I live in a green area in my city. I’m not living in the middle of the country, no, what I’m saying is that, around my building there is a lot of trees. I live on the 1st floor of the building and I have the chance to have a beautiful big tree in front of my balcony. It became so wide lately that the branches are even touching the iron railing and the top of the tree is exactly at the same height than the top of this railing.
I regularly enjoy drinking a cup of coffee when the sun hits this place, feeling like I’m hiding from the neighbors behind this Mother Nature’s masterpiece. The thing is, today, I curse this tree.
Let me set the scene of this afternoon for you : the weather is sunny, temperatures are really good and a little wind to cool the air is here. Well, this is the perfect time to dry your freshly washed clothes outside. I can tell that people in the opposite building of mine had all the same idea. And let’s be honest, they were right to do so.
At the same time, I can only guess that my neighbors above me decided to do the same. Am I a psychic? No. A spy? Neither. Let me tell you my surprise when I open the patio-door that leads me to my balcony and I see that a large piece of underwear is hanging on the top branch of my favorite tree, in the sight of everybody.
I approach it, wondering where it came from, to quickly deduce that it belongs to my upstairs neighbor, an old lady. Well, then, if you were me, what would you do?
First, I think about adopting the “oh I didn’t see it” behavior if anybody asks. But who would have believed that I didn’t see a large piece a white cotton panty in this tree when it hangs right under my face? This would clearly be a lie. A big bold lie. I think about a second option: I wait for the owner to show up to my place, asking to grab herself the piece of clothing only accessible through my balcony. At that moment it seemed to be a good option. But I had to take into account the fact that she could be uncomfortable and never come. Then, this option would end up in the following scenario: me, having to face every day the cotton panty when drinking my coffee outside while letting all of the other neighbors think I just don’t care about that white thing (and that I’m a weirdo).
At that moment, I decided to grab all the courage in me and go back inside to get my broom handle and here I was, bending over the railing of my balcony using the tip of the handle to get that dangling cotton cloth. I slowly succeed to make the underwear glide from the top branch to my wooden stick and I let you picture the scene : I was there, standing on my balcony, brandishing my broom handle with the panty at the top of it, like a white flag, with a victorious smile on my face. “I got it!” I said loudly. This is when my neighbor from the opposite building decided to wave at me, saying “Hi”. I don’t know how long she had been watching me.
You know, I believe that when something is awkward to do, the best way to go is going fast. Then, I decided to fold the cloth (I couldn’t imagine ringing her doorbell and exposing it to her with a raw “Excuse me, is this yours?”, then I imagined a folded one would reduce the hard feelings) and walk up the stairs to the second floor, feeling a bit nervous.
Long story short, she did not answer, even if I could clearly hear her steps behind the door. I cannot know if she just did not hear the 3 times I rang her bell and my door knocks or if she saw me struggling with my broom under her balcony and she deduced that it was me at her door.
Anyway, I went back home and took a little plastic bag, put the panty inside with a note saying that I got it from the tree. I placed the bag inside her mailbox. Weeks later, she still hasn’t reacted.
After that, I told the story to my friends and family. A lot of them laughed, saying this was an awkward and funny situation. Some others were chocked that I grabbed it and that I put it in her mailbox. They said they would never have done this, as they did not know how the old lady would have reacted. The idea that this was uncomfortable was overcoming the fact that this was a nice gesture. “I would have put it in the garbage” I heard, “I wouldn’t have rung her doorbell, she would have believed I’m a pervert!”. Reactions were different but all were heading to the same direction: keep distance and avoid the awkward moments. But would it have been honest to keep a piece of clothing that does not belong to me? Would it have been nicer to let her underwear hanging for everyone to see and laugh?
If I write this here, this is to make you laugh a bit for sure, but above all, it is to show you how something so simple became a very uncomfortable situation. If the panty were replaced by a t-shirt or a pullover, it would have been obvious and natural to take them and to hand them over to the owner. Why a simple freshly clean panty made me feel so uncomfortable? Why did it condition my (re)actions? Why would some people put their personal comfort above a minute of weirdness? I often say that goodwill doesn’t have the face of an angel. I never had the intention of making the old lady feel bad, but I couldn’t not imagine putting her cloth in the garbage just to sooth my mind and avoid an awkward moment. Why did everybody around me told me they would not have done what I have done?
And you, dear reader, what would you have done? Do you think that my choices were the most respectful or not? Do you think that the fact I’m a woman was playing a role in this story?
In the end, I hope this made you smile. But I want to let you see that sometimes, making the right decision is not very clear and that the notion of respect can change depending on each one.
Dear readers, take care of you (and of all the old ladies who live around you).