Monday, September 11, 2006

The Laundromat

I have written about it before, since it is so different from how I live at home, but the nearby laundromat is large, efficient and a space station of washing technology. Normally I sneak over to do laundry at odd hours - jet-lagged I do laundry at 3 am, working odd hours I do laundry at 10 am Tuesday mornings, I never do it during laundry prime time in weekends.

That is, until today.

I had to *gasp* wait for a drier. There were no baskets. The tables were crowded. In my european rudeness, I just lifted (dry!) clothes out of a drier to put my own stuff in. I was brash and rude and got things going.

In that period, I was observing people.

I am 45 years old. I have been folding clothing for at least 40 years. The first 5-10 of those years were kind of slow and light, but then I got into the serious laundry business. First I did it at home with the family, large family, then I did it for myself, then after a very short period of single life I was part of a couple and doing laundry for 2, then suddenly for 4 - which has been the situation for the last 20 years. Folding clothing is something I thought I was good at.

Watching New Yorkers at a public laundromat fold their clothing, I realised what a pathetic slob I am. When you're used to your own washing machine, your own drying rack and your own spacious living room to spread the clean laundry in, you get lazy. You don't immediately smooth out all the creases. You don't fold the collar just so as it comes out of the drier, so it will be easier to iron later on. You don't stroke the T-shirts out to make them fold into a uniform size that fits in your landry bag, which you have to carry home. You - ok, don't know about you, but I - get sloppy.

Today was interesting. I watched a group of people popularly assumed to be rude, brash, loud and forward carefully negotiate the lack of washing machines, driers and laundry baskets, politely assisting when the time-lags were evident, ignoring the intrusions on personal space with almost Scandinavian stoicism, and happily folding their clothes side by side; Spanish, Irani and Irish. It was beautiful. It made me believe in human cooperation, also in the United States. Outlaw private washing machines, fill the world with laundromates, and see people work those differences out in coordinated folding of intimate apparel.

1 comment:

Dennis G. Jerz said...

Thanks, Torill, for taking the time to share that anecdote. It's good tonic for strained souls.