Lois Lowry's Blog

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Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 20 June 2008 in Uncategorized

I am still in New York, still in the apartment that NYU has made available to me in a high rise building in Greenwich Village. My apartment is on the 13th floor.


This morning when I turned on my computer and went to the internet, I saw a news headline that made me blink.  "Man Glued to Toilet Seat Sues Home Depot."

Goodness, I thought; a man glued to a toilet seat must feel pretty stupid.

Then I decided to see if there was a place in this building to do laundry. I have been in New York now for seven days. I need to do laundry.

So, carrying a bag of dirty laundry, I took the elevator down to the basement and walked down a long corridor and found a large well-lit room with laundry machines, and indeed three women in there industriously folding clothes.

Aha.  I put my dirty laundry into a washing machine and then looked around to find a machine to give me change. There isn't one, because this is modern-day laundry...you use a special card that you buy from a machine. Okay. I can do that. I stand looking at the card-buying machine, and realize that it takes 5, 10, or 20 dollar bills. I open my wallet.  All I have are $20 bills.

Okay. Is it worth $20 to me to do laundry?  I decide yes.  I insert a $20. The machine rejects it, spits it back out.

One of the clothes-folding women comes over to see what my problem is. Ah: female bonding!  She speaks no English. But it is clear, as I take out another $20, that she thinks I am nuts for using twenty dollar bills.  She points to the place on the machine that says clearly $5.

I shrug. Got no $5.  A different $20 works, and now I have a laundry card.  She rolls her eyes and walks away and talks in another language - Portuguese, maybe - to the two other woman. Clearly they all think I am stupider than...well, than a man glued to a toilet seat.

But now I have a card.  I try to read the instructions on top of the washing machine but they have been obliterated and marred by age and overuse. I do see, however, that there is a little door to open and put in detergent.  I have no detergent.  There is no detergent-dispensing machine in the room.

The women are watching me. With contempt, I think.  The creepy words of the old Holly Near song come to my mind... "And the junta...the junta"  These women have formed a junta, I think.  They hate me. I am a blond woman who has just casually put a $20 bill in a machine. They will overthrow me first chance they get.

But one of them offers me detergent form her large bottle.  I thank her...overly profusely....and pour a glug of detergent into my machine, fool with the card slot and the dials, inserting my card several times, probably each time paying another $1.50, but finally the machine starts and tells me that it is going to run for 38 minutes.

I flee back to my apartment. I wait 35 minutes, return to the basement, and my machine...it is #41, (a number I remembered because it was my sister's high school boyfriend's football jersey number)...tells me it has 2 minutes to run still.

I wander around around, reading the instructions on the driers, so I'll be ready; then I sit on a bench and wait. The clothes-folding ladies are gone. I am alone.

The machine now says 0 minutes, and I go over and open it up.

It is empty.

****

I find my clothes: dry, unwashed,  in Machine #40.

I am now back in my apartment, waiting out the 38 minutes for Machine #40, in which my laundry is now being washed without detergent.  What the heck.  Maybe water is enough.

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Comments

Guest
Lori Lusk Monday, 29 November 1999

I have been teaching the novel The Giver for 13 years to a variety of years. I start off with "Today you are going to read a book that has changed my life". By the time they are done most of them agree. Thank you for writing so many wonderful books!

Guest
Tracy Edward Wymer Monday, 29 November 1999

Good for you, Lois, for writing a story that makes us all think so much. I have read and taught The Giver; it is a fine piece of literature with depth and meaning that can positively affect children's lives. I can see where there would be questions young readers may have while reading it, but I have only had positive experiences while teaching this novel. Thanks again.

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