Don’t Put Your Suitcase on the White Linens: Learning Etiquette through Osmosis

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This blog rotation ‘round inspires a new angle that is unrelated to my two previous contributions to EnKompass (“The Hot Zone” Editorials, Part 1, Part 2). Raise the roof for a lighter subject! Although titled appropriately, this week’s post may serve as a reminder to wash that heap of laundry that’s sitting in the hallway.

So, what is with all this hype about white linen? And what on God’s green Earth does it have to do with manners? My verdict is in and it’s a well-traveled, dirty suitcase.

When I was studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, “The Rainbow Nation,” I stayed at the Carmichael Guest House. A guest house is similar to a bed and breakfast in the U.S. The one I resided in is kept afloat not only by the Captains of the ship, Yves and Valerie Ducommun (yes, two Captains is a thing), but the women who make their living working there.  With that being said, I had the luxury of returning every afternoon to a bed that was made, a room that was tidy and fresh towels.

Our group met The Ducommun Family upon our arrival in Cape Town. Yves, the husband, firmly mentioned that our suitcases did not have his permission to relax after their long travels on the white linens that were fitted snuggly to our mattresses and ironed to perfection. He mentioned this because, well, those airplane carriages are nasty. He said that our suitcases could be the dirtiest thing, comparable to a pig in a mud pit, to come in contact with our clean sheets. We drag our suitcases across pavement (rain, sleet, snow, you name it), they get sent onto conveyor belts, slung onto the aircraft, squeezed into corners, etc. I’m sure you can think of other events in which your suitcase could contract something unpleasant, but I think Yves’ message is clear, “Don’t put your suitcase on the white linens.”

Very recently my mom, whom I lovingly refer to as “Mommie,” returned home from training in Iowa. I went into her room and saw that her suitcase was perched quietly on the bed, clothes strewn around, but it was patiently waiting to be unpacked and stowed back in the garage. Hint Hint. Having retained this etiquette/airplane cleanliness knowledge from South Africa, I notified her that this crime was an act against her everyday practices.

Before I describe her epic reaction, you have to know that she is obsessively clean. My mom vacuums not because the carpets are dirty, but so that she can see the tracks the vacuum leaves. If that isn’t ridiculous, then I have to mention that the tracks have to go a certain way, preferably in 45 degree angles. I joke that she does this so she knows if there have been any intruders.

If my mother hadn’t flipped her lid, I would have been worried. But, per usual, she was in character. As quick as I could turn around she sprinted out of the bathroom with her hair in a towel and quickly removed the suitcase and relocated it in the hallway.

Some things are so funny that you have to share with the student body.

When I make it back to my beloved South Africa I will remember to do the following (in regards to etiquette), because I have immersed myself in Cape-tonian culture and have resided with The Ducommun Family.

  • Keep belongings nested in drawers or the suitcase (if you can even risk it, now).
  • No pajamas at breakfast.
  • No bare feet.
  • Close doors gently, you’re not the only guest in this establishment!
  • Americans are notoriously loud; please keep it down after 10 P.M.
  • Hopefully you have acquired a routine sleep schedule and will recognize when its 10 P.M.
  • If breakfast is served each morning, only put on your plate what you can finish.
  • It’s okay to go up multiple times.
  • But, don’t be wasteful.
  • And please, if this post hasn’t taught you anything…remember this: keep your suitcase off your hay!




Harlie Collins is a senior at the University of Kentucky majoring in Integrated Strategic Communications with a Public Relations emphasis, minoring in Spanish.