Friday, October 31, 2008


On Wednesday I went to the laundrette, to use the driers. Twice, actually. I had one of those cleaning fits that start off with, "It's time to wash the sheets," and progress to "And that underblanket thingy," then "And the duvet covers and that bedspread that has been in a cupboard for five years," and then suddenly the curtains look dirty. Not that we have curtains, but you know what I mean. Our bedding is now totally clean. I have aired and beaten the crap out of the duvets and the pillows, and I have also beaten the mattress. I don't think beating mattresses actually does anything helpful, but I was in a beating mood by then and didn't want to stop. Also, I had a feeling it was all the mattress's fault.

That wasn't what was I going to tell you about, though. I was going to tell you about the very old lady I encountered at the laundrette.

When I went there the first time, she was sitting on a low stool in front of a washing machine, leaning forward and peering in, her nose almost touching the glass as her washing went round and round and round. She stayed in that position the whole time I was there, apparently hypnotized.

The second time, about two hours later, she was sitting beside a drier, nose up to the glass, watching her laundry going round and round.

I went away, and half an hour later when I came back again to pick up my dried washing she was still there, apparently on to her second load. (She had several piles of laundry sitting around her, in large bags.) I started hauling my things out of the drier, and I guess there was something acrylic in there because I got zapped rather dramatically. I yelped.

This caused the old lady to look up at me, surprised.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Static electricity," I told her.

"Is that dangerous?" she asked, looking worried. "Maybe we should phone the laundrette people. The number's over there."

"No, no," I said. "It was just static electricity. It always happens. It's not dangerous."

"Will it happen to me?" she asked, looking at her drier suspiciously.

"It might," I said. "But don't worry. It won't hurt you. It just gives you a surprise sometimes."

"Oh," she said, looking doubtful. Then she brightened up, "This is the first time I've come here. Isn't it amazing!"

It turned out that someone had suggested the laundrette when she complained about how hard it was to do her washing properly, so she had decided to try it out.

"At first I thought it was a bit expensive," she said, "Three hundred yen for one load of washing, but . . ."

"Well, yes," I said, "But it's a lot easier, and you can do the big things."

"Yes! And the washing is so clean! Isn't it wonderful? I'm going to use it again! I didn't even know this kind of place existed!"

She was wonderstruck by the laundrette. The machines! Those magical machines that cleaned her clothes so well! And then dried them, too! I don't know what she had been using at home before, but I guess it must have been fairly primitive.

We chatted a little more while I folded the rest of my washing. Then I said goodbye, and she went back to watching her laundry go round and round.

I told a friend about this encounter today. She said,

"I wonder if there's something out there for us like that? Something we didn't know existed, that would magically transform our lives the way her discovery of the laundrette has done for her? Something that other people take for granted and we just somehow missed finding out about. . . "

We tried to imagine what that might be, and failed.

(But if there is something fantastically convenient in your life that seems not to be in mine, you will tell me, won't you?)


Dave said...

It's no washing machine, but I have really come to appreciate the RSS Reader (Google Reader) I use to read the numerous blogs and news sites I follow. Including yours!

Great writing by the way, keep it up!

Lia said...

Ah, the wonder of discovery. I get these Eureka! moments sometimes. Or maybe the "why didn't I know about this before" feeling. Can't think of any examples right now, though.

Curley said...

Webcams. Now we can live in Venice, as well as wherever we are. Be at the Canale di Noale, looking down to the Ca' Pessero, the modern art museum - (at - there are 4 other cams as well).


Melanie Gray Augustin said...

What a wonderful story.