Thursday, September 13, 2012

A moment of serendipity in the laundromat

Due to our ongoing septic problems, I've been going to the laundromat a lot this summer. I like watching families doing their laundry together and women looking after each other's children and, especially, visiting the adjacent Mexican food truck. It is a far less lonely pursuit than running up and down the stairs to my laundry room, where I've stood alone many evenings folding warm laundry straight from the dryer.

The other benefit is that the laundromat offers me one of the few occasions these days to just sit and guiltlessly read. Unless I've gone out to the food truck for cilantro- and radish-filled tacos, I must sit and wait 43 minutes until the final spin. It was with this aim that I went to the laundromat yesterday morning after rushing to drop E-girl off at school. To my dismay, I found I was without either a book to read or a pad of paper to write on. The three flatscreen TVs on the laundromat walls were all tuned to Spanish-speaking stations, with captions also in Spanish; no free newspapers were scattered on tables there, as they had been on weekend afternoons. It was going to be a wasted hour, with nothing to do, and no one else to watch. But then, fumbling through my purse, I found the two most recent copies of One Story magazine. So the next half-hour was spent reading His Other Fathers—the words like a snack for a ravenous child.

Yes, I could have had a Kindle with me and, therefore, potential access to hundreds of books. But I am still resisting the lure of the eReader partly because I think I would miss those occasional serendipitous moments where you read whatever you have on hand.  My resistance is also because having an array of books always at my fingertips might give me that anxious feeling I used to get in bookstores: all those books calling out to me at once. Given too many choices, like when I receive a stack of books for Christmas or have a pile of New Yorkers to read, I often don't read at all, going outside to garden or walk—or I'll read what is quick and easily accessible, like that day's newspapers. I feel the weight of words, and (now, more and more) the limits of time pressing against me.