It’s been a long time since I’ve written about my local Laundromat and there’s a reason: I stopped going. I started using my little rinky dink washer in my house, which I hate because then I have to hang everything up to dry and it turns into cardboard. And it feels like cardboard. And it smells like cardboard.
Just to update those that have not tuned in previously to As the World Spins, the laundromat on my street is a portal to purgartory that seems to draw a mix of loosers, boozers, travelers, crazy ex-pats, artists, snotty women, and single men. Then there’s me, and I’m not quite sure which category I fit into (please, no need to comment).
But yesterday, out of sheer boredom I decided to hull my army duffle bag, filled to the max, down to hell’s gates to see if I could drum up any excitement. I’m sure just the sight of me carrying my massive duffle bag was entertaining enough. The French just never seem to have the quantity of laundry that we Americans do and I don’t know why. Perhaps they throw clothes away when they are dirty? I dunno. There’s still a few secrets to living la vie française that I haven’t figured out …
I entered the Laverie Automatique and was lucky enough to find it empty. I placed my clothes in the big washer and added my detergent. Next, I went to turn on the washing cycle at the change machine or should I say slot machine in disguise? It took my money without any problems (Hail Mary!). Sometimes I win at the slot machine and sometimes I loose, but for the moment we are even.
Then I picked up a French gossip mag with Sarkozy’s picture all over it and waited for the show to begin. Just as I was getting bored trying to read in French (it used to put me to sleep in high school and unfortunately it still has the same effect today) some bewildered Americans walked in. I always recognize Americans immediately because they enter the Laverie Automatique like they are trespassing on private property. I watched for a few minutes as they tried to decipher the heirglyphic instructions on the wall and then offered assistance.
But these Americans were able to adapt to their surroundings quickly and they figured out the whole system without any help. However, the one thing they did need was an internet cafe. No, not a cafe with wi-fi, but a cafe with computers. I know this sounds like an easy problem to solve. One would think that any international city would have an abundance of such places. Heck, even when I lived in a rural part of India without sewage or clean water we had at least one place to get online. (okay, so it took an hour, but whatevah) Mais non! The internet cafes in Paris are few and far between and not exactly welcoming.
So I did what any American would do, because contrary to popular belief Americans are nice and generous people, I offered up my apartment for their computing needs. At first they were surprised and I’m sure a little embarrassed. However in the end, I lured them out of purgatory with promises of fast internet connection. Hillary and Brice came over to chez moi, and were able to purchase their tickets for the Eurostar online. Without these tickets they would not have been able to catch their return flight back to the States. Good deed done for the day! I think that deserves one free pass out of hell.
I returned shortly after my new American friends to the laundromat to say goodbye and added more money to the slot machine to dry my clothes. So far so good: met nice Americans, no line for the dryers, no loss on the slot machine, no crying kids that smear dog poo all over the floor – oops that was last time.
But when things are too good to be true they are just that. I hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to this one guy sitting in the corner. I thought he was just doing his laundry until I took a closer look at the machines and realized that I was the only one with laundry in the whole place. He recognized my army duffle bag because my husband had dragged in a load the previous week. I guess not too many French people have gigantic green bags for their laundry. He started to talk to me in French with a thick unrecognizable foreign accent. He looked a little scary too, like one of the bad guys from Grease (the movie) with his hair slicked back wearing a white undershirt with sleeves rolled up to show off scars and burns.
I started folding my laundry while trying to dodge his personal questions. How old am I? Why don’t I have children yet? Why don’t I have sex with my husband every evening so we can have children? Where do I live? What floor is my apartment on? Is it a big apartment? What does my husband do for a living? And then right as he was about to ask me what I do for a living he caught a glimpse of one of my chef’s jackets that I was folding. “Tu es une cuisinier ?” (You are a cook?). “Oui.” I responded knowing full well that my jacket would now lead to a new clip of questions.
It did: How much do I make? Where do I work? How many hours do I work? What station do I work at? Luckily I shut down most of those questions quickly because my work permit is still inactive (thank you Sarkozy, I thought you were supposed to be an American supporter?). He then told me that he was also a cook and he showed me three business cards of different restaurants. I think he was trying to tell me that it was a chain Italian restaurant.
Our new found camaraderie was obviously cause to celebrate because he cracked open a 40 ouncer of beer (I thought we only had those in the U.S.?) and offered me the first sip. I was tempted, only because I was thirsty and it was hot, but instead of giving into temptation I finished folding my laundry quickly so I could get out of there. He kept shoving the beer can in my face like it was some sort of peace-pipe. I told him I was trying to loose weight, which is true, and gently pushed his hand away from my mouth. But then I felt a little bad, and when I said goodbye he came over to give me the traditional two kisses.
What could I do? It’s one of those French things that sometimes you just can’t get out of. So I kissed the devil twice on the cheek and he insisted that we kiss twice more. I grabbed my heavy body bag and scooted out of that place faster then a bat out of hell. That was enough excitement for one day I think. I’m still not exactly sure what he was doing in there. Hmmmm…any friend of the devil is a friend of mine?
To be continued…