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Etiquette Lesson in a Laundry Room
To touch someone’s clean laundry or not to touch, that is the question ...
My son’s AAU basketball team had a two-day tournament in Tennessee, five games in two days. The morning of day two, I went to the hotel’s laundry room with my quarters and his reeking uniform. Inside the washer were two T-shirts and two pairs of socks stuck to the sides of the tub. They looked lonely, and since the washing machine light wasn’t on, I knew they were clean. A sign told me:
Wash Cycle 30 Minutes
I am pressed for time, I thought. I only need to wash the boy’s uniform and have it air dry on a hanger. The top of the dryer looks clean ... decisions, decisions.
I waited a few minutes. The owner of the T-shirts and socks will show up soon, I thought. No one would leave two T-shirts and two pairs of socks alone for that long. I waited a few more minutes. He or she isn’t obviously timing his or her load. But what if this person has gone out to breakfast or brunch? I can’t have my boy play smelling badly.
I went to the front desk to let them know of my dilemma. I know it’s rude to touch other people’s clothes, but I was in a bind.
The front desk was no help. “We don’t have a policy for that, sir.”
I returned to the laundry room, waited a five more minutes, wiped off the top of the dryer, carefully folded the T-shirts and laid the socks beside them, and proceeded to wash the stank uniform. I went about packing the van and checked on the boy’s clothes about ten minutes later.
His uniform was lying on the floor in front of me. A Post-It note written by an elegant hand greeted me as well:
It’s rude to touch other people’s clean clothes. The dryer wasn’t done. Enjoy your soggy half washed floor clothes, A**hat. And learn to wait you turn.
A**hat? What’s an a**hat?
I put the boy’s uniform back in the washer, really no worse for wear. While the rinse cycle finished, I took the note to the front desk to warn them in case someone irate over having someone touching their clothes came to call and lodge a complaint. I even wrote a Post-It of my own to put on the dryer:
I DO APOLOGIZE. I DID BATHE THIS MORNING, AND I WIPED OFF THE TOP OF THE DRYER FIRST. I PUT YOUR CLOTHES IN A SAFE, CLEAN PLACE. I DID NOT PUT YOUR CLEAN CLOTHES ON THE FLOOR.
Before I could “post” my apology, however, “You-Can’t-Touch-My-Clothes-You-A**hat” had sneaked into the laundry room and rescued his or her clothes from further attack from inconsiderate me.
I looked at the dryer. The light was still on. It still has time, I thought. I will turn this lemon into lemonade. My boy’s clothes were clean, I doubted that they’d air dry in time for the first game of the day, so I dried them and saved myself a dollar thanks to “You-Can’t-Touch-My-Clothes-You-A**hat”
I returned to the front desk. The attendant and her manager wanted to make copies of both notes for fits and giggles. I kept them. Incidents like these make for great drama in books.
Should I have waited my turn no matter how much of an emergency I had? If I had waited my turn, I would have none of the ugliness would have followed. However, I had no malice aforethought in touching two pair of socks and two T-shirts. Had I brazenly fondled someone’s “unmentionables,” well, that would be a different story.
In Barry’s Bay, Ontario, Canada, at the only Laundromat in forty miles in any direction, I learned to guard my clothes or the old Polish women with names like “Yakabuski” and “Yantha” would toss my wet (or dry) clothes out the second they were done and shove in their quilts.
When I was a bachelor half a million years ago, I camped up in Canada at the Murray family homestead, the vacation setting of Too Much of a Good Thing and the training setting in The Real Thing. I had a week’s worth of laundry, loaded it into my canoe, paddled four miles, drove 25 miles to town, found an open washer (a miracle) at the Laundromat, started my load, went down the street to get some hot food, came back maybe 40 minutes later, and there were my clothes on the laundry room floor, people walking around and through them.
I made no fuss. I wasn’t there to change out my load on time. It was my fault. However, every dryer was in use, it was getting dark, and it’s no fun to canoe a lake four miles in the dark. I put all my wet clothes in a clean garbage bag, drove 25 miles back to the lake, canoed four miles to my campsite, and hung my clothes to dry in the pine trees.
It would rain steadily for the next four days. I took wet clothes back to Virginia. I have never been “late” to my washer again, and I often guard my clothes religiously.
Maybe I should have guarded my son’s uniform that day in Tennessee, but then I would have been face-to-face with someone who can’t spell the word “a**hole.”
The episode thoroughly discombobulated the rest of my day. What kind of person gets so angry to see his or her clothes lying folded on top of a clean dryer that he or she has to toss an obvious child’s uniform on the dirty floor and then write a “Miss Manners”-type note including misspelled profanity to go along with it?
Perhaps you can explain all this to me. I meant no harm.
And got called an “a**hat.”