Photo CC by Jason Hoang
I’m about to air some dirty laundry. Well, actually, it was clean. But dirty or clean, everyone freaks out when they find a thong at work. I think everyone, anyway. That summer 90% of my coworkers were men, (18 out of 20 to be exact) and at that point in the morning, everyone who was there was (surprise!) a man. I assume that a woman’s reaction to an unclaimed thong (as long as it’s not in her husband’s dresser drawer) is a little less … awkward. Regardless of reactions, please keep in mind that by thong, I mean panties.
I used to have a bad habit of putting my laundry away days after it was done. My mom would put it all in my room after it had been washed and dried and it would pile up (mistake number one). It was back when I was 18, fresh out of high school and as lazy as a new graduate can be. My dear mom would say, “If you’re old enough to be called an adult then you’re old enough to do your own laundry.” (Honestly, looking back, I think she probably should have done that years before. It would have been good for her because she would have had less work to worry about and good for me because then maybe the story I’m telling wouldn’t have unfolded … pun intended.) Even though in retrospect I think, “Wow. How hard was it to just put my clothes away?” I obviously didn’t have the foresight to know that such a lazy little habit would haunt me for an entire summer.
I was working for the City of Buffalo as a groundskeeper. We worked early in the morning but we were done by the peak of heat in the afternoon. In Northeastern Wyoming the summer days can reach well over 90 degrees, but the mornings are a cool 40. Every day I would wake up 20 minutes before work, throw my hair in an unattractive, sloppy bun which I hid under a ball cap, grab a sweatshirt and some breakfast, and head out the door. Even in July it was always chilly. I would crank the heat so I could endure the entire 10 minute trip to town without pulling the sweater over my head (mistake number two). The specific day of the thong incident, after I pulled into the dirt lot, I grabbed my lunch, pink hooded sweatshirt, and proceeded to the shop. Like any other day I put my sack lunch in the community fridge, headed to the microwave to heat up my breakfast, pulled my sweater over my head, and replaced my ball cap quickly over my wild hair. The beeping of the microwave made my stomach rumble and once I sat down I immediately began to devour my chocolate chip muffins. All too quickly the delight of my tongue and the relief of my stomach vanished as one of the street crew members tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the ground behind me, asking “Is this yours?” Following the direction of his finger, my eyes beheld a lacey, purple thong on the grimy tile floor. Genuinely shocked at what I was seeing, my eyes widened and I violently shook my head no. It wasn’t until a couple of the garbage men (sanitation experts, if you prefer) came over, and held up the thong for all of the world to see, that I realized I had inadvertently lied. That was my underwear being juvenilely thrown from face to face, passed around like a hot potato – a very interesting hot potato. As a matter of fact, not only was it my underwear, it was my favorite pair! It must have gotten stuck in the hood of my sweatshirt and fell out once I put it on! Because of the curse of static cling, I had to watch in silence as a group of dirty old men ogled at my thong, laughed at my thong, and turned into 8 year olds because of my thong. The only reason I didn’t die of embarrassment on the spot was because someone blamed the garbage guys for bringing it in and blaming me – an untrue story that I don’t know how many people believed, but that I backed up adamantly.
Throughout the day when I checked into the shop, there my panties sat, the center of attention of at least two delighted men. Finally, at the end of the day, the one other woman who was at work that day, disgustedly grabbed my thong and threw it in the trash, ranting about how she worked with a bunch of animals.
Mortified, dazed, and dismayed, that night I recounted the incident to my mom who, by trying to make the situation better, made it a whole lot worse. She told me of one of her own embarrassing stories to try to put the humiliation I felt in perspective. Apparently, when my brother was in kindergarten, a pad from her bikini top got stuck in his coat sleeve. As he took it off that morning it fell out and a few other kids saw it. Putting myself in her shoes, I didn’t see how this moment was even worth storing in memory, let alone anything to feel embarrassed about. Because of this, I thought that I really must be a drama queen and the anxiety I felt began to greatly subside. Then, all of a sudden, my mother realized that by “thong” I meant something a little sexier than the summertime shoe. Her laughter took what felt like years to subside. At some point between the sixth and seventh year, I decided that my fashion faux pas was just as horrifying as I had originally thought, and that the months left of summer vacation were going to be as full of memories as my hamper full of clothes. If any good did come out of this story, it is that now I put my laundry away straight from the dryer. From now on, I’ll be on the defense of static cling.