I spend a lot of time at the Laundromat, which is a concrete pad in the parking lot of the grocery store. It holds one average-capacity washer, two large-capacity washers, one awesome dryer and one shitty dryer, which literally says, “Cette machine est la merde!” written in Sharpie on the inside of its door. Through trial and error I’ve figured out how to run the machines by deciphering the central payment system, and I spend far too much time stalking the one good dryer, so that I can have fully dried clothes upon completion of my laundry duties. Through all of this I’ve become somewhat of an expert, and can now offer assistance to the confused people who show up when I’m there – people who put their coins in without selecting the machine first, who choose the crap dryer, who don’t know how to adjust the drying temperature. I’ve helped at least 15 people in my time here, using a good amount of transactional French. People know I’m not French, and will often say a “thank you,” or “good-bye” in English to me, as if returning the favor of my assistance.
On New Year’s day, I and I were doing laundry, and found ourselves 12 inches from a heated argument between a woman who was upset about the bad dryer, and the woman who monitors the services found in the parking lot. They were really going at it, yelling, speaking super fast, and at one point the dissatisfied customer tried to pull me into it, saying that I had agreed the machine was inferior. I said nothing, looking like I didn’t understand a word of what was going on. Not 10 minutes later, Isaac and I witnessed a woman drive through the gas station payment control barrier, and into a stand of 100 butane tanks. The monitor was not having a happy new year. Today when I saw her again, we greeted each other cordially.
While I feel rather anonymous and insignificant here, I realized this town is so small that if I were to accidentally drop some underwear on the way to or from the laundromat, someone would have seen it happen and they would know it belongs to “that American.”