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Home --> Embarrassments --> In the Buff --> The Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh

Legend:   Naked housewife surprised by tradesman blurts out the wrong thing.

Examples:

[Dear Abby, 1994]

Here's another one for your "nude" collection. I was all set to step into the shower when I realized that my bath towels were in the dryer. My washer and dryer are on my back porch, so I quickly ran back there to get a towel. Before I could open the dryer door, I heard the milkman coming down the walk. He always left the milk on my back step, but I was afraid he might glance in the back screen door and see me, so I jumped into the back porch closet.

I was standing in the closet waiting for him to leave. Suddenly, the closet door swung open and there I stood, naked as a jaybird. It was the meter reader. In his surprise, he looked me up and down. In my embarrassment, I blurted out, "Oh my... I thought you were the milkman!"

Red-Faced In Fresno
 

[Bryson, 1982]

An English woman, according to the Sunday Express, was climbing into the bathtub one afternoon when she remembered that she had left some muffins in the oven. Naked, she dashed downstairs and was removing the muffins when she heard a noise at the door. Thinking it was the baker, and knowing he would come in and leave a loaf of bread on the kitchen table if she didn't answer his knock, the woman darted into the broom cupboard. A few moments later she heard the back door open and, to her eternal mortification, the sound of footsteps coming towards the cupboard. The door opened. It was the man from the gas company, come to read the meter. 'Oh,' stammered the woman. 'I was expecting the baker.' The gas man blinked, excused himself and departed.
 

[Elgart, 1951]

Wrapped in a bath towel, a neighbor of mine was answering the telephone in the kitchen. As she hung up she heard heavy footsteps in the back hall, and saw the door knob turning. Thinking it must be the ice man, she ducked quickly into the broom closet. Just as she was breathing a sigh of relief, the door opened: and she was confronted by a very surprised young man! Horrified, she pulled her towel tight around her embarrassment, remembering that the gas meter was in the closet.

After a nightmarish pause, she blurted out in desperation, "Oh, I thought you were the ice man!"

The meter reader's eye widened. Then he smiled, tipped his hat and murmured, "Lucky man!"

Variations:
  • Why the woman is romping around in the all-together varies:

    • She has undressed to get into the shower and only now realizes her towels are in a distant closet.
    • The ringing of the telephone has summoned her from her bath.
    • Just as she's about to step into the tub, she remembers she's failed to do something important: lock the back door (her husband has just left), leave it unlatched for the iceman to drop off a delivery, pull muffins that were in danger of burning from the oven, or turn off the gas under the coffee pot.

  • Because the plot wouldn't work if the one who discovers the domestic goddess au naturel didn't have reason to open the closet she's cowering in, the lucky fellow is invariably the meter reader. Gas and electric meters are traditionally housed in out-of-the-way spots, so it's reasonable for the purposes of the story to see nothing out of the ordinary in the workman's inspection of the closet.
  • The one caught naked in a closet is always a woman, while the one who catches an eyeful is always a man.
  • Whoever the woman says she's waiting for (the milkman or iceman), the meter reader who opens the closet is left with the impression she was deliberately lurking in the nude to surprise her lover and thus is having an affair. One therefore pictures not only the naked, embarrassed woman, but the story of her infidelities soon after flying around the village.
Origins:   How old is old? According to Brunvand, one of his readers claimed to have heard this tale in the mid- to late-1930s in Cincinnati. At this moment, the earliest known text sighting comes from a 1951 joke book.

As alluded to earlier, a goodly part of this story's popularity hinges on the housewife's double embarrassment. Not only is she left conversing with the meter reader with not a stitch on, she also manages to leave him with the impression she's having a wild fling with either the milkman or the iceman.

Another "naked housewife" tale involves a football helmet and an awed quip by the one catching the eyeful.

Barbara "lovely Rita, meter maid" Mikkelson

Last updated:   21 February 2009

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  Sources Sources:
    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (p. 193-194).

    Bryson, Bill.   The Blook of Bunders (Bizarre World).
    Great Britain: Sphere Books Ltd., 1982.

    Elgart, J.M.   Over Sexteen.
    New York: Grayson Publishing, 1951   (p. 66).

    Scott, Bill.   Pelicans & Chihuahuas and Other Urban Legends.
    St. Lucia, Queensland: Univ. of Queensland, 1996.   ISBN 0-7022-2774-9   (p. 154).

    Smith, Paul.   The Book of Nastier Legends.
    London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.   ISBN 0-7102-0573-2   (p. 27).

    Van Buren, Abigail.   "Dear Abby."
    12 July 1994   [syndicated column].

  Sources Also told in:
    Holt, David and Bill Mooney.   Spiders in the Hairdo.
    Little Rock: August House, 1999.   ISBN 0-87483-525-9   (pp. 85, 27).