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Doug Clark: Spokane bus rider whose seat was taken seeking hole story

Bill McChristian shows the hole in his jeans. (Doug Clark)

Riding the bus still ranks among the most affordable ways to get around this ol’ town.

Unless, of course, you happen to lose your shorts.

Meet Bill McChristian, an 82-year-old Korean War vet with a gaping tale he’s dying to tell.

The Spokane man said his clothing was ruined last week after he sat in a mysterious liquid while riding a city bus.

The substance, he said, ate cantaloupe-sized holes through his pants and underwear without burning or marking his skin.

“So I put my hand back there,” said McChristian, “and, good gawd, my ass is hanging out.”

What a card.

The Spokane Transit Authority, however, has a very different take on this bare buns claim.

While conceding that McChristian did, in fact, sit on a wet seat, there is “no evidence that the wet seat was made wet by a corrosive agent,” said Susan Meyer, the STA’s CEO.

Oh, I so do love a good mystery.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

McChristian’s holey underwear story actually began in front of the Cathedral Plaza apartments on a Tuesday morning.

He conveniently catches a bus there twice a week. The rides haul him to (and from) the VA hospital where McChristian helps out as a volunteer, performing a number of duties.

Normally, the rides are smooth and blissfully uneventful.

But after reaching his destination on this day, McChristian said he stepped off the bus and – because of the breeze – noticed a wet sensation on the right half of his posterior.

The dampness soon dried. McChristian said he forgot all about it until some guy told him:

“Hey, you’ve got a hole in your pants.”

To which McChristian said he quipped:

“Yeah, it’s where I put my legs in.”

Further inspection led to the shocked realization that he had suffered a wardrobe malfunction.

Whatever got on his britches while on the bus, he figured, must have caused the carnage to his cotton.

On Wednesday morning, McChristian invited me to his downtown apartment where he opened a plastic bag. He solemnly removed the articles of clothing, one by one.

I felt like I was on a jury eyeballing evidence in a murder trial.

I don’t know what I expected.

But it was surprising to see how big the holes actually were.

The one on the backside of his blue jeans looked huge. For a second, I thought of betting McChristian that I could stick my entire head through the back of his pants.

Fortunately, I realized how weird that sounded and kept my trap shut.

To a much smaller degree, whatever he sat in also left some small fissures and gaps in a section of the Hawaiian-style shirt that McChristian wore that day.

Instead of the usual palms and hula girls, the shirt is covered with naval warships. McChristian told me his daughter gave it to him to commemorate his service in the U.S. Navy.

In all cases, however, the material bordering the holes appears to be disintegrating.

Was that caused by some mystery chemical?

Or did McChristian simply sit in a spilled soda, as Meyer suspects.

Who knows.

Which is the point, as far as McChristian is concerned.

He wants the material scientifically tested and analyzed.

Ain’t gonna happen as far as the STA is concerned.

Meyer said she is willing to reasonably reimburse McChristian for his damaged pants, etc.

Recordings made inside the bus show that, before departing, a rider complained to the driver about her seat being wet.

Video confirms that this is the same seat McChristian sat on later, after he entered the bus.

The only thing we can all agree on is this: I sure don’t know what happened.

And so in a flash of genius, I got Meyer to agree to meet McChristian with me in a day or two and take a look at his evidence.

There was a catch, of course.

Meyer said she’d join me if I agreed to take back a certain column reference that I once directed at her organization.

I asked Meyer what certain reference she might be talking about.

“STA-holes,” she said.

Whew. I don’t even remember that one.

But I will certainly take it back for the purpose of harmony and getting to the bottom of an ex-Navy man’s pants problems.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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