Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Our Beautiful Laundrette

Sanja and Rosie's Laundrette, Dubrovnik, Croatia

People travel for a lot of reasons. For business, for pleasure, for duty, for refuge. Some are trying to escape from their lives. Some are trying to expand and enrich their lives (I'd put myself in that category).

But among all of these traveling folk, and also among non-traveling folk, there is one reality, one of life's shadows that follows us everywhere.

The Laundry.

You can shove a lot of underwear into a suitcase—especially a suitcase as big as mine—but there comes a time . . .

And oddly enough, this post is about Terroir. This is another of the profound ways the earth and its environment—its dirt—shapes our lives. It forces us to stop moving around, and stay in one place long enough to wash that stuff, already!

So, though you might prefer to be walking in a national park, or climbing stone steps to a castle, instead you are sitting on plastic chairs in a place that feels vaguely damp, with droning, humming machines that make you feel like napping might be nice.
You're watching the timers on the machines, wondering why they seem to move so slowly, because you have places to go and things to see. And for crying out loud, no one's going to see your underwear anyway, or know how many days you've worn them.
But you know.

Oh, you know.

Okay, okay. So we gotta do this. I get it.
But now, thanks to Dubrovnik, I can add something new to my list of life's unexpected pleasures:

I have fallen in love with a laundromat.

It's true. Even in temps in the mid-90s F (say, around 35 C), with dryers adding to that heat, sweat pouring down my back until it reaches my last wearable pair of underwear, I was enchanted by Sanja and Rosie's Laundrette. If you're ever in Dubrovnik, I recommend you stop by this place, even if you still have 5 pairs of clean underwear in your suitcase.

What did I love about it? For starters, there was a steady stream of retro music playing. Mostly stuff from my home country, from the 1950s and 60s. Made me nostalgic and homesick, in a nice way.
They also provided laundry detergent, right there in a box on top of the machines.

I'm guessing the iron is cold, since I don't see an electrical outlet
in her . . . forest laundrette?

Then I started to read all the post-it notes placed all over the laundromat by fellow travelers, far from their respective homes. The laundromat provides the blank post-its and an array of pens, markers and pencils in different colors, so you can leave your note and let the traveling world know you were here (There are also, incidentally, a few books about travel, and books in many languages for study of the Croatian language).

I was touched by these simple notes expressing simple appreciation, from all over the world, in many languages. It was like having company while I waited for the wash to be finished. Each one was like a little wave, a “Hello! How are you? I see you.” Many were funny. Some had little drawings. Some were surreal. Many were hilariously embarrassing. And a bunch . . . well, I couldn't read. If you recognize the language and want to tell me, that'd be great.

Everyone, young and old, east or west, north or south, was grateful to have clean clothes, to be traveling, to have an interesting and cheerful place to take care of life's practical and necessary details.
There was some comfort in the recognition that, no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, nationality, or home planet, we are united by the fact that, especially in a heat wave, we all start to get a bit . . . ripe . . . after wearing the same clothes for days or weeks on end.

These travelers were passing the time by reaching out to people they couldn't see, would probably never see, to say “I'm here. I'm glad to be sharing this world with you, wherever you have come from”. 

Laundry diplomacy.
A little United Nations of weary, dirty, but happy travelers, unexpectedly reminded “You are not alone.”

As you look at the photos below, I encourage you to look closely—notice the languages, the countries, the humor, the artistry, the simple joy. I hope it makes you smile as much as it did for me. And bonus points if you can spot the one posted by me and my partner.

Oh, and while you look at the photos, listen to the music from this video. It's one of the songs that was playing while I did my laundry and read the notes from friends around the world.

Aliens need to do laundry, too.