Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.


May 15, 2007

Lisa’s being honest, (and she’s actually doing something!) so let me just step up and write about my stellar day of social justice.

The Wife and The Girlie accompanied me to the laundromat this afternoon, where we did the usual routine of cresting the hill and anxiously scanning the parking lot to see how crowded the place was. If we’ve got clear sailing ahead, I can plan on about 3 hours, door to door. But if I need to wait for machines, it can really drag on.

Today, the parking lot wasn’t completely full, and the laundromat itself wasn’t too crowded, either. So why were almost all of the machines turning? And why were most of them whites, tumbling round and round? The answer was clear enough when you looked across the room: two Hispanic women wearing those pocketed pennies that some abstracted Powers That Be make all domestic workers everywhere wear, and an affable but bossish man. It was quickly clear that they were from a hotel of some kind, what with all of the sheets and towels and blankets and bedspreads and napkins and placemats. Which was bad news for me, let me tell you. By the time we arrived, they were finishing their massive wash cycle, and beginning to vacate those machines in time for our use. But 20 minutes later, when we were looking for dryers, they were using nearly every one in the whole place, with countless carts of wet sheets and towels waiting in queue.

So inside my head, I was a little grumpy, as I bemoaned these folks hogging all of the equipment, and needlessly extending my time here at the sweatshop. I was already looking at about 30 bucks worth of laundry (I’ve long since stopped trying to measure it in any other way but time and money) and wasn’t excited about sitting around waiting to actually get it done and out the door.

So with careful effort and measured kindness, we kind of wedged our way into a few dryers between their cycles, and these ladies were nice enough to open up a few more dryers for us to use. In talking to one of the ladies in my hopeless and embarrassing Spanish, I realized that she works at the very motel where our friends and family often stay when they come to visit: a basic-but-decent place a few blocks from our home where rooms go for about 80 bucks a night.

I didn’t tell her this of course. She, after all, works there. Normally working alone, she does this amount of laundry each and every day on site (except now, with the motel’s machine broken). All for just $7 an hour after two years at the same job. All because she doesn’t have “any papers”.

And I thought, “That’s just not right! That’s oppressive, and unfair!” But what am I gonna do about it? Write my congressman? Tell my family not to stay there? Ask them pay extra for their rooms? Go to her boss? Tell her to take classes at the entry-level college where I teach? Invite her to church on her non-existent day off?

The Wife and I both felt as though we ought to at least help these women with their folding, but we had our own folding to do, and the Girlie was getting cranky, and we desperately needed to get something to eat, and we had to hurry to get The Wife off to her night shift at work.

So we bought them some processed, fried food and some corn-syrup drinks and hurried home.

And boy, do I feel great. Yippee for me.

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5 Responses to “Justice?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    oh the irony!

    sounds like an interesting scene!

    TA (almost just a few more exams)

  2. Anonymous says:

    We can do no great things, only small things with great love. — Mother Teresa

  3. Lora says:

    corn syrup is my favorite, especially the high-fructose, government subsidized kind!

  4. maria says:

    Well, we follow a Jesus who turned water into wine. Sometimes the most ordinary things become extraordinary. How knows how those women will remember your kindness.

  5. lisa says:

    I think your story is beautiful. Don’t be hard on yourself, Mike. You talked with this woman, in her own language, loved her and fed her. Who does that remind you of?

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