By Matt Coffey
I needed a pair of waders. It was that simple. The water was so cold it made me feel like I had been digging in the ice-cold beer cooler at a weekend barbecue for more than five minutes with my feet (gross, I know, but follow me here), only I didn’t come away with a frothy beverage—just cold feet. I thought I could simply wet wade the glacially temperate stream in east Tennessee, but like most men, my ego carries a lot more weight than my actual “manhood.”
Only now do I know that the man who sold me the waders I so desperately needed laughed all the way to the bank. But he’s not the only one laughing now. So are the guys at Dan Bailey Fly Fishing, most of my friends who have been informed and even my wife.
You see, the waders I bought were defective. I’m sure the guy who sold them to me didn’t know this, as they had never been used, so I don’t hold him entirely accountable. I even wore the waders on streams and trails in the Smoky Mountains half a dozen more times – passing other fishermen who gave me odd looks and small smirks as they acknowledged me – before I realized they were leaking. So I called the manufacturer of my waders, Dan Bailey, and to my surprise, they said, “Send them on in. We’ll either fix them or send you a new pair. Either way, they won’t leak when you get them back.”
Not until a new pair of waders showed up on my doorstep did I realize the gaff I’d made. The folly of my purchase revealed itself in big, bold letters on the outside of the box. And on the invoice. And on the description of the waders on the invoice: “WOMEN’S XL WADERS” it read. To drive home the point they were “WOMEN’S XL WADERS,” there was even a color picture of definitely not-XL-woman on the box top fishing a beautiful stream out West. In waders. Just like mine.
I did a double take. Then I looked a dozen more times. I set the box on the kitchen counter. Then I walked outside. I dug in the garden. I still thought about it. I mowed the yard. I popped a cold beverage. I tried to figure out a logical reason why I was sent “WOMEN’S XL WADERS.” I mean, I’m a man, after all. Tall, thin, outdoorsy. I have a little beer gut. I’m a man. I play ball, can gut a deer and even skin a bear. I watch college football every Saturday in the fall for crying out loud!
The only solution I could come up with – of course – was to call Dan Bailey and explain they obviously made a huge mistake. I got a live person on the third ring; let’s call him Bill. He put me on hold.
Below is how I’m sure the conversation in the office went while I listened to the Muzak:
Bill: “Hey, Jim, you won’t believe who’s on the phone!”
Bill: “The guy who sent us the women’s waders!”
Jim: “Get out! I gotta hear this!”
Then Bill got back on the phone and here is, verbatim, how the conversation went:
Bill, with Jim listening next to him: “Mr. Coffey, the reason we sent you women’s waders is because that’s what you sent us. The guy who does our wader repair is standing right next to me and he even made a comment about how you were a guy sending in women’s waders with an explanation of how many times you’d worn them.”
Me: “Ah, hell.”
To both Bill and Jim’s credit, I never heard either laugh, although I’m sure they did while I was on hold. And after I hung up. And they’re probably still laughing about it now.
So there it is. I had worn, will wear and actually quite like my women’s waders. They keep me dry. Sure, there’s a little less room in the inseam and maybe a little more in the chest than I need, but they work, right? Right. I wonder if Dan Bailey will give me a store credit if I send them back...