The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tom Lavis

October 2, 2011

Tom Lavis | Pinning down the cause of odd noise

— The cracking noise startled everyone at the small table at the Suds and Grub Café.

“What the heck was that?” Junior Miller asked.

Tank Perkins said he thought either someone had fired a small-caliber handgun or a tree branch had snapped.

It was Friday, and the place was starting to fill up for karaoke night.

“Did you guys hear that popping noise?” asked Millie, our waitress.

She was standing near our table and next to the jukebox when the sound interrupted The Four Seasons’ singing “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

“It sounded like it came from this back corner,” she said.

I quickly denied any wrongdoing and suggested the noise may have come from outside.

Crutch Crupnik was surprisingly quiet throughout the conversation.

“I’ve had enough,” Crutch said after polishing off his third basket of hot wings.

When he got up to go to the restroom, the mystery was solved.

To be more accurate, Junior noticed that Crutch’s belly was protruding more than usual over his khaki pants, which are normally fastened by a button.

“That was your button popping that made that noise,” Junior yelled, pointing toward Crutch’s bulging waistline.

“No sir,” Crutch protested as Frankie Valli sang, “Silly girl, shame on you, you told a lie.”

“It was off before I came in,” Crutch said.

Crutch’s battle of the bulge is no different than the war most of us fight.

He still thinks he can wear the same size pants he wore in high school, but time and countless buffets have taken their toll.

He once looked like Sonny Bono, but now resembles Chaz Bono.

As Crutch returned from the restroom, our table was immersed in laughter.

Before he had a chance to chastise us for making light of his “accident,” I told him we were laughing about the Subway commercial that showed people’s pants buttons popping and them falling from broken chairs as they stuffed themselves with fast food.

Tank said he was partial to the commercial where a guy’s button popped and broke a pot of coffee.

“I like the one with the guy on the park bench whose button exploded and shattered a street light,” I said.

Crutch shot me a look that said, “You’re not helping me here.”

“Does anyone have a safety pin?” I asked in a loud enough voice for the people at other tables to hear.

I immediately thought of a safety pin because I have had to rely on them to overcome some of my own embarrassing moments.

In junior high school, I had a penchant for splitting my pants at the most inconvenient times – such as while attempting a vault in gym class.

I was so paranoid that I kept a supply of pins stashed in my locker for such occasions.

Nothing smarted more than when one of the pins popped opened, causing me to yelp. It’s uncanny how it happened either during a test or in study hall.

Trying to find a safety pin at the café was about as easy as finding an innocent man in prison.

Wrench McCann, my 55-year-old mechanic who has a waist a football halfback would envy, came up with a solution.

“Here, maybe his will work,” Wrench said as he removed his fishing license from his favorite cap and gave Cutch the tiny pin from the license holder.

Crutch went to the restroom and returned a short time later.

Everyone was amazed how he managed to make the tiny pin work.

But if the pin could talk, it would be screaming in agony from the strain.

Despite his wardrobe meltdown, it didn’t stop Crutch from grabbing the microphone for some  karaoke.

“I’m taking requests,” Crutch said.

I couldn’t resist.

“Sing ‘Mr. Big Stuff,’ ” I said.

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