Sunday, June 11, 2017
I arrive at the basement laundry room in my building. A young man is finishing up with the washers. Good timing. He'll unload his clothes and then I'll load in mine.
The young man has all of the washers stuffed to capacity. This is not surprising. Young men do tend to overfill machines.
The young man does not do what people usually do when the washers have stopped and someone else is waiting for them. He does not unload all of the machines into baskets, then fill the dryers quickly.
He approaches each washing machine one by one. He takes each item of clothing out of the washer. He painstakingly smooths every wet item. Then he carefully drapes each garment over the bar of the basket.
He does not unload the washers as quickly as possible in a giant heap the way I do.
He does not load the wet things into baskets and then smooth them one at a time. He does this standing at the washer.
When, and only when, one washer is empty, does he move on to the next washer. He repeats this pattern for all of the washers.
When he finally empties a washer, I wheel my cart over and load it up.
It is meditative watching him. I liken it to observing a spider building a web.
It is also infuriating.
I express no impatience until the end. He wedges himself into a corner to slowly unload his last machine, while subsequently blocking the machine he already unloaded. Enough.
Excuse me, I say in a polite but clipped fashion that means business. He moves a tiny bit out of the way. I load my clothes in.
Then he approaches the dryers. I see him taking the previously smoothed and draped wet garments and shake then, smooth them some more before putting each thing, including the socks, into the dryer one at a time.
His methodology has greater implications for me and possibly other residents. People who are quicker about unloading, loading and unloading keep it moving. Now I'll have to wait longer for dryers.
It gets me thinking deeply about the opportunity cost to him. The sheer amount of time spent on each individual garment means less time spent doing other, presumably more important things.
I watch this for a few seconds and then leave.
As I project myself into the future I imagine the trip out of the dryer for each garment. He will need to smooth each one. He will not unload all of the dryers and then do the smoothing, creasing and folding. He will smooth and drape each dry garment in front of each dryer. He will seem not to care that someone else is waiting.
I try to predict if I'll say something to the young man. I'm on a schedule. I don't have all day. I understand the unspoken rules of the laundry room.
A thought pops into my mind.
He can't help what he is doing. If I say something to him it could create enormous anxiety for him. For me, handling my garments less carefully is a comfortable thing. For him, it might be unbearable.
Later on, I go outside to run some errands. I see something that calls to me. Bare branches twist lyrically against an opaque white late afternoon sky. It looks like poetry.
I slip the iPhone out of my pocket and photograph the scene, this way and that. Once I'm sure I have it, I'm on my way.
That evening I scroll through the pictures and though I try to deny it, there's a fatal flaw in every single one. The camera depicts, more clearly than my eye could, an inelegant group of leaves marring an otherwise perfect scene. There's nothing to be done. I delete them.
I get up from the couch and commence the sorting and folding of the clean wash, which has spent most of the day jumbled and wrinkled, but no worse for wear in the laundry bag.
From the archives:
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Kids grow up so fast. In the blink of an eye.
The days are long, the years are short. And so on.
Kids grow up so fast except when they don't.
And when they don't, the years are pretty damn long.
Truisms are truisms, but not for everybody.
From the archives:
The Best Thing Somebody Never Said To Me
Sunday, May 14, 2017
The dry air will greet me on the way inside of the apartment. I will turn on the lights because even though it's midday, it's dark.
The rain boots will come off first. I always go about stocking foot in the house but this time the socks will probably go in the hamper. It's fine. There are plenty more in the drawer.
The coat will hang in the shower. Liberated from this damp garment, I'll move on to my favorite part. I'll place my hat and gloves splayed out on the radiator. Later when it's time to go out again they'll be warm and ready.
I'll open my umbrella and place it, away from the leaky faucet in the tub. I liked leaning it in the hallway outside my apartment until management sent a curt note to everyone that we aren't allowed to do that. Whatever.
From the look of things I will also take stock of my backpack. Water resistant as it is, this has been a major insult. The bag itself will dry effectively near the radiator. Affected contents will be lined up carefully next to the hat and gloves.
They will look like neat casualties but not for long. The radiators here run very hot.
All will be well. The wet chill I feel on the train and walk home is mitigated by the plan. It keeps me contained.
Earlier today, before any of this with the lights, the radiator and the socks, I'll have an appointment. I will arrive a little early and take extra care with my wet things. I'll spy a closet in the waiting room. This one won't be locked and I'll open it to find a sea of hangers and hooks. I will hang my coat and the gloves will go on one hook and the hat on the other. I'll place my wet umbrella in the receptacle provided.
The waiting room will be full of resources to help me manage myself and a nervous system that seems to need some measure of calm protection.
I'll think about leaving the wet boots in the closet, but decide to wear them in. Going about without shoes here will seem both inappropriate and presumptuous.
As I leave the appointment and begin hatching my transition plan, I will see a four year old boy come out of a fancy coffee place with his mom. The mom will be understanding and careful. She'll patiently hold the umbrella perfectly over his head.
The boy will stop upon exiting the shop. He'll look at the rain coming down in torrents, vast bucketfuls sliding off of the high end awning above his head. He will erupt into what could only be called a classic case of screaming and crying.
I will feel a pang for him. Poor little dude, I'll say to myself as I slosh toward the subway.
From the archives:
The New Environs
Emotional Support From The Security Guard
Thursday, May 11, 2017
The first things I wrote were hard. Touching the words would give you splinters. Tumbleweeds blew through. Then the locusts came.
Later everything softened. Think of watercolor. The words became porous. I became that way too. It wasn't like things were necessarily better. But I did have a bigger bank of words and colors for it - for you.
I thought about doing some new writing about what you said and what happened. I didn't. Not everything needs to be written down.
Now you're wondering if it's you. The question hangs out there between us. That's fair. If I were you I'd do that too.
In the end, it doesn't matter. Not really. It is about somebody. But in a way it could be about anyone.
From the archives:
The Hatchet Job
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Oh wow, so he told you, I said. Word travels fast.
I'm sitting with him now, she said. Her voice sounded emotional. Like maybe she was trying to contain her tears.
Just tell me one thing, she said. What was it like to open the envelope?
There is no hesitation. I don't even have to think about it.
It felt like this, I said. I knew in that moment that he had every opportunity open to him. There is nothing closed to him going forward.
Oh my god, she said. Oh my god.
That is exactly what you people set out to do there, I told her. You see potential. This is as much your victory as his.
He worked hard but so did all of you, I added.
And you, she said. You worked very hard too.
That's true. I laughed. Then we said a nice goodbye.
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