Sometimes when I’m using my finger to draw characters on my phone screen to use my translation app to figure out what type of paint I am buying at the Japanese hardware store, it’s easy to forget how easy it’s really been to adjust to life in Japan. Language barriers aside, this has not been a difficult transition. You want to talk about a place that was hard to get used to? That almost-year I lived in New York was the most simultaneously exciting and exhausting period of my life. Every time I daydream out loud about the possibility of moving back someday, Dane quickly reminds me: “It took us 3 hours to return a pair of boots to the post office!” I know he’s right. Everything is harder in New York. Mail, groceries, even doing laundry in NYC presents unique challenges. But as much as I might have complained about it to him back then, I look back on it and love that I got to experience it, even if it was just for an “almost-year”.
I’ve got a couple of horror stories I could share about doing laundry in NYC. There’s the time I slipped in the snow and littered the street with my freshly folded towels (that then had to be rewashed). There’s the time I thought I’d save time (but not money) by having my laundry done by a service, and it all came back wrapped in plastic that smelled like curry. But my favorite is the night that I got publicly lectured for being a “rich bitch” in the laundromat. Does anyone else see the irony in that statement? I was at the laundromat.
So there I was, we’ll call it a Wednesday night, and I was feeling lucky. I’d just found four empty washing machines all lined up and was quickly sorting my laundry- throwing things into each tub, so that no one else could snag a machine, when all of a sudden a woman walked over and took a towel OUT of MY machine. You see a lot of things in New York City, but come on… everyone knows you don’t touch another woman’s laundry. “You can’t take up this many machines,” she told me. (Which is a rule she had made up on the spot, trust me, I know.) “Besides you can just put these towels in with those sheets. That machine ain’t even full.”
I was in shock. I was shocked firstly, that someone was talking to me in the laundromat, this was uncommon. I was shocked secondly because she had just grabbed one of my towels. But most of all I was shocked that she was suggesting that I wash my yellow sheets with my blue towels. Did people do this?! “Well,” I stammered, “I just usually wash them separately.” She looked around at the dozen people who had torn their eyes away from the t.v. to see what the fuss was about. “Ha! Sheets and towels separate! Rich bitch.” She said loudly, as if our new audience had been waiting for a punchline. I was outraged. I looked at the crowd expecting their eyes to share in my outrage, but they all seemed to be nodding along… WITH HER!
I picked up my towel. I guess I thought a prop might help me make my next point. “But, you don’t use fabric softener for towels, you know?” I said, hoping desperately that I would get some supportive nodding too. No one made eye contact with me. They all just stared at the towel I held up.
And then she said the words that will make me laugh/cringe for the rest of my laundry-doing days:
“Honey, someday you gonna run outta all that money.”
Really??? I thought. That’s what’s going to break me? We’re talking about approximately five bucks every other week that she thinks might be my downfall? But again, much to my dismay, everyone seemed to nod along- or worse, just glare at me as if I’d grabbed the towels out of their machines and thrown them on the ground. Suddenly, I heard a voice (that sounded a lot like mine) say, “Yeah, I guess, it doesn’t really matter if I do the towels with my sheets.” And sure enough, I watched my hand drop my prop-towel into the machine with my sheets. She emptied her basket of (poorly sorted) laundry into my, now empty, machine while I busied myself cramming the rest of my laundry into three machines: Lights, Darks and Sheets & Towels.
I dumped the now superfluous 18 quarters that I’d intended for my towels, back into an empty detergent cap (super convenient tip, for you fellow laundromat goers) and sat down just staring at my book, afraid to look up. I’d always felt like I deserved a big money-saving pat-on-the-back for the nights that I spent at the laundromat, rather than having my laundry sent out. This did not seem to be a shared perception.
I thought about ruining the ending of the Law and Order SVU episode that everyone seemed engrossed in after the towel/sheet drama died down. That would show them! I’m a big Olivia Benson fan… I knew how it ended. However, I didn’t think calling out the rapists name would win me points with the crowd. Instead I just sat there, red-faced, until the timer ran down.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.