Anna-Leena Harkonen



Battle of the Beach Towels

We’re on vacation. It’s 5:30 in the morning. Someone pops out onto a balcony at our hotel. Half-asleep, they look down to check whether anyone has reserved sun loungers at the pool.

The sun-lounger stalker has woken up.

TAKES ONE to know one: I’m a sun-lounger stalker myself. I don’t wake up that early—but early enough. When on vacation, I like to go for a morning swim before breakfast and reserve a spot by leaving my towel on a sun lounger.

If I miss my morning swim, I’m anxious all through breakfast: what if all the sun loungers are taken?

ONE TIME on Crete, I had once again left my towel on my chosen sun lounger after my morning swim. When I later returned to the pool, someone had replaced my towel with their horse-patterned beach towel.

I reclaimed my spot immediately and hung the enemy towel on a fence. Its owner arrived and noticed their towel on the fence, but I acted as if I knew nothing. I continued to lie serenely on the lounger, with my face toward the sun.

I could hear their agitated breathing, but I didn’t react. I had every right to do what I had done; I was only using the sun lounger I had reserved.

AT LAKE GARDA, a group of women reserved sun loungers for themselves early in the morning, even though they spent the entire day off on a trip.

Back then, I was too timid to protest. I should have calmly and courageously replaced one of  their fluffy towels with mine and just claimed my spot. There must be some order in the world.

SOME PEOPLE go even further: they have the audacity to reserve sun loungers in the wee hours of the morning, on their way back from a night on the town.

That is so wrong.

I have decided that if I ever witness anything like that, I will sneak to the pool after the party people have passed out, take their towels, and hide them somewhere for good.

In the best case, they will have to reimburse the hotel for the towels. In the worst case, I will get caught, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. Anything for a relaxing vacation.

© Anna-Leena Harkonen 2023

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