So, an interesting thing happened to me today. And by interesting, I mean a moment or two of High Weirdness.
To set the scene: My wife and I live in an apartment complex. Our apartment does not have washer/ dryer hook-ups. So, never mind the fact that I did the responsible thing in my twenties, and saved up and bought a washer and dryer – which still work – the Wife and I have to use the complex’s laundry facilities. This is what we were spending part of our Monday night accomplishing when the event of our story took place.
Note: We have been living and doing laundry here for roughly 6 years. Nothing even remotely like this has ever happened before.
We put our clothes in to wash. The cycle takes exactly 28 minutes. I always set a timer. And in 6 years, we have never been the people who leave their laundry in the machine for anymore time than it takes to wash them. The wife will not abide wrinkles.
So, the timer goes off and we truck the 40 yards to the laundry room. Takes maybe, minute, minute and a half to get there. When we get there, someone (a nice young lady who didn’t really know what she was doing, and was really emotionally freaked out by what follows) had transferred about two-thirds of my laundry into dryers.
Now, I’m thankful my stuff didn’t end up on the floor or in a trash can, but it is still unsettling to discover some stranger has been handling your things.
Ok, I get the rest of my stuff and put it in another dryer, but I can’t shake this feeling of violation, of general creepiness.
So, I do what it is my practice to do: try to diffuse the situation with a little bit of humor.
To wit, I introduce myself to the young lady, and get her name – which I will not share here. Then I make a joke roughly in these words, “I figure if someone’s handled my drawers, I should know their name.”
Now, that statement can go badly, so I make certain I’m smiling, and the smile makes it to my eyes. The young lady has become – before the statement – as uncomfortable with what has happened as I am. So, for both of us, I’m trying to laugh it off, and show I’m laughing it off.
And it almost worked.
You see, the young lady had moved my things, because an older lady in the room had told her it was okay, that “we did it all the time around here.”
I’ll take this time to point out that, in fact, no we do not do that kind of thing around here.
At this point in time, the older lady – oh, let’s just call her CrazyasFuck – begins to take offence at my attempts at diffusion. This is when I find out that it was her urging (CrazyasFuck), that led the young lady to act in a manner that she thought was appropriate.
(I could say something about the young lady, but she was so freaked out by what transpired that I can only conclude she has led a very sheltered life.)
So, CrazyasFuck has derailed my attempts to play this off with levity. And now she’s pissing me off because she’s acting like I have no right to feel put out, just because someone strange to me had handled my personal property, without my permission.
Well, I really couldn’t laugh that off.
So, I asked CrazyasFuck if she could understand why I might feel just a bit unnerved, a bit violated. I wasn’t loud, I didn’t cuss. I was polite and even, which surprised the Wife. I just tried to speak. And that’s when CrazyasFuck lived up to her name.
She decided she didn’t want to hear me. And she said, “That’s it, I’m closing the door on this conversation.”
Like some weird, therapy roll-play. When I wouldn’t play along, she told me and my wife, that we could both leave. Dismissed us like she had any kind of authority to do so.
And I said, “Not now. You’ve already been into my things. I’m not leaving you alone with them.”
And that is how I ended up talking to the cops, in the laundry room of my apartment complex, on a Monday evening.
She actually called 911.
And the cops came. To the 911 dispatcher’s credit, the dispatcher believed that CrazyasFuck was reporting a man in the laundry room who wouldn’t put his clothes on.
The look of relief on the officer’s faces when they rounded the corner to find me fully attired was almost worth the weirdness that got us there.
We all talked to the cops, even CrazyasFuck. During the interview, which was thankfully easy, the officers came to realize just how bat-shit CrazyasFuck really was. Now, they didn’t write her a citation for calling the police unnecessarily, but the older partner gave her a stern talking to. By the time the police left, the expressions on their faces told me they knew exactly what we were going through.
So, it ended up getting straightened out.
Only took the cops, and a representative from the apartment complex to do it, but it got done.
Why, you may be asking, does this high weirdness qualify as a teachable moment for this series discussing civility in modern life?
Well, what occurred to me –when I finally got to fold my laundry – was that all of this happened because CrazyasFuck couldn’t just admit she was wrong.
Here’s how it maybe should have gone, in a better world:
CrazyasFuck did me wrong (well incited someone else to wrong me), and it was not a big wrong. I get to – within the bounds of decorum – express my displeasure at the wrong. CrazyasFuck apologizes. I accept the apology – it was a small wrong after all. And the incident is over before it begins.
Done. Polite, like adults. And we move on with our lives.
That seems like the way to go, to me at least.
No cops. No belligerence. No more drama than is minutely necessary to complete the action. And we’re done. It’s not a big thing if we don’t make it a big thing.
I suppose the second thing to take away from all this is, we are living in a time that encourages going straight for the nuclear option. Everything is extreme, or a red line, or a stand off. (Maybe that’s just the ratings-whore media.)
Maybe, if there’s a second moral to be sifted from this debris, it is that a proportional, calm, appropriate-to-the-severity-of-the-situation response is the better option.
Maybe there isn’t a moral at all, and I just need to move the fuck out of this neighborhood.
If you figure it out, let me know.