At 41, it’s been a while since I last lived at home. But when you’re on the other side of the world and your folks are in town, you kind of have to really, don’t you? So rather than a hotel, this week mum and dad and I are sharing an apartment on Melbourne’s South Bank. And as you can probably imagine, the fun starts here.
We have a two-double-bedroomed apartment, booked for three people. In the bathroom are two bath towels, two hand towels and two flannels (as much as will fit on the radiator rails). As they arrived first, mum and dad have claimed a bedroom and started using their towels. So when I arrive and want to have a shower, the fun begins. Which towel should I use?
In my mind, I’ll use whichever hasn’t yet been used, assuming that mum and dad have already used some. I see that there are two set in the bathroom already (that’ll be theirs) and in my wardrobe there are two more sets (those will be for the second bedroom guests then). Simples. Well, to me, yes. But after over 40 years of marriage, parents do tend to bicker, don’t they? And usually about the most trivial of things? Like towels. The conversation went something like this:
Mum: “They haven’t left us enough towels out.”
Now this is where it starts. In saying “Why?” what dad actually means is “Why do you think that, dear? What has brought you to this slightly disappointing conclusion?” However, mum doesn’t think like dad, and with a slightly shorter fuse than she had 40+ years ago, she is annoyed by this shortcoming, and even more so by dad’s apparent stupidity – how on earth should she know why they’ve only left out two sets of towels? The conversation then spirals into parental normality:
Mum: Well I don’t know, do I?
Dad: What do you mean?
Mum: They’ve only left out two sets – there are three of us!
Dad: Right, shall I go and speak to the concierge downstairs and ask them to bring some more?
Again, this is illustrative of the differences between my parents. Mum’s approach is to state the obvious and use this as the basis to start a conversation. She likes to talk. Meanwhile dad’s approach is not to focus on the problem, what’s the point? He likes to fix things. He’s a bloke, after all. Bearing in mind that they’re now on completely different trains of thought, the conversation continues:
Mum: Well no, because there were spares in my wardrobe, so I used one of those and left one set in the bathroom for Rebecca to use.
Dad: So we’re not short?
Mum: Well they only set it up for two and they should’ve done it for three.
Dad: So do I need to go down and ask for some more or not?
Mum: David, you’re not listening to me!
At this point, I decide to mix it up a bit, and do what my late brother was so good at, and drop in a grenade, just for fun…
Me: There should still be a clean set in the bathroom then, because there were two sets in my wardrobe too.
Mum: Oh, so did you use one of those?
Me: No, just saying, they probably set up for two in the bathroom and left plenty of spares in each room. So we actually have enough for six.
Dad: So I don’t need to go downstairs?
I then throw in a curve ball:
Me: Well you could, because there’s no frying pan for me to cook my eggs in the morning, and I’m sure I saw one on the itinerary for the apartment?
Mum: What itinerary? I didn’t see an itinerary? David, where are the printouts we brought?
Dad: What? Were towels listed on there?
Brilliant! I’m now not sure if dad’s playing along for fun, or doing his usual and only half listening to mum:
Mum: Nooooo! Why do you never listen? Was. There. An. Itinerary?
Dad: No? I didn’t see an itinerary?
I then mix it up again by introducing another variable:
Me: It wasn’t with the booking, I found it on the website.
Mum: What website?
Me: The website for the apartment, it listed what equipment each apartment is stocked with.
Mum, who’s phone is never far from her hand, is quick to open her browser, only to find she can’t connect to the wifi. Frustrated, she watches me connect straight away, before complaining about why hers doesn’t do that. I reopen her browser and click the ‘Connect’ button and she’s soon on the website for the apartment.
Mum: It says there should be a chopping board too, but there isn’t one.
Dad: So what do I need to ask concierge for – a frying pan, a chopping board and two towels?
Mum: No, we don’t need towels! For god’s sake David, why don’t you listen?
I now suspect dad is playing along, so I leave them to it and make my escape…