This Side of the Pond – Oct. 12

By Sarah Pridgeon

Every so often, your newspaper editor demands that I go find something daft to do so that I can write about it in this column. He has come to the conclusion that I have a talent for getting myself in hot water and feels I should do so more often, if only for his own amusement.

In his defense, we are talking about the ignorant foreigner who asked if she could take a shower before heading for a tornado shelter; has been known to get herself in more than one pickle when combining snow and vehicle tires; and once hid behind the sofa from a man roaming near the house with a shotgun because she had no idea what a game warden looked like.

In other words, he has a point: I do seem to have an innate ability to find problems where they shouldn’t exist. Fortunately, it turns out I inherited this tendency directly from my beloved parents, who were kind enough this week to let me delegate the task of finding something ridiculous to do.

This tale begins innocently with my mother’s decision that she would like to visit the local pool, as swimming is an activity she has always enjoyed but hadn’t indulged in for a while. In preparation, she arranged to meet a friend, purchased a new towel and dug out her bathing suit from the bottom drawer.

My father was ushered into the laundry room and given the crucial task of making sure her suit was fresh and clean for the occasion. He agreed to this with very little fuss, as is his wont, and so my mother turned her back for five minutes.

When she looked back, she discovered that my dad had done the one thing she specifically told him not to do: put the bathing suit in with a brand new, fresh-off-the-shelf, bright red towel. This led to exactly the result she had warned him it would lead to: pink piping all around the edges, instead of the original white.

In an effort to fix his mistake, my dad put the bathing suit back in the washing machine. It was still pink when it came out, so he tried again. And again.

By the time my mum got her hands on that bathing suit, the piping was no longer pink, but it wasn’t exactly white, either. It now just looked a bit grubby, which wasn’t the impression she had been aiming for, but there wasn’t much to be done about it at that late stage, so she put it in her bag and headed for the pool.

In the changing rooms, it became clear that the look of Mum’s bathing suit was the least of her problems. As she tugged and wriggled, yanked and twisted, she realized it had shrunk dramatically.

It wouldn’t go over her shoulders properly, it refused to cover the parts that are best kept hidden in public places and it pushed parts of her in directions that human flesh was never intended to point. Starting to panic, she pulled it every which way she could think of and did her best to re-stretch it to decent proportions, but it was all to no avail.

It wasn’t going to happen. Her friend had already left the changing rooms and was butterfly stroking her way back and forth across the pool, so my mum had no choice but to carry word of what had happened to her in person.

She wrapped her bright red towel all the way round her, fastened it as securely as she could and toddled carefully out to the water. Apologizing profusely, she explained to her friend that it wasn’t going to be in anyone’s best interests for her to do any swimming that day.

Best case scenario would have been a pool full of surprised Brits; worst case scenario, my mum had a suspicion it might be grounds for an arrest. Her friend good-naturedly agreed that it would be best for all involved if she put her clothes back on instead.

My mother shuffled back to the changing room while composing in her mind all the choice words she would have for my father when she got back home. It was all his fault, she thought – she’d given him clear instructions, she’d explained the towel couldn’t go in with the darks wash and there was even a label on it warning that it needed to be washed separately the first few times, so he had no excuse at all for getting it wrong.

She continued to mutter to herself as she began to change back into her clothes. It was at this moment that my mother realized she had put her bathing suit on back to front.

For the gentlemen in the audience who have never had the pleasure of wearing a lady’s bathing suit: the wrong way round, it resembled a wrestling singlet and was about as adept at providing coverage. My poor father was freed from the blame, having done no harm to the costume’s dimensions after all.

Not that my mother is willing to be convinced of this fact – if it had still had bright white piping, she says, none of this would ever have happened.