I got to thinking about my old laundry place today.
It’s this tiny window in a corner of the Quezon City inner streets, complete with a kooky name, staff who know me by a fake name, and a tacked sign on a wall that says Smiling Makes Your Day Better or some such quotable. Up until last month, I’d been a regular at that laundry shop for years. I liked the ancients who ran the place, and I kept going even after they made a mess of my ex-roommate’s laundry after washing her whites with her maroon jeans.
After I moved though, and my schedule turned tighter, it became impractical to visit that shop. There you were never sure when you would get your laundry. It would depend on how many other customers they had; it would depend on whether one of the dryers had broken down again. Very very personal, but quite inefficient, too. So for a few weeks now I’ve been going to a laundromat.
This new place I go to is bright and shiny and the walls are painted a beautiful shade of burgundy that would not look out of place in a fancy living room somewhere in Makati. The staff there know me by face, and they know my real name, but they have no quirks as far as I can see – I’m not sure if their professional code allows them to exhibit much individuality. It’s always full, but I don’t know most of the other customers there. Sometimes I bump into familiar faces and we talk, but I get the feeling I’m not likely to make any new friends while watching my laundry tumble round and round in large silver machines that I could probably fit into.
I find I miss the precise handwriting of Manong at my old laundry place, the way he would stare out of his little shop’s window like one of the brooding characters of a 50’s film. Manang would take forever in finding which clothes were mine; she would shuffle around slowly in a pace disconnected with this forever-plugged, avoid-all-contact world. And Ate would call me by my name – my fake Starbucks name – and look into my eyes, and I would feel like she understood exactly how I felt that day even though I never told her anything.
We have no choice to move on though, at varying speeds. Sometimes that difference makes it look like some people are stuck in the past.