It was noon on Friday. Friday was wash day, Kerry’s least favorite day. Doing the wash was such a pain. He had to gather together all the dirty clothes. He had to turn the shirts and slacks inside out to save wear and tear on the outside of the shirts and slacks. He had to empty all the junk out of all the pockets of his clothes.
Then he had to find quarters for each load of wash—four for the washer and three for the dryer. It’d be so nice to have a weekly maid, like his downstairs neighbor. Kerry piled all his clothes into the laundry basket and went downstairs. He was relieved to hear silence as he approached the laundry room; no one was using the machines. He put laundry soap and quarters into the washer, and set it at Warm Temperature and Regular Wash. A few minutes later, it was full of soapy water. He stuffed in half of the dirty clothes. This was going to be a two-load day.
He placed the half-full basket on top of the churning washer. He shut the laundry room door and walked back upstairs. He set his electronic timer to 35 minutes. When the washer was done, he’d reload it and put the first load into the dryer. He sat down and opened the newspaper to the California section: "Truck Runs Over Crossing Guard," said the headline.

When the timer made its loud beeping sound, Kerry went downstairs. As he turned the corner and neared the laundry room, he heard the washer going. That didn’t make sense, he thought. The washer should be finished. Entering the laundry room, he saw his just-washed clothes piled on top of the dryer. His laundry basket, half full of unwashed clothes, was now sitting on the floor. Someone had set aside his laundry basket and put their own clothes into the washer. Their second load sat atop the washer. Irritated, Kerry put his damp clothes into the dryer and turned it on. Then he walked over to his downstairs neighbor’s apartment. He knew who had “cut in line”—it was the maid.
“Excuse me,” he told her, “you saw that I had a second load of clothes to wash. I was there ahead of you. Why didn’t you just wait till my second load was washed? That’s the polite thing to do.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said. “You see, I have to pick up my kids at four o’clock, so I needed to do the clothes quickly. I’m so sorry.” Kerry looked at her and shook his head. Don’t do anything wrong in the first place and you won’t have to apologize for it later, he thought. Had she waited her turn, she still would have finished doing her two loads by three o’clock. Me, me, me, Kerry thought—they should just rename this country “America.”




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