Towels, and the Lessons They Teach
by Rachel Creager Ireland
Two men have been friends since they served in Viet Nam together. Every year they get together and catch up over some wine. This year they stayed at the Prairie Fire Inn and Spa. They were very friendly and we talked a bit about Kansas politics and the urban organic farm one of them owns. They liked our place, and didn’t mind the weedy parking lot or that one of them had to sleep in a twin bed because our rooms aren’t big enough for two big beds. The one who checked out in the morning apologized for having spilled some wine, and using a towel to clean it up.
They were so nice that, later, when I found the blue towel, I decided not to get annoyed. I liked these guys, and would be happy for them to come back any time. I made a mental list of reasons the towel wasn’t important. It was a hand towel, not a bigger one. We just bought hand towels, and are not short on that size. They really aren’t expensive when you buy them by the dozen from a hotel supplier.
The funny part is that this whole little episode raised what might have been an obvious question. To whom was I doing a favor? The guests were off enjoying the prairie, or having lunch, and they would never know if I got annoyed, or not. The only person who would suffer for my reaction was, of course, myself.
So what about the others, who I don’t happen to take a liking to? What about the ones who ruin a towel after making a racist remark at check in, or complaining about the ants eating all the pizza crumbs they left in their bed? How much do they suffer from a hundred miles away, while I silently stew over their boorishness?
What if I just pretended they were someone I liked? I would still have to replace the towel, but I wouldn’t have to suffer. Of course, ego says, oh no, they’re not getting off that easy! But ego and I will have a talk when the time comes.
And one other question: why am I forty-six and just now figuring this out?