Friday night, as I washed clothes in the laundry room of my yuppie
high rise, a woman slid into the seat next to me.
"Excuse me," she
said. "Are those your clothes?" She motioned toward
two industrial-size washers. I shook my head, no.
We sat quietly, watching TV.
The news was on.
"Would you do me a favor?"
the woman said finally. I shrugged. "I'm Mrs. Johnson, and I lease
apartments in this building for business clients who are in town
for several weeks or months. I spent about $50,000 on those washers
to clean sheets and towels."
"Uh-huh," I said.
"The only way you can
use them is with a key. Someone is using them without my permission,
and they're putting in regular detergent, which could ruin them."
She looked around, then drew closer and continued in a hushed
tone. "If you watch to see who comes down for the clothes,
I'll give you three nights in one of our suites. Do your parents
ever visit? They could stay free."
"So all I'd have to do,"
I said, intrigued, "is sit here, wait for the person to
get the clothes, then describe that person to you?"
I looked at the floor. "Would
you put that in writing?" No one ever accused me of being
She tore a page from a newspaper
and wrote her name and phone number on it.
Then she scribbled "3 free nights at Johnson Suites."
Mrs. Johnson thanked me and
left. I waited. After an hour, my clothes dried and folded, I
gave up. I was tired, and hell, my parents could stay on my floor
anytime. I went back to my apartment.
Forty-five minutes later,
after a hearty meal of Velveeta & Shells, I began to wonder
if the culprit had returned. I returned to the laundry room.
The clothes were gone! I approached a chubby guy folding his
socks. "Did you see who took the clothes from those washers?"
He didn't say a word, just turned on his heels and pointed at
a woman standing nearby.
I approached her slowly. She
was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans. "Maam,"
I said, feeling like a henchman. "Who are you?"
She looked puzzled. When I
explained why I needed to know, she pulled out a small key and
stammered, "I'm Joey's wife." Joey was a maintenance
guy. "Mrs. Johnson knows I have the key. Joey does jobs
for her, and she lets us use the key."
I apologized for frightening
her, then took the elevator upstairs with her. She got off at
3. As soon as she exited and this, I know, may prejudice
you as you decide if I'm a rat fink I made a fist and
said under my breath, "Three free nights!"
Mrs. Johnson, predictably,
had not given Joey the key. She said she'd suspected him but
that he had denied it on three occasions. "Any time you
want those nights, you just let me know," Mrs. Johnson assured
I receive mixed feedback when
I tell this story. One friend said I should have confiscated
the key and told the woman that I wouldn't rat on her, then given
the key to Mrs. Johnson. That way everybody would have been happy.
Another friend (along with my mom, after I explained what I had
gotten from the deal) saw nothing wrong with what I did. They
reasoned that Mrs. Johnson would have caught Joey's wife eventually.
Before you vote, you may want
to read previous comments from visitors supporting the rat
fink or the shrewd opportunist
viewpoints. After you vote, you are welcome to leave a comment.
article first appeared in my fanzine, Chip's Closet Cleaner,
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