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SAGE IN THE CITY: Should I Return My Neighbor’s Underpants?

Living  in High Rise Society can pose ethical dilemmas from the sublime to the ridiculous.  Now there’s someone available to help solve all you co-op and condo conundrums. Ask the Sage in the City.

Q.  There’s this woman in my building who suffers from spin cycle disorder.  She refuses to let the dryer complete its revolutions, but just pulls out whomever’s clothes are spinning and puts in her own stuff.  We have machines on each floor so everyone on eight knows who it is, but no one does anything.

Then one day last week I finally got my chance for revenge – I mean justice.  I had come to deposit my wash just as she was putting her laundry in the dryer.  I smiled like a Cheshire Cat, and as soon as she left I opened the door, stuck my hand in, and pulled out – a black lace push up bra entangled in a matching thong. Frankly, I thought the mousy brunette with the bad hair extensions was more a no-nonsense white cotton bloomer type, but you never really know your neighbors, do you? I admit I felt a twinge of guilt, but not enough to put them back.  The next day she posted a sign demanding their return.  Should I come clean? Waterlogged in the West Village

A.  I’m not saying Ms. Scanty Pants was right, but you know what you did was wrong.  Sure in an ideal world, everyone would follow proper laundry procedure.   But as anyone who’s ever lived in a high rise knows, that’s not reality.

Still, stooping to her level isn’t the answer. The very fact that you now have second thoughts shows me you a person of conscience who will be haunted by what you did, however logical it seemed at the moment. If everyone in the building followed your lead, people would be afraid to wash their clothes for fear they’d be swiped in mid cycle, which certainly wouldn’t be good for the general health and hygiene of your building.   Is that really what you want?

Just put the bra and thong in an unmarked, sealed manila envelope and leave it at her doorstep or with the doorman.  It’s not necessary to identify yourself, only to do the right thing after you did the wrong thing.  You’ll sleep better knowing Ms. Scanty Pants has her scanties.

Her humiliation in knowing that her secret life has been exposed should be punishment enough.  If you must do something, why not channel your laundry rage more productively.  Instead of stealing underpants, post a memo in the laundry room politely asking Ms. Scanty Pants to refrain from removing wet laundry from the dryers.  Assuming others in the building have been similarly victimized, I promise you they’ll sign onto your request, and before long she’ll get the message.  Nothing works better than public shaming by ones’ peers.

And if that doesn’t work, consider sending your clothes out to be cleaned.  I know that’s not the answer you want, but is it really worth losing your sanity over soggy laundry?

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