Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Personal Belongings


I took my usual people-watching stance at the Laundromat this morning, partly because it was way more crowded than I had expected so getting worked up and harried wasn’t worth it, it was pretty early (for me, anyway) and I only had one load of laundry to do.


For those of us who don’t have the luxury of a washing machine at home or a laundry room in the basement of our apartment building, there is the world of the Laundromat. Laundry is a personal thing that we do in a public place. My clothes were in the midst of being churned in soap and water when a Jewish woman dragged a huge black garbage bag into the Laundromat, hoisted it up and plopped it right into one of the wheeled baskets. I’ll admit, I just watched but nothing about what happened jumped out at me until the Jamaican guy dressed in a white T-shirt and paint-splattered “work pants” told her the carts dem fa clean clothes and why she a come up in dey and dutty dem up. She asked why it would be dirty and he told her because she had just dragged the bag along the ground. She nodded in realization, then smirked and shrugged it off. She had no intention of taking her bag out of the cart until other folks started giving her dirty looks over her dirty clothes. The older Hispanic woman who I encountered earlier that was “using” a machine (with nothing in it) that I had asked about was loading two other machines that the Jewish woman inquired about, and didn’t get.



There was no place for me to sit so I stood in front of my washer which was across from the dryers. The little…South American woman (I wanna say Mexican, but I won’t) came to her dryer every five minutes, opened it and checked if her clothes were dry. She’d take out a shirt here, two the next time. At one point there was four minutes left on her dryer and she still took out “just enough” clothes. The woman to my left with her two kids (her daughter was crying cause she was combing her hair and her son was being rambunctious) was waiting for a dryer and poised to pounce when the…South American woman put more quarters in the machine. I had to bite my tongue because I was ready to tell her to stop being so damn selfish and let someone else use the machine. But that’s what being in the Laundromat does – it brings out your selfish side. It’s like survival of the fittest. The old Korean man who runs the Laundromat had to tell the Jewish woman not to put her dirty clothes in the cart, again. Dryers barely stopped spinning before patrons were calling him to empty dryers if the owner of the clothes wasn't around. The tension in there was crazy. The lighthearted banter on the television from the ladies on The View couldn’t lighten the mood. It really must be due to laundry being such a personal process that quite frankly costs more than it should.


There are moments of camaraderie at the Laundromat too. The Jamaican woman to my right struck up a conversation with me. She thought it would be nice and empty in the Laundromat that morning, as did I. She still had some clothes she had to load into a dryer after loading her bedspreads, curtains and other clothes. Yet she took her curtains out of a dryer and gave it to me, with 12 minutes left on the timer. That’s more than and quarter’s worth of time! Little moments like that make it easier and more bearable to do a personal thing in a public space we all have to share. Needless to say, I didn’t take the time to fold my clothes when my clothes were done. I wanted out.

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