Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Monster in the laundry room

I keep thinking about the incident in the laundry room the other day. I love immigrants and have a particular soft spot for East Indian women. If I had my way, the whole country would be flooded with new arrivals from all over the world. I think we can use new perspectives and the diversity. There's lots of room. This is Canada.

You can imagine, then, that I’d feel a little chagrined at the thought of scaring crap out of someone hardly a blink away from India.

In this entry, you are not looking through my eyes.

You are a pretty, traditional East Indian woman, about five feet, three inches tall, with huge brown eyes. You’re new to the apartment building where you live with your husband and small son. You haven’t been in Canada very long. Your English is shaky and much of what other people take for granted perplexes you.

You dress for the day in your pea-green sari and scarf – draped modestly from head to toe in soft, light cotton. You are a good girl and have been taught to cover yourself properly.

You bundle up a load of washing and put it into one of the three washers in the laundry room. Four minutes later, you return to add something else you’ve forgotten. You don’t realize you’ve left the lid up and the washer is sitting there, with its digital display stuck on, “21 minutes” and nothing happening.

As you close the door behind you, another tenant enters the laundry room. She is not in a bad mood, exactly, but she’s still burning off a lot of left-over energy from an extremely trying week and she is not in the mood to tolerate fools gladly. She has three loads of laundry with her and she curses extravagantly when she sees that some yo-yo has left a washer lid up – the delay meaning that she’s going to have to do her laundry in stages. She slams the lid to start the washer running again.

Your washing is taking longer than usual. When you return to pull it out, it still has fifteen minutes to go. Another mystery, just as you think you’ve got the machines figured out. You wait 15 minutes and when you check again, there is someone else in the laundry room: a towering Amazon of a woman with bushy red hair is angrily snatching bundles of laundry from a dryer and pitching them on top of it. She is wearing what appears to be underwear – ¾ length black tights and a black top. Inexplicably, on her feet are enormous children’s slippers. She's muttering under her breath.

You quickly retrieve your things and put them in the dryer farthest from her, carefully keeping a safe distance. When you drop the first quarter in the slot it rolls straight back out the return. You try again with the same result. The big angry woman is looking at you, so you screw up your courage to ask, “Why it not work?” She comes over and tries your quarter, tipping it in very slowly. It rolls into the return. She tries tilting the machine by banging violently into it with her hip. She drops the quarter again, offers a long explanation you don’t understand and goes back to stuffing the dryer she’s just emptied. Not knowing what else to do, you keep trying – dropping the quarter over and over until the woman says, “broken,” which you understand.

But now she is watching you again. You are cornered at the opposite end of a very small room. Suddenly, she opens the only other dryer and starts flinging out someone else’s bone-dry, stone-cold load of laundry. She chucks it carelessly on top of the dryer, pulls the filter out, cleans it and replaces it. She shuts the door and looks at you.

“I can use?” you ask her very timidly.

She says another long aggravated sounding sentence, making stabbing gestures at the heap on top of the dryer. And then she stops, smiles at you and says, “You can use, yes.”

1 comment:

Koru's Daughter said...

Yes, yes, yes, you are veeerrrrryyy ssccccaaaarrrryyy! Quite a mystery monster!

Is it true that there are entire webrings devoted to your sightings? That the Fortean Societies have conventions to discuss the likelihood of your existance? That your appearance is often fortold by a rain of frogs?

P.S. What characters are on your slippers? Our old friends the roosters again?