Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Metaphysics of the Clothes Care Center. Part I: Reading the Sign

Neither of us Meridians especially enjoys doing the laundry, but I dislike it less than she does. So, once a week, give or take (I usually give), I spend a couple of hours in our apartment complex's Clothes Care Center. We've lived here about 9 months, but it was only yesterday, after (finally) finishing The Mezzanine and with some time to kill before the dryers stopped, that I looked around at the space of the Center itself, to see what I could see.

As is usually the case when I innocently think of something with which to kill "some" time, all this you're about to read (assuming you dare click) started with the name itself.

The phrase "Clothes Care Center" is emblazoned on a pale green sign by the pool-side entrance to the Center (more about the Center's topography in Part II), a line drawing of a wire clothes hanger helpfully appearing just above the words themselves as if to reduce if not eliminate confusion as to the Center's purpose. As best I recall, no such sign appears by the Center's other entrance, which gives onto the complex's main parking lot. The fact that the sign appears/doesn't appear where it does is itself, I'm just now realizing, worthy of a separate post, and it will certainly receive closer attention in Part II. But let that go for the moment, because it is because of the sign that you have this post to read in the first place.

"Clothes Care Center." Such an odd phrase, I thought. Not "Laundromat," not "Washateria," not "Laundry Room." "Laundry" and "wash" connote chores, drudgery; however, since each and every apartment complex markets itself as a Place to Get Away from It All, it simply will not do for this complex to name its laundry facility something not in keeping with the teleology of Sanctuary. Thus, "care," with its connotations of fastidious, even affectionate attention to something rather than labor. Indeed, the phrase carries with it the strong sense that someone else will be doing the Clothes Caring, doesn't it? Alas: that hanger on the sign that I spoke of is empty. It is a void waiting to be filled . . . and a quick glance around will show all present to be filling their own respective voids.

As I pondered the sign further, it occurred to me that it could be read as containing in it a subtextual rebuke to some of the Center's visitants. Consider: some of the complex's residents appear to be the sort of people who think of doing laundry not as a necessary evil but as Evil, period, and appear to be so disgusted with the task that they are, shall we say, a bit cavalier with their laundry in their zeal to just get it the hell over with. White clothes with darks, washing darks in hot, etc., etc. Might we not imagine, then, someone pointing out such a faux pas to another, who then responds,

"Who cares, man?"

The first one leads him over to the sign. Compels him to look.

"Du-u-ude. Clothes care. They care here.

* * * *

Well, perhaps. But for all the sweetness of that image, we must, here and now, mention an unpleasant fact, made more unpleasant by our eventual need to return to this unpleasantness once we have established certain facts and engaged in certain speculations as to the Center's nature and meaning. However much the name "Clothes Care Center" may evoke images of soft lighting caressing mauve walls, clientele who seem to glide by as they pass, and hushed, perhaps even hidden-from-view washers and dryers, there is no ignoring the strong impression that, while the Center Cares for your Clothes, no one seems to be Caring much about the Center. It is the unweeded garden of laundromats, possessed merely by such rank and gross things as laundromats are wont to be possessed merely by. Its one aesthetic virtue is that I have yet to see rats or mice there.

You may be scoffing at my Hamlet borrowing above for describing a laundry room. But believe me when I tell you that once I moved from considering the sign to considering the room the sign indicates, I saw that the Clothes Care Center's design practically screams to the visitant: Come here to contemplate the mystery of the Cycle.

All you have to do is open your eyes.

UPDATE: If you made it this far, you might be interested in reading Part IIa, here.


Ramiangrobis said...

Nice. I enjoyed that. A lot.

Please read The Fermata next. Just to give you a hint of the content, in the UK it was published in lurid pink covers under a Vintage imprint specializing in erotic/pornographic literature. Caused me some embarrassment in the library, let me tell you.

fearful_syzygy said...

Yeah that nearly demolished his reputation, didn't it? Amongst his more moral(ising) readers at any rate.

Ariel said...

"since each and every apartment complex markets itself as a Place to Get Away from It All..."

Hilarious. (I read part of this aloud to Lindsay.) And remarkable. You crammed a healthy amount of social commentary into a post about doing laundry. It's this kind of thing that brings us back to Blog Meridian time and time again.

R. Sherman said...

Ok, I actually had tears in my eyes from laughter when I read this.

BTW, what's wrong with throwing everything in at once, on "hot" with about a half a box of that powder stuff?

My you Kansans are fastidious.


John B. said...

Thanks to all of you for the kind words. I'll just say that I've had fun thinking about and working on it, and I'm hopeful that Part II will work as well as this seems to.

Grobie, actually I've been vacillating between The Fermata, Vox, and his most recent one, whose title escapes me. But I do like what Mr. Baker is about.

Ariel, it strikes me that you might like Roland Barthes' little book Mythologies, a smarter, much more elegant, and considerably less long-winded version of this sort of thing.

Mr. Sherman, let's just say that I have been down the road you suggest, and I've decided that light-pink underwear doesn't make me feel especially masculine.

Mrs. Meridian said...

Like doing laudry makes you feel masculine?

Diana said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Diana said...

I was just dropping by and I must thank you for promoting my blog, as you know I am a Literature student, and yes, I know I should be posting in English but I am doing it in Spanish because most of my readers are non English speakers (In addition to this, my English is not as good as it should be, hehe). Also I must say I really enjoy all around reading your blog, true.

John B. said...

Saludos, Diana.
You're most welcome for the promotion. For my part, I wished more of my readers could read Spanish so they could appreciate your blog. But I do have a fair number of visitors from Latin America and Spain, so I hope some of them will find their way to you from here.

poco said...

This was fun reading. I'm sending my husband to read this. He'll enjoy. Thanks for brightening my day with laughter.

PI said...

Hi - here via Randall. Watching ones laundry swishing round can be pleasantly mesmerising - unless you find yourself - as a friend's husband did - staring at your wife's dutch cap glued to the port-hole for 40 minutes.

John B. said...

PI (and other visitors from Musings): welcome and thanks for stopping by. And PI, thanks for teaching me a new term.

Brian B said...

PI - It is so true about how people will sit around and just watch their clothes swish around in a trance. I own several Laundromats and get to see it first hand every day. :)