I woke with the dawn today, which used to be an unusual occurrence with me. The last few weeks, however, I have been rising as the sky turns pink, unable to stay in bed a moment longer. The winter often does interesting things with my sleep cycles–I’m sure next week I’ll be telling you I can’t get up before noon.
It being my only day off for some time, I decided to do my laundry. I also assumed that since it was so early, the nefarious characters who make my laundrymat experience even more unpleasant would probably not be awake, as unlike me they probably had nefarious doings to sleep off. I loaded up a big pack with laundry, grabbed a portable music listening device, and trudged off into the morning.
There were almost no cars on the road. Some trash drifted across the sidewalk at the Tip Top. The air still smelled fresh and sweet, and I could tell from the sky that it would be a beautiful day. REM came on the shuffle and life was good.
My predictions about nefarious characters at the laundrymat proved correct–an older man was the sole customer, shuffling clothing from washer to dryer, presumably in search of the perfect state of washer chi. I unloaded my pack into a triple loader and merrily skipped to the change machine. Usually the change machine and I battle–we have a long and established history. To my shock, it actually accepted the first bill I gave it and spat out the correct change. I started my washer, and looked up to realize that the proprietor was staring at me as though I were contemplating a major crime, like grabbing an entire Maytag and running for it.
It was an unnerving experience. I have been going to this laundrymat for literally as long as I can remember, first with my father as a young child and later alone. I know the owners, I’ve watched employees come and go, and I’ve spent countless dollars in their business. When I came back from college with blue hair and piercings, they razzed me good naturedly, but we always had a friendly relationship.
What had changed?
I realized, suddenly, that it was my load of laundry conveyance. In my history of laundrymat attendance, I’ve pulled up in assortment of rattletrap vehicles and unloaded baskets of laundry. But the fact that I had come on foot changed our relationship. She usually works in the early morning, and I usually come in the afternoon, so she had never seen me come in with a pack of laundry before. Somehow this changed my status, in her eyes. Even when I had a car, I often walked to the laundrymat, because it’s a short walk and there’s no reason to drive unless you have a spring cleaning load. For all she knows, I still have and drive a car. Nothing about me has outwardly changed. But my choice to walk to the laundrymat rather than drive confused her. People drive everywhere here. I’ve known people to drive a block rather than walking. Not having a car, or choosing to walk somewhere, is a demonstration of falling upon hard times or insanity, and neither condition is one you want to cultivate in your customers.
I just thought it was entertaining that I had become a laundrymat threat in one simple moment, when especially at night that laundrymat is frankly foul with filthy unwashed masses. Who are rude. Who smoke in the doorways, which sort of defeats the point of washing your clothes. Who talk about their baby’s mama in loud voices. Who argue with their sad and defeated partners. Who do, actually, steal from the laundrymat. But no, the affable hippie girl with the pack of laundry whom you’ve known since she was seven is the threat, not the leatherjacketed gang members who crowd the doorways after six. My bad.
Or maybe she just didn’t like my dance style.