Posts Tagged ‘launderette’

Same Laundry, Different Place

September 2, 2010

Ever since the flood in my apartment at the end of May I have been displaced. Life and laundry have not been running as smoothly as I would like.

I should say at this point that my flood, which was caused by a water main break, is nowhere near as severe or devastating as a natural flood and its aftermath. Going through the ordeal of negotiating with insurance adjusters on this comparatively small and simple job, I can only imagine what it must be like for those affected by true disaster. The insurance industry is shameful, corrupt and disgracefully indifferent to its customers and its purpose. As we approach hurricane season, I’ll be viewing the news reports with a different perspective. This article by Bob Calandra for AARP Bulletin reflects much of what is wrong with homeowner’s insurance today.

Three months into the process of repair and restoration we are painfully far from completion. Still, the laundry must be done. And I consider it the one constant in my activities during this upheaval.

The laundry room in my temporary residence is not like the one at home. The washers are smaller and more expensive. The dryers, too, cost more and do not work as efficiently. But more important to me is the personality of the facility: It is clean and comfortable enough, but it is not a friendly place. No one speaks or even makes eye contact. The sense of community found in almost every laundry room I have visited is lacking here.

Laundry still helps to soothe me and make me feel whole and “normal,” but with each wash I do I realize how much the laundry room or the local launderette provides a sense of belonging—a sense of home.

A Lesson Learned

April 29, 2010

I learned many lessons when I worked at the launderette in college, but one stayed with me more vividly than the rest. It was the one I learned on graduation day.

It wasn’t my graduation day. It was for the class ahead of me. And even though all of College Town was overrun with parents and guests and cars, some things continued as usual. The launderette was open. Laundry must be done.

Someone’s father came to the counter to make a purchase—a magazine or a candy bar, we sold all sorts of sundries like that. He handed me a ten-dollar bill. I gave him change.

“I gave you a twenty,” he said.

I frowned or squinted or raised an eyebrow to indicate that he was mistaken. There was an uncomfortable silence. The man stood firm.

“You didn’t put the bill across the top of the till when you made the change,” the man said. “How do you know I didn’t give you a twenty?” (He was well prepared, this father of a freshly minted college graduate.)

At that moment I realized that he wasn’t mistaken, he was lying. I simply couldn’t understand why. In college we did all sorts of naughty things, maybe even felonious things, but we didn’t lie to each other…much. And parents? Parents didn’t lie at all, did they? (I was young then; I know better now.)

I had no argument except for what I knew to be the truth: He’d given me a ten and I’d given him the correct change. Yet I was scarcely nineteen years old and this man was someone’s father; I couldn’t contradict him. I reached into the cash register and gave him another ten-dollar bill.

I had my proof later, when I cashed out at the end of my shift and my drawer was ten dollars short. I had to make up the difference.

Knowing I was right didn’t give me any comfort. If I’d been wrong, I could have accepted the fact and even felt grateful that the man had pointed out my error. (I know this much about myself: I would have felt terribly guilty if my drawer came out ten dollars over.) Instead I knew for certain that the man—someone’s father visiting town for his child’s college graduation—had taken the time to con ten dollars out of an inexperienced cashier. I felt awful.

Knowing that he had an extra ten dollars in his wallet probably didn’t give that father much comfort either. At least I hope it didn’t.

I learned my lesson from that fellow student’s father. I wonder what lessons that student learned.

My Laundry Bag

March 6, 2010

During my junior and senior years in college I worked in a launderette. This job mainly involved making change for students who lived in off-campus housing so that they could use the washers and dryers; tagging and bagging dry cleaning, which was then sent to another facility for processing; selling candy, cigarettes, newspapers and magazines; making photocopies and taking care of various other tasks and services for students and locals.

The laundry bag I have used since then is a dry cleaning bag that I “procured” from that launderette. There were hundreds of them. I was a poor student. It seemed acceptable at the time, although I suppose I should feel guilty about it now. On the other hand, I feel confident that mine is the only bag from that vast litter that is still in use; the others no doubt abused and discarded long ago.

My laundry bag has lived a long and useful life. Aged now, faded and frayed, it continues to serve.