State law would hit below the belt

April 12, 2010

It was the best news to come out of Annapolis in decades. Or so I thought.

I read about this bill last week that would -- no lie -- outlaw the sale of used underpants in the state of Maryland. Naturally, I assumed this was what I'd been waiting for for so many of these long years: the great Yard Sale Containment Act of 2021.

I have pretty much put my war on yard sales on hold for the past decade, largely because I know a losing battle when I see one.

But some historical perspective might be in order for newer readers. I have no real gripe over the concept of yard sales in the purest sense. If you get all tingly-scalped over the thought of buying and selling each others' salt shakers and sweat-stained T-shirts, knock yourself out.


My complaints are pertaining to aesthetics and safety.

I can almost live with the fact that yard sales resemble the scene of a jet-airliner crash, with unidentifiable flotsam and jetsam strewn across an otherwise perfectly acceptable-looking lawn.

But I've lost count of the number of times I've been following a car down a local thoroughfare when, without warning, it skids to a near stop and turns into oncoming traffic to check out one of these capitalistic atrocities. Then, as a general thing, they won't see anything they like, so they pull back into traffic, oblivious to any other vehicular traffic whatsoever, their eyesight being acclimated to see only tables full of junk.

Anyway, I naturally thought this proposed used-underwear law was yard-sale specific. It only makes sense. After all, in a world where we now all feel compelled to wash our hands 40 consecutive times after touching a light switch, I can't imagine how anyone can go to a yard sale anymore without wearing a toxic-waste cleanup suit.

Yes, I'm sure all those baby toys have been disinfected with Lysol before being put out for sale. Keep telling yourself that, Flo.

But the law in question applies not to yard sales, but to actual retailers, who are not prohibited from reselling underpants that have been returned.

My immediate question is, who returns underwear? I mean, maybe you're taking a walk on the wild side and you have decided to buy briefs instead of boxers, but when you get them home you just feel too exposed and morally shamed, so you trot them back to the store. I'm sure that happens.

But how do you even begin to explain underwear returns to the clerk?

"Well, these panties looked great on that armless and headless purple mannequin, but now that I've worn them around for a week, I've decided that they're just not me."

I don't know how many deaths are attributable to revolving underwear, but we can all thank NBC's "Today" show for bringing the epidemic to light.

To me, it sounds like one of those exposes where they write the promo before they actually do the story: "This popular brand of soft drink can kill your babies! We'll have details next Wednesday at 11." Then you tune in at 11 and it turns out that babies can drown in the soft drink if you fill your bathtub with it.

Well, whatever. Lawmakers might not be able to do anything about the housing crisis or the $2 billion budget shortfall, but they're all over the case of the returned underpants. It's not that our legislature is bad; it just has a bar of accomplishment that is set exceedingly low.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at"> Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under">, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

The Herald-Mail Articles