“Welcome To My Reality”

We take so many things for granted when it comes to first-world problems.

Case in point – we’ve never been so thrilled to do laundry as we are this week, since we finally replaced our broken washer with a new one.

It’s been nearly four months of either running hampers across the street to my Dad’s house – thanks for being such a good sport, Dad – or the laundromat. And with three dogs and a boy prone to the occasional accident, the laundromat became a fairly regular part of our routine.

My first trip after the washer broke, while we waited for a repairman that never materialized, really helped me gain some perspective on how pampered we can be and how little we appreciate those things that many people don’t enjoy.

I dragged two hampers through the doors, set them down and almost immediately had very helpful advice from kind folks who were obviously regulars thee, on everything from which size washer I should use to the merits of bringing your own quarters vs. getting them from the change machine.

Wiser now to the ways of the laundromat, I returned to collect my wash and haul it back home to the dryer (note to self: factor in how much heavier a hamper of wet stuff is), I saw a guy in his mid-20s with his son, probably five, standing in front while dad smoked and his son bounced a ball on the sidewalk.

For some reason, I decided to explain to a total stranger that I was there because of a broken washer, bitched about how expensive it is to wash two loads, and joked, “Welcome to Saturday morning.”

He looked at me with a smile and said, “This is my reality,” politely sharing that he does this every weekend – washing and drying – and adds cab fare on top. The $15 I spent that one morning pales next to what has to run three times that much for him. That’s money he could be using to buy his son McDonald’s, or any one of a million other purposes.

While still hating the weekly laundromat run, I approached it with some empathy. There are so many older folks there, whether they don’t have laundry where they live or can’t afford machines. So many young people as well, families with little kids … it’s a cross-section of people who don’t have some of the advantages that the lucky among us can enjoy.

I’m thankful for a functioning washer, but more thankful for the chance to look at things through the eyes of others. New appliances or not, it’s good for us to share a different perspective and remember that what we consider tragic is just another every day for so many others.

Chris Brewster writes from his home in Waverly, New York. You can see more of his writing here. Chris also recently released his first book, A Lab in The Lab, which you can find here.

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