Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I decided to try a launderette nearer to home than the one I've been going to. I was delighted that I was the only customer in the place.
After I had used up both my quarter rolls, I tried to get change of a ten dollar bill in the change machine, but it wouldn't work even though my bill was almost mint-crisp with no dogeared corners.
The place had a dry-cleaning plant in the back, so I went to the window and tried to get someone's attention. It took awhile because the attendant was on a smoke break and didn't want to be bothered.
I explained the problem, and she asked if I was doing laundry there. (They don't make change for mere interlopers.) I said that I was. She grudgingly dragged out a rusty can that looked as if it should hold bait, and started piling quarters on the counter. I wouldn't have believed it possible to count money in a hostile manner.
She clearly hated me with the hate of many generations. Every one of her ancestors was present and hating me through her. She was an ICBM of hatred, beamed directly at my heart.
I thanked her for the change. She scowled at me in response and muttered something I didn't understand. Which was probably just as well.
The front door was open and a Nor'easter was whipping through the place. I was wearing a thin sweater and had wet hair. It was freezing, so I got up and closed the door.
A man who also worked there immediately came out from behind the counter and yanked it open.
It was hard to turn the pages of my book because my fingers were stiff and turning blue. I asked him if it was all right to shut the door.
He screamed at me in mostly unintelligible syllables, the gist of which was that it was stuffy in the back so the front door had to remain open. I doubted that because there was a door open in the back and the temperature was subarctic, so when he returned to the back area, I closed the door again.
He barreled out of his den of iniquity, swearing at me in Chinese, and opened it again. He was waving his arms menacingly, and to make matters worse, I had already spent more money than the overpriced place I usually go to because the dryers were set so low. I was covered in goose bumps.
I do not have a natural affinity for servility, and the idea of actually rewarding such gratuitous nastiness with even more money was untenable.
I loaded up my still-wet laundry, piled it into my three baskets, and drove to the usual place which seemed to be bathed in a golden light.
Why had I never noticed this before? The door was firmly closed, and the warmth of the dryers melted my icy bones like an embrace.
I lugged in a huge stack of magazines to donate, which I hadn't wanted to leave at the other place.
The owner, an elderly Chinese man named Ben, came in to collect his quarters and gave me a sweet-scented flower from his garden.
"I hoped you would be here," he said.
With one act of kindness, he erased my bad experience from the other place.
It seems that love really is stronger than hate. Who knew?