By Eileen Kearns.
Illustration by Malcolm Cullen

As the first snow began to fall, my husband Lee and I – recent retirees, just-turned senior citizens and proud owners of a brand-new fifth wheel – headed southwest to Yuma, Arizona.

Finally, we had become snowbirds!

We knew full well that our first trip south in the RV would be a learning experience. Lee would probably say the biggest lesson he had to learn was back­ing up the fifth wheel. I, on the other hand, am convinced the most important nugget I could possibly pass on to other first-timers is not to let your husband anywhere near the laundromat. 

We were staying at a RV Park in Yuma. It was a large park, and the laundromat always seemed to be crowded. An experienced RV’er suggested that the best time to do laundry was on Saturday night, while most of the park residents were line dancing. So, with country music blaring in the back­ground, Lee and I headed to the laundromat.

At home, Lee does not do laundry. Ever. As a matter of fact, he is forbidden from doing laundry, ever since that time he put one of my silk blouses through the washer and dryer. It came out looking like a piece of clothing for a Cabbage Patch doll. But this was a Saturday night, and I appreciated the company as well as the extra pair of arms to carry the loads to and from the truck.

As our informant has promised, the laundromat was almost empty. There was just one other person there. Lee dumped the clothes into three washers and I added detergent. Then Lee went outside to watch the stars (which translates into going out for a cigarette) and I picked up a two ­year-old magazine with Valentine’s Day recipes and articles. My husband returned as the wash cycle ended and we trans­ferred the loads to three vacant dryers. He was a big help, I decided. I fin­ished the magazine while my husband gazed at the stars through puffs of blue smoke.

Lee returned to help fold the clothes. He has a totally differ­ent way of folding clothes than I do. I suspect it is the way he did laundry while in college, sort of rolling shirts, not folding them into neat rectangles with buttons done up and sleeves tucked in. Therefore, I suggested he attend to the socks and underwear while I folded the shirts and pants. Working as a team, we finished in no time and were soon back in the RV putting the clothes away.

“What’s this?” I asked, holding up a white sport sock with bright blue stripes around the top. It did not have a mate, and it was not one of ours. 

“It’s a sock”, answered my husband. 

“I know, but it isn’t ours.”

“I didn’t think I had ever seen it before, but I thought it might be yours.”

The sock would fit a man who wears at least a size 12 shoe. I wear a ladies size seven.

“You know people are always leav­ing stuff in washers and dryers,” I said, “didn’t you even check before you put our clothes in?” 

“Huh?” he replied, looking as if he could hardly believe this actually happens.

“Well, we’ll have to take it back.” 

“Uh, uh, not me. If someone can’t look after their own sock, I say throw it away,” Lee answered, and resumed putting clothes in his closet. 

The music was still playing as I walked over to the laundromat and left the lone sock on a folding table with other stray pieces of clothing that had evi­dently been left in other washers or dryers. Lee was standing outside our fifth wheel stargazing when I returned. He had put all the clean clothes away. He was a big help, I thought, looking up at the Arizona night sky. 

We had an early night as we were going on our very first seniors’ bus trip the following morning with others from our park. We had to be in the parking lot by 6:30 am and I had not seen that hour of the day since retiring. I had no intention of ever seeing it again, but I did want to go on the bus trip. 

So we were up before sunrise, show­ered and dressed quickly in the morn­ing darkness. The bus was right on time and we headed for San Diego. Once there, we boarded a boat for lunch and a cruise of the harbour. As we walked around the boat, marvelling at the sights, I felt my under­pants slipping down off my hips into a bunch under my khaki pants. What the heck was going on? Did the elas­tic give way? 

I excused myself and headed to the restroom where, upon examining the situation more closely, I realized I was wearing someone else’s underwear! I remembered that Lee had put my clothes away while I returned the stray sock to the laundromat. In the dark this morning, I had grabbed the pair of panties from the top of the pile in my drawer. Obviously, there had been at least two items left in a washer or dryer.

