We took an easy afternoon today to relax, catch up on the blog and then find a laundromat where we thought to find someone in need and to launder some 5 lbs of clothes or so. We booked a place downtown, and asked for the nearest laundromat. The clerk, Jean, a sweet young lady who aspires to be a writer, and who rides a motorcycle (“That your helmet,” I asked), drew out directions on a map she printed from her computer. Great!, we thought, now we’re going to get back to where we need to be.
We fastidiously followed the highlighted path on the map, a left here, a right there (by the round hotel building which has fascinated me since we got here), and straight up this street — right by the same restaurant we kept running into ever since we got off the bus. We agreed that we’d have to have dinner there, as some vortex required it, and the restaurant guy who was smoking a cigarette at the corner outside agreed. “See you in an hour,” he said. “Right when we get lost,” I replied.
So we kept to the map, going straight back where we had gone the day before, right over the tracks back to the wrong right side of town — where the streets are clean, the houses are huge, and no one needs our help. (Well, maybe outside of the lost souls at the Planned Parenthood office we kept passing). So be it, we figured, and kept on going until we got to the laundromat, which was the ideal of a laundromat, stuffy air and confusing machines. Jay, I believe, had never seen one of these places before. He got the idea right about needing quarters, but was a bit confused over the detergent requirements. We came near to regretting not taking my wife’s advice to pack some of her “detergent pills” that we had refused by all rights of manhood to take with us. It wasn’t that complicated, other than a panic over which funnel to put the detergent into, and we settled in plastic chairs to read the paper while we waited. There were a few pleasant folks there taking care of their business, a young couple with a baby, a couple of which the woman the man said, “She’s my best friend, we do everything together,” and a solo man who kept to himself. A mother and three children came in. She explained that she had just arrived to Raleigh from the north of Michigan, as her husband had a conference here and she decided to turn it into a trip with the kids. Her eldest, a girl, sat by us and must have devoured some sixty pages of a Harry Potter book while she waited on her mom and laundry. I really wanted to speak to the couple w/ the baby, as that’s a tough moment in life, with so many demands, but never got the chance to strike a full conversation. As we left, Jay handed his palm full of remaining quarters to a guy who had just gotten in and who looked dazzled at the gift. He was thrilled, probably far more than anything else we could have raised in any of the others there that day. So, clean clothes now, we dutifully headed back to the restaurant.
Our waitress was very kindly, and patiently helped me figure out the Chimay beers, which were poorly labeled on the menu. But life is good, and it was a “Bleue,” which is beyond all my favorite. She was new to the city and to the job, and had not yet found her own place. Jay thought her name was Alice, given the enormous Alice in Wonderland tattoo on her right shoulder. No, her name is Catherine, and Alice in Wonderland was her favorite book as a child. I quizzed her on her high school and college experience, as we were discussing between us students and motivation techniques that I’ve been trying to develop. Catherine wans’t an inspired student and had dropped out of college. She thought that she might like to be in the medical field and had tried out a couple areas in it that she might return to. I told her she’d do just fine, as she’s kindly and cares for people, good traits, by the way, for a waitress.
Dinner was great, and the Chimay turned to three, and as we prepared to leave we spoke with Catherine one more time, now for Jay to quiz her on her tattoos. Her smile turned on, she explained each, a favorite band, a favorite song, Alice of course, and another that she had forgotten about. Now, Jay and I are not of this generation, and clearly the tattoos held more importance to Catherine than, say, any long term plans, so it was a bit dismaying to see such enthusiasm for body art and uncertainty over a career. But such are things, and she is very inspired by her expressions. She did admit that finishing Alice and getting any others would have to wait until after she found and could afford rent, and we hope she commits to that notion.
We wish her the very best and hope a little boost in our envelop can inspire her onward. And we hope that she finds in return all the blessings and kindness that she showed us over a happy dinner with really nice service.