09 June 2005

Tuesday night at the laverie

The laverie (laundry mat) around the corner from my apartment is the cleanest one I've ever seen. It looked like it was built minutes before I arrived. Judging from the signage advising customers on various topics, someone named Simon is the proud manager. He even lists his phone number to call in the event of a problem. In Paris this type of efficiency and accountability is rare. I'm led to believe that Simon may not be French.

The place is completely automated. You need to enter the number of your washing machine into a control pad where you also insert your bills or coins. If you punch in a 1 and a 2...washer number 12 will turn on. If you want to start the dryer, you enter the dryer's number. If you want to buy a product, such as soap or fabric softener, you look at the machine that dispenses the products and enter the product's number. All of your actions are controlled from the center of the room, on your all-powerful control pad. It's quite efficient.

This is also where I had my first conversation in French. It was with a woman who tried to advise me that dryer number 24 was bad, and that 25 was not so great either. She preferred to use numbers 26 through 29. Twenty seven was the absolute best. She was an authority because doing laundry was her profession. When I had to insert more coins to get my clothes in dryer number 24 completely dry, she was proven right, though she took no pride in the issue.

She lived quite far from this particular laverie, so I imagine it was her client who lived nearby. She is from Poland and has lived in Paris for ten years. Her emigrant status made it easier to speak in French with her. We only had to act out a few words and phrases. When she first spoke to me I automatically said "je ne parle pas Francais" (I don't speak French)...but after a few minutes she seemed surprised and said "You DO speak French a little."

It was a nice way to spend an hour. She enjoyed showing me two small potted flowers that she bought near the Metro. One was a beautiful rouge et blanc violet and the other was a plant with small flowers that were so purple they could have been powered by electricity. I have never seem such a color. She was pleased that I shared her enthusiasm for them. She said she would plant them outside of her window and would enjoy looking at them in the morning.

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