Our front yard here at Los Tules is a swimming pool. Right now, at 10 a.m., all of its 24 lounge chairs are occupied, as usual.
Five are occupied by people, one by a teddy bear, and eighteen by towels. The towels are meant to reserve the chairs for people who won’t come until later — people who don’t want anyone else to use these chairs until they’re good and ready to do it themselves. It’s not uncommon in resorts and along parade routes world wide, but here in Los Tules it is a very touchy subject.
On one hand, there are ethics: Reserving a chair is against pool rules, clearly stated nearby on a big bilingual sign. Why should a towel use a chair by itself when an actual human might need a chair for an hour or two? An on-vacation, paying human?
On the other hand, there is pragmatism. If you are an on-vacation, paying guest, if you do not throw your towel on a chair early, you will not get a chair until maybe 5 p.m. when happy hour has passed and people go inside to change for dinner, or nap, or do whatever else people do when happy hour is over.
Tom gets up early and has watched people reserve chairs as early as 6:00 a.m., then presumably go back to sleep, only to claim their chairs four hours later.
During my daily 9 a.m. reverie by the sea (I awaken at a more civilized hour than Tom), I have twice been interrupted by towel-bearing people wondering how long I plan to sit on their chair. There is a little dance of vague politeness, underlined by just a twinge of hostility.
This toweled-chair thing used to infuriate us before we mellowed out into the rhythms of the place. Now we just find it fun to watch, like an anthropological study.
One of our anti-towel-reservation neighbors has been known to go out and pick up the unguarded reserving towels and fold them neatly in a corner, leaving unreserved chairs for those who deserve them. Another neighbor was horrified to hear this. What right does she have to liberate duly-reserved chairs?
I should note here that all of the competitive chair-savers are Americans and Canadians. When Mexicans come to stay at Los Tules, they would rather seat six people on two lounges then take up a chair that someone else might need. Just saying.
Tom and I don’t usually sit in pool chairs all day, and we don’t reserve them in the morning. I’m too wiggly to sit all day and he prefers the silence and shade of the patio. But just for fun, today we decided to observe the game from the front row. We put our towels down at 9:30 and immediately sat in our two chairs. Then we added a third chair for Tom’s teddy bear, modestly clad in a flowered bikini, just out of orneriness. I was kind of hoping someone would confront us over a teddy bear using up a whole chair. Tom was betting that no one would. What did happen is that the people who finally claimed four of the toweled chairs next to the bear remarked to each other in not-so-sotto-voces that “there is a HUGE chair shortage today!”
As a scientific experiment this was a total fail. I don’t even know what we were trying to prove. All I know is that now we are back on our shady patio, and the people who reserved the remaining front-end chairs at 9:00 a.m. have not shown up, four hours later.
Meanwhile, I have crossed over to the Dark Side. As I sit here writing in the shade of the patio, I can see “my” chair in the sun, my towel in place there, waiting for me to return. Tom (and his towel, and his bear) have retreated to the patio, but I’m going back now that I’ve finished this post, and that chair is mine.
The result of the experiment? Pragmatism trumps ethics. And hypocrisy trumps them all.