This is How We Do Laundry

The entrance to the laundry shop is hard to miss: situated in a decrepit building, its blue sign covered in a layer of dust. I drag the heavy laundry bag I am carrying into the shop. The first thing I see are two men, back to back, ironing clothes on what is probably the widest ironing board ever built by man. The two men (ironers?) pause to look at me.

“Hello,” I announce, trying to raise my bag to the counter, failing because of its weight. “I have, uh, I want to have these done…”

They both ignore me. After about four seconds of awkward silence (awkward for me, not for them), I try again.

“Hello!” I say, a bit louder. This time I use my knee to swing the bag over the counter. “I…”

The doorbell rings and another customer saunters in, and the ironers put down their steaming irons (one iron lands extremely close to a shirt sleeve) and greet him enthusiastically.

The commotion prompts another man to appear from behind a curtain. Thankfully, this new guy approaches me with a smile as wide as the ironing boards. I explain that I want the clothes washed and not ironed, and he repeats what I say with a jolly shake of his head, putting his hand over his heart as if taking an oath to my bagful of dirty clothes.

“Okay!”he says finally. “Yes, yes. You will come back tomorrow. Goodbye then, until tomorrow, yes.”

“Don’t you want to know my name?”I ask him in surprise, as he makes a shoo-it’s-all-right, come-back-tomorrow motion with his hand. “Or… do you need to give me a ticket, or something?”

“Yes, tomorrow we close at 8pm, we open at 4pm, I prefer mornings, if you come evening.” I try to run over in mind what he has just said, then give up trying to decipher the shop’s opening hours. From over the glass counter, I can see about ten bags, all the same size and same colour, next to mine. I try to insist. “But how will you know which bag is… shouldn’t I leave my name with you?”

He puts his hand over his heart again. “Tomorrow,” he repeats patiently, “shop opens at 4pm, closes at 8 pm, you come morning I prefer, in the evening. Yes, goodbye.”

I step out of the shop and call Julien. “Don’t worry,” he tells me. “I’m sure they won’t run away with our underwear.” (No help as always.)

I confront Mang Jimmy, our building’s maintenance guy, about the baffling laundry policy. “They recognize you by face,” he informs me. “That’s the way they do laundry here.”

“But all the bags looked the same. Won’t a sock or a slip get lost in the process? Do they have that good a memory? How does he even know how many shirts I had in there?”

Mang Jimmy gives me a shrug, and promptly loses interest in the conversation, so I head back to our apartment, wondering if I’ll ever see my favourite black shirt again.

Currently listening to:
Explosions in the Sky
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

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