In the quiet time before dawn.
I tried to do my laundry yesterday, but when I arrived at the laundromat, it was filled with people and there was a wait for a washer. The idea of spending a few hours among the kind of people who use laundromats on a Saturday morning with their screaming kids wasn’t very appealing to me — I will be the first to admit I’m a snob — so I left, taking my dirty clothes with me.
I drove around all day yesterday with most of my wardrobe in laundry bags in the back seat area.
I came back this morning at 6:10. What a difference! Not only is the place completely deserted, but it’s spotlessly clean. Sound was the only problem. As usual, the TVs had been tuned to a Spanish-language channel playing what had to be a soap opera. At 6:10 AM. And, as usual, the volume had been set to full blare. I guess they’ll need the volume later when the place fills up.
I dumped my clothes into three washers: two giant front loaders for whites and darks and a small top loader for my throw rugs. I pumped in the correct change — I save quarters in case the change machines don’t work. I added too much soap, set the temps, and programmed a second rinse. Once everything was spinning, I could relax.
But not before I dealt with the TV. The remote had been attached to the wall in such a way that it couldn’t be moved. The buttons were accessible, but neither the volume or mute buttons did a thing. The channel button worked, though. I tuned the TV to an unsubscribed channel and got immediate relief from the racket. Now the Dish Network logo is floating around the screen.
I left my old electric blanket on the counter with a FREE /GRATIS sign on it. Yes, the electric part is broken — and discarded — but the blanket is still warm. Winter is coming. It might mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and a shivering one for someone.
Then I sat down with my iPad to do email, social networking, etc. And finally, this blog post.
I don’t get much down time anymore — you know, the time when you’re kind of stuck somewhere with limited options for things to do. I think I must have planned it that way. Most of us do, whether we realize it or not. Computers have entered every part of our lives. When I’m working on a book, I’m usually sitting in front of two of them. There’s another laptop that seems to live on my dining table. I’m seldom more than a few feet from my smartphone, which is so much more than my primary communication link to the rest of the world. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I sleep with both my phone and iPad beside me. I can’t imagine reading a paper book or doing a crossword puzzle with a pen before sleep time. And how else could I check the weather and my email before starting my day?
I have become a slave to my computing devices.
For a few moments here before I reached for my iPad, I got a sense of what I was missing. It came to me in the sound of the washers I’d called upon to work for me. In the two flies who found me quickly in this big, otherwise deserted room. In the light to the east, silhouetting the thin clouds on the horizon. The world around me, so often ignored.
For a moment, it inspired me to write this blog post. But as I began to type, it was lost, hidden away by my concentration. It became more important to me to report on the laundromat experience than to actually sit back and experience it.
I’ve shifted my clothes from washers to dryers. I’m hoping 30 minutes is enough. It’s 7 AM and I need to be somewhere with my motorcycle by 8 AM. Rush, rush, rush. Between periods of interacting with computing devices, I always seem to be rushing around. Why?
I’m often critical of the people who don’t seem to do anything with their lives. I say they don’t “get it.” but maybe I’m the one who doesn’t get it. Maybe just sitting and watching life go by is the “right” way to take this journey of existence. Maybe my constant pursuit of new skills and goals is just a futile attempt to avoid the inevitability of the simple reality: none of us really matters in the grand scheme of things.
I hope not.