Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Your Neighbor's Dirty Laundry

Yvette has seen some disturbing behavior in her laundry room and suspects that it’s happening in yours too. You may even be the perpetrator of this dreadful habit – separating your dirty clothes in the very carts that your neighbors have to use for their clean clothes. This must stop immediately. It’s unsanitary and inconsiderate. Why should your clean clothes have to absorb your neighbor’s dirt and who knows what else? Remember, bedbugs are on the rise.

Sorting of clothes should take place in your apartment or at the washing machine straight from the laundry bag or your own cart. Spreading stained clothes on the folding table in order to use stain remover is another bad idea.

Part II of laundry time has its issues too. There’s nothing more annoying than seeing your clean, wet clothes in a cart or on top of a machine’s dusty surface (This really happened, a woman put someone’s clothes on top of the machine and thought she was doing the right thing until Yvette pointed out the contrary.) compliments of a neighbor. But it’s your responsibility to tend to your own wash and timing is everything. It wouldn't hurt to acknowledge your lateness and let them know that you understand.

If you find yourself in the situation of needing a machine and you’ve waited at least five minutes for someone to claim their clothes, remove them and put them in a cart. You can say when the owner of the forgotten load finally arrives, “I'm sorry I had to take your clothes out. I waited but there wasn’t another machine available.” Since all parties think they're right when it comes to laundry room encounters always try to be as civil as positive.

However you handle it, remember, it all comes out in the wash.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When Bailouts Are Personal

In these trying economic times with so many people in dire straits requests for loans from friends are an every day occurrence. It’s the phone call no one really wants to make but sometimes must. It can be embarrassing and debilitating. If someone calls you for a loan, feel fortunate that you’re receiving the call and not making the call – all the more reason to be as gracious and kind as you can be. Don’t make it any more difficult for the potential borrower than it already is. No one needs to hear as one of our friends did after asking someone for money, “Why don’t you ask your boyfriend?” The answer to the question is, ‘yes’ or ‘I wish I could help but I can’t right now.’ It’s not your place to direct the person to someone else whose money you’ve obviously been counting from afar.

If you can make the loan, leave out the lecture on how you think this person should or shouldn’t spend their money. Make sure the payback terms are clear and don’t hesitate to ask for an IOU especially for a large sum of money.

If you're the borrower, don’t feel compelled to pepper your request with a sob story and never lie. Why you need the money is your business. Be honest about when you can repay the loan and never box yourself into a corner with a specific date, you can say within a month, week, etc. If you can payback sooner, that’s always better and puts you in good standing with your lender friend. Repay your loan the way it came to you with a check or cash and the full sum unless you've negotiated otherwise.

Be sensitive to the person who lent the money to you. If she’s staying close to home for vacation, you can understand why she may not lend you money again when she receives your postcard from Monte Carlo. It's human nature. On the other hand, don’t feel as though you have to present yourself as poverty stricken every time you see her.

Whether you're bailing out a friend or being bailed out, mind your manners.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


“You’re very humble. People don’t usually speak to the homeless,” the woman said to Yvonne on a recent bus ride. Yvonne recognized the woman from the soup kitchen where she volunteers. “I don’t know if it’s about being humble,” Yvonne said to me. “It’s courtesy, we know each other. I don’t stop knowing her when we’re outside of the soup kitchen and she’s really pleasant to talk to, obviously educated. Who knows what happened to her?”

Once, our mother told us a story about then called, ‘winos’ who hung out in her Brooklyn neighborhood. She said she always greeted them. One evening, walking home, a man approached her. She said she didn’t know where they came from but in no time they were surrounding this guy who took off into the night. Yvonne and I never forgot this story. It informed us on how we treat people no matter what their challenges are. “Those men never disrespected me and I’m glad I acknowledged them. They appreciated it and came to my rescue when I needed them,” our mother explained.

We are not urging you to run up to a homeless person and engage them in conversation and shove a dollar bill into their face. If one says hello to you, say hello back, wish them a good day. Never hand out money in lieu of a greeting. If you want to give them something, do it if they ask otherwise it’s obnoxious. They have their pride too, respect it and don’t patronize them.

If a person gets on a bus or train or is already seated and it’s clear they haven’t bathed for days, no need to make a face, shake your head furiously and suck your teeth in disgust. Just get up and move to another section.

While we may not have a lot in common with many homeless people, we are all human. And during these tough times, some of us are closer than we think to them.