Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Different Approach to Laundry

Yesterday even my tolerance of dog hair on the comforter on our bed had run out. Shaking it outside seemed to have little effect. I didn’t want to take it to the dry cleaner’s because it would cost a lot and we would be without it for a day or two. There was no way it would fit into our washing machine at home.

So I decided to try the Latino Laudromat just a mile or so from our house. This reminded me why I am glad we have a washer and dryer in our house. It also reminded me that a lot of people are not so fortunate.

Not realizing it was multi-purpose building, I entered the front door to find a place for cashing checks, popular among Latinos who often don’t have bank accounts. To the left was a beauty salon. A customer, seeing me carrying a monster of a comforter, told me the entrance to the laundromat was on the side of the building.

It was like walking into any country in Central America. The TV featured soap operas in Spanish. The signs were in Spanish. The “out of order” signs, on about half the equipment, were in Spanish.

The washer big enough to accommodate my comforter seemed to take a card, not quarters. Switching into Spanish, I asked another customer how to get a laundry card. She pointed me to “la mujer limpiando los vidrios” (the woman cleaning the windows). For $6.25 she started up #19 with her card and I sat down to work on my husband’s scarf.

Soon a precocious 5-year-old appeared and asked if I knew how much the M&M machine behind my chair cost. It appeared to take quarters. I offered him one much to his delight and he knew exactly what to do with it. We talked about what I was making and who would wear it.

He told me his name was Natay. After we talked about his age and where he went to school, he asked how old I was and I told him to guess. He suggested 22, which seemed to be the highest number he knew. I told him I was quite a bit older than that. He went on to tell me his mother was 9. I could see she was more like 30. So Natay needs some help with his math skills.

The laundromat was full of people who were mostly Hispanic doing mounds of laundry. It made me happy I had just one large comforter, so I wouldn’t have to keep up with all those pieces.

The vidrio woman helped me find a working dryer and used her card once again to get it started. Meanwhile I continued to knit and Natay came around asking if I had any more quarters. I pretended they were all gone, not wanting to spoil his lunch.

I paid up and gave the woman a small tip for helping me navigate this strange new way of washing clothes.

As I left, Natay and his mother were still folding clothes and a lot of other people were waiting as the machines sloshed and turned and the soap opera blared overhead. I supposed it might be like that at most any hour of the day or night.


Blogger Merle Sneed said...

It sounds like any one of a hundred places around here.

We often forget how easy we have it until we venture out into uncharted waters.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Actually, it sounds like a great cross-cultural experience! I laughed at Natay's assessment of his Mom's age.

9:59 AM  
Blogger bulletholes said...

I'm with Steve!
Thats a cute kid allright...and his math, well, if his mom is nine that would make you about 100 right? pretty funny!

You know, those folks don't feel that oppressed I bet. Its a great place to meet, a laundromat, and take care of a task and talk to friends I bet. I think time slowes down for folks like that, maybe.
Hell, what do I know...I have a washer/dryer and I still have laundry everywhere.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Merle -- It's funny how many times I have passed that place and never even noticed it was a laundromat. It was only when I actually needed one that I saw it. Yes, it would do us all good to occasionally do a week's worth of laundry as so many others do all the time.

Steve -- Natay needs a little help with spelling too. He could spell his name. But for his mother and grandmother, he invented random strings of about 20 letters each. There weren't a lot of vowels.

Bulletholes -- It seemed like many people in the laundromat knew each other. There was a little girl running around in a yellow satin dress and several other kids were around to keep each other company. No one looked hurried or annoyed at spending several hours on a Monday hanging out in there. Latinos are so accepting of whatever life throws their way. God only knows how many of those people are here illegally!

1:18 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

... or how many are here LEGALLY!

The loveshack is in mostly hispanic section of town, across the street from a market that will send money orders anywhere, has a jewelry section as well as pan dulce, and a taqueria where Spanish soap operas are only replaced by futbol games. They are opening a huge laudromat sometime in January, I can hardly wait! (hopefully it will have lots of vending machines and places to study... I have such a one-track mind! ...maybe I can make my wi fi stretch across the street!)

11:16 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

I can't say that I miss my laundromat days. Our laundry room went away to make room for the addition so we used the laundromat for several years. All those kids running around completely uncontrolled used to drive me crazy so I would go in the middle of the night. One good thing about our rental house is that is has a washer and dryer. One good thing about the laundromat is that you can wash your whites, darks, and colors in three different machines all at the same time!

8:17 AM  
Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

a friend of mine who can well afford to own a washer and dryer chooses to use the laundromat for the social experience.... you description of your day proves to me that jane's on to something.... it's been a long time since I had to use the laundromat for everyday (or should I say the weekly) laundry... last time I went was to wash a large washable rug - thank goodness for those giant machines

2:50 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kellyann -- I'll bet your new laundromat will be a carbon copy of this one. Hopefully all the machines will be in working order when it opens.

Cyndy -- I was sort of amused by the kids. But then, I don't have to do this every week.

Mouse -- You can't beat those commercial machines when you have something BIG to wash!

3:51 PM  

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