“That’s gross,” I said to myself, or maybe I said it out loud, I can’t be sure. I recalled our son’s expression the year he was 12, when he would respond to any comment about sex, surgery or casseroles as gross. “That’s gross,” I repeated. So, I did what any normal woman wearing someone else’s under­wear would do. I leaned back against the wall in the boat’s tiny wash­room cubicle and, bal­ancing my back against the wall and placing my left hand on the back of the toilet, I lifted my right leg high above the opening under the door. After all, who knows who’s out there watching. I pulled my pant leg off my foot and removed the offen­sive large pair of panties. I slipped my leg back into my pants and raised my left leg. I lost my balance slightly but regained it by reaching the opposite wall with my right hand just as my pant leg hit the water in the toilet bowl. Why can’t they put lids on pub­lic toilets anyway? I yanked the pant leg out of the water and gave it a shake. I finished removing some other woman’s underwear and pulled myself back together. 

I emerged from the toilet cubicle with one wet pant leg and a crumpled ball of silky material in my hand, which I deposited in the wastebasket. If someone can’t look after his or her own underwear, throw it away, I say. 

Trying to look nonchalant and com­posed, I returned to the main deck and joined our bus tour group. I eyed every woman on the deck, wondering if she might be the person whose underwear I had just tossed away. That’s gross, I kept thinking. I looked at the men too; to see if they were wearing white sports socks with bright blue stripes around the top. That might be a clue, I was thinking, especially if he was just wearing one. 

With one damp pant leg and no underwear, I had lunch, walked the deck and viewed the sights of San Diego. Now I am sure I’m not the first senior citizen to do that, but after a few minutes, I felt downright daring and youthful. 

On the bus trip home, the crowd was tired and quieter than they had been on the way to San Diego. With the desert sand and yuccas rushing by the bus windows, I remembered the Valentine’s Day article I had been reading the night before in the Laundromat, on turning on your sweetheart. One of the suggestions – and I swear this what the article said to do – was to turn to your spouse at a cocktail party, museum or art gallery and whisper those five magical words that would drive him crazy with desire. Ok, so this wasn’t a cocktail party and I hadn’t thought of it on the boat deck, which seemed a better loca­tion, but surely a seniors’ bus trip would suffice. I leaned close to my husband, who was stretched back into the seat resting his eyes, and whis­pered “I’m not wearing any panties”.

Lee bolted upright. The magic words were obviously working. He looked at me and raised his arm. I leaned forward; sure he was putting his arm around me. This was working faster than I imagined. But he didn’t put his arm around me. Instead, he poked his finger in his ear and dug around in there the way he used to do when came out of the swim­ming pool.

Have you noticed that people who are slight­ly hard of hearing tend to speak louder than is necessary at times? Lee did exactly that when he final­ly stopped poking in his ear and boomed “What? You forgot to put on your underpants?” 

I slinked down in the seat as the giggles and titters echoed up and down the rows of seniors on the bus. “What’s so funny?” I heard a gentleman ask loudly from somewhere near the back of the bus. 

“That lady in row three just told her husband she forgot to put on her underwear this morning,” chuckled a lady. The giggles, titters and stifled laughter continued all the way to Yuma, muffled by Lee’s occasional 

“I’m sorry, but that’s what I thought you said. What did you say anyway?” 

I guess one has to say these magi­cal words at a cocktail party, art gallery or museum for them to work. Lee will vouch they didn’t do much for the romance in his life. I spent the rest of the winter trying to avoid people at the RV park, in case I ran into someone who had been on the bus trip to San Diego. 

RV life does get in your blood, and we are already planning for next year, although I am looking for a dif­ferent RV park. We are also planning a trip to Vancouver Island this sum­mer. Meanwhile Lee practices back­ing up the fifth wheel and I do the laundry – alone. 

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