I don’t like being away from the blog for too long. But, I guess it’s good to shake things up every once in a while; break the routine, learn something new or meet new people. It protects one (i.e., me) from narrow-mindedness. Perhaps, you’ve noticed; I do not like narrow-mindedness. Narrow-mindedness is anchored in fear.
So, about shaking things up. Nine years. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve set foot into a public laundry. It’s not been a conscious thing. It’s just that most rentals now have on-site laundries as a convenience. They’re safe, you recognize most of your neighbors, and you can count on them (the laundries…) being clean. The down side is that you may have to wait for machines or pull someone’s laundry out because he or she left the building.
So, the other day, when I ran into one of my neighbors as she returned from the laundromat a few blocks away, I started thinking…
My mornings are pretty routine. I’m a woman who likes to watch the sun rise. I like to have tea and write in my journal. I like my mornings slow, lazy, and quiet–just the way God made ’em. The world will bring itself to my psychic door soon enough. Mornings—particularly weekend mornings—are when I can bake bread at 5 or 6 AM. Because I want to.
Baking bread is like a meditation: still and reflective. I have lots of time to be with my own thoughts. First, I mix flour, water and yeast. Then let it rise. Then, add oil and salt and more flour. Then let it rise. Finally, I knead and knead some more, divide the dough into loaves, let it rise again and bake. By 8 am I have four nice loaves of bread. The traffic is quiet, the Haverford geese honk overhead, and I can indulge myself in journaling about my “stuff.” You know what “stuff” is, right?
Well, last weekend, I changed my routine. I packed a plastic IKEA bag full of shirts, sheets, and undies, bought a breakfast bagel sandwich at the bagel place, and headed for the local laundry. I arrived about fifteen minutes after it had opened. That would be 7:15. Lugging my laundry, soap powder, bagel, and a book, I opened the door to find…Men? Men. There amid the cacophony of whirling washers and humming dryers was a room of men.
Now–as a child, whenever Mom’s machine broke (which with five kids seemed like all the time), we would go to the neighborhood laundry. There were never any men there, only mothers towing infants and older children picking on their siblings. Most of the time, it seemed that a mother’s singular focus was to keep the laundry in the machines and the children out. Those laundromats were filled with yelling, laughing, and crying children and very harried mothers. Men? Never.
Who were these guys? There was an elderly man with really thick glasses, his cane propped against a bench. There was an obese fellow with a cap pulled tightly over his head. His vibe was one that dared anyone to say “good morning.” I sat on the bench across the room. Another chunky guy chewed gum, popped it loudly, walked around, sat down, and walked around again. They all stared at the ceiling. I could not figure out what was so interesting with that darned ceiling.
Two Mexican men talked and laughed until one packed his laundry and moved on. The other went outside to make a phone call. I buried myself in my book, munched my bagel sandwich, and remembered a vacation in Tijuana that left me joyous. I had made my way on public transportation (with limited Spanish) to meet my friends, bought colorful clothes and fabric, drank in a bar where the guys laughed at my name (means living room in Spanish, I learned… “ha, ha, very funny,” I said.) and sauntered in the sun.
I let the sounds wash over me. Note to self: take Spanish lessons.
In an odd way, the rhythms were the same as baking bread: put clothes in a machine, sit to read, wait 15-20 minutes, and check its progress. The Haverford geese honked overhead. Traffic was quiet.
At 8 o’clock, the door opened and a voice asked sweetly, “Does anyone have change for a twenty?”
“Finally,” I thought. The men stared. “No,” I answered. She left.
But, I had succeeded. I’d changed up my day. The sky didn’t fall. And I’d learned something I never knew before. Men can, in fact, get up and out in the morning and do laundry.
It is good to shake things up every once in a while.