzzword Interactive, said the event is a way to bring a little spontaneity into the commuters' day. He has participated in the No Pants Subway Ride for six years, and he enjoys doing an unordinary event just for the fun of it.

“In public places, it’s such a mundane experience. You almost tune out,” Carlisle said. “What I get out of it is I give people a new, unusual experience and make them notice the things around them a little more, and I give them a story to tell.”

Cobalt said that the event not only brings smiles to spectators’ faces, but it also enables participants to meet other fun people in the Boston area. It’s not every day that one gets to walk around pants-less with a total stranger.

“It’s so nice and so refreshing to get together with strangers for no other reason than to be silly. It just warms my heart,” Cobalt said.

The No Pants Subway Ride will take place on Sunday afternoon. For more information, visit BostonSOS’s website.

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