Beware of Hidden Social Rules

Hidden Social Rules (HSR) are the “good etiquette” social rules that everyone is supposed to follow. The tricky part about these rules is that they change. For example, in the library you are expected to be quiet (okay.. that may be an actual rule.. it’s not very well hidden), in the grocery store you are expected to walk, and at McDonalds you wait your turn in line to order that Denali Mac (yes, that IS a thing here in Alaska and it’s great!). 

Today, I learned about the HSR of the laundromat. First, some background information. I am polite and shy person. I’m also very observant. When I first started coming to the Laundromat,  I noticed what everyone else was doing and emulated the behavior to the best of my abilities. I would raise rogue socks and wave it around for a few seconds to see if anyone recognized the specimen; if an owner was not found I was gracefully lay the poor soul down on top of the washer and silently wish him the best. I brought a book to pretend to read, secretly keeping an eye on my clothes so that the moment they are down I could swoop them out. Altogether, I think I’ve done rather well. 

Today… I learned a valuable lesson. Never assume, ALWAYS ask. 

I arrived at the Laundromat later than I typically do. To my surprise, all the washers were being used. So I do what I believed was the appropriate thing to do; I sat and waited for an available washer. Finally a washer had finished and was not being reloaded. I watched the woman empty out the washer next to it as well and refill it with another load. I waited for over five minutes until the woman sat and pick up a magazine. I moved closer to the machine and the woman did not object. We made eye contact and she walked away. I interpreted that as “I see you at the machine and If I still needed it I would say something.. but I dont need it so go ahead”


I will never jump to that conclusion again. She yelled and yelled and continued to yell despite my repeated and sincere apologies. 

From this day forward, I will be known as the Calamity of the Laundromat. 

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