Our washroom, to me, is a battlefield which is why I avoid it for as long as I can. It contains 7 washers and 4 dryers that serve, at a minimum, 700+ apartments of various tenants (single, double, and multi-families). For the 6 months or so I’ve lived here, I have yet to see all 7 washers operable – there are always 2 or 3 broken. Often, there are lines of folks waiting to access a machine, thus, when I am forced by necessity, I get up early to get my laundry done. This morning, when I went down, there were two others in front of me and I patiently waited an hour and a half for my turn. Having gained one washer and waiting for two others to become free, a young woman entered with laundry in tow. She asked which I was using and I explained that I was waiting for two more and this is where the trouble started. (Note to self: stop talking to people.)
She argued that it was policy to allow others access to washers when there is high demand (which is always, as far as I have seen) while I explained that I’d been waiting very long to use these washers and if she would just wait, two others (not the two I was waiting on) would be available shortly and she was free to use them. This was an unsatisfactory answer to her and we proceeded to go back and forth over the topic. My stance was ‘First come, first served’ and she’d only been there for 2 minutes so why should I allow her to take the washers I was waiting on. After all, my need was just as great and I’d been waiting longer. Her stance was ‘Share and share alike’ and although she empathized with my need and wait, she felt it was unfair for me to have 3 washers. This went on for a bit until I opted to just stop speaking to her. (Rule: Never argue with a fool, from a distance no one can tell the difference.) I claimed my washers and she, the others I had originally stated she should use and we proceeded in an uneasy truce.
Later, I thought about the statements we’d made and wondered if perhaps the real difficulty wasn’t a cultural difference. I thought about how in capitalistic societies, it is more than normal for people to use/have more than their ‘share’ of consumables (i.e. washers, land, money, power, etc) – you get what you earn or can achieve. In a way, the results of the accumulation of more than your ‘share’ is exactly what Occupy Wall Street is currently protesting. While in Europe, a social equality seems to be the lay of the land. Currently, hubby and I pay higher taxes and are unable to receive certain benefits (ie. we pay for my language courses because he earns a high salary while others who earn less receive those same courses for free). Perhaps this is the thought behind the European Union bail-outs for Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain.
I retained my washers and ignored her while she continued to rant and rave about my ‘capitalist’ ways to anyone who would listen. Perhaps my failure to bend further infuriated her. Usually, I apply the rule of ‘When in Rome…’ but today I was all about ‘the early bird catching the worm’ and I’d be damned if I would be cowed because I had what she wanted. As my favorite TV pirate say ‘Take what you can; give nothing back!’ What do you think? Should I have let her have the washers? Was our conflict really caused by variances in political-economic understanding?