Tuesday, January 8, 2008


A new year has come around. Time to look forward to the things that will be standard. Yup, it’s time to reflect on laundry.

When my family first came to the United States in the 1980’s, laundry was one of those things that I was assigned to do. In the Philippines, the maids usually washed the clothes with a bar of soap and a pair of hands. The soap was harsh and its effect on the hands was obvious. Hard, dry, skin formed. Rubbing clothes together toughened hands.

Luckily for me, in the United States, laundry machines took the place of the maids. All I had to do was to load up the laundry into a cart, walk about three blocks, get change and load up the machines.

We lived in Los Angeles, a city I remember as full of sun and cars. We lived in Sunset Place, where a predominant mixture of immigrants resided. The street was right behind the Wilshire Boulevard, a main thoroughfare of L.A.

The laundromat was tucked in the corner of a mini-mall populated by Winchell’s Donuts and a liquor stored manned by a Korean husband and wife. I still owe a part of my coming of age to that female matron. She let me buy Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler magazines.

At the time, I did not know anything about sex. After buying those magazines, I still did not know anything about sex, but I knew that I was supposed to ogle women with big breasts and golden skin. Oddly enough, I never met a woman with golden skin. It seemed to be that the golden skin was reserved for the centerfold pages.

The laundry mat was always a zoo on the weekends. After a while, I realized that the patterns of the Mexican families was to do laundry on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Forget about getting one of the commercial big door machines during the weekends. It might as well be Christmas Eve on a mall.

When my mother trusted me enough, I went to the laundry mat alone during the weekdays. I got home at about 3 o’clock and was at the laundrymat by 4 o’clock. Two packs at a time, I would load up about 3-4 machines. Separated into whites and coloreds. Popped in some soap, and off to the races we went.

The challenge was to get one of the laundry carts. Yellowed, creaky and barely standing, the carts was the key mode of tranport from the machines to the dryer. As I sat reading the paper, my eyes scanned the horizon for anyone leaving a cart.

The commercial dryers were huge machines capable of sucking the water out of clothes at a tremendous rate. The best deal in town for a dime.

Folding was never an art form for me. Fold them in fourths, that what I always said. Pack them into the laundry bags and back home I went.

Today, the laundry machines are at the same floor as I am. About 100 feet. The routine is still the same. Gather, sort, pack, and wash. Dry, fold and store. At least now, the SO is with me doing half of the work.

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