I’m afraid that if I explain the title, I’ll give it all away.
I’ll explain it anyway.
When I was in secondary school, it was kind of a running joke among my friends that I was pretty dense when it came to boys. You wouldn’t believe it if you’d known me back then – I was a good student, very friendly and sociable, and had many guy friends.
But, for the life of me, I could not tell at all when a boy liked me. When I was 15, I sat next to a boy for a whole school year who’d crushed on me for over two years, and even though my friends and his friends kind of rubbed it in my face, I was all, “What? He doesn’t like me! He’s nice and we’re just friends, oh my god.” Turns out they were right.
Fast forward 13 years, it turns out that that’s another aspect of me that hasn’t changed much.
So begins my first Lesson from the Laundromat.
Whether I’m in line at Peet’s or at the corner waiting for the light to change, I can carry a conversation with virtually anybody. You wouldn’t think a ten minute conversation could start from something as simple as, “Wow, that’s weird.” And yet, it can and happens.
So when the middle-aged, slightly graying, tanned Caucasian man with whom I’d swapped bills for quarters struck me as a friendly guy, I didn’t think twice about swapping life stories and Tenderloin experiences with him.
Conversation flowed easily, freely, and logically: the broken quarter machine, not wanting to leave our laundry unattended for fear of having it stolen and sold on the street, shady Tenderloin characters, him having lived in Berkeley, both of us having lived in Berkeley, my move to San Francisco, his business in the city as a lighting technician, and so on and so forth. For a blue-collar worker who was dressed kinda shabbily, he seemed like a well-educated guy.
We talked through his dry cycle and then through most of mine. I wondered why he kept throwing a windbreaker back into the dryer.
“This material… It’s dry on the outside, but the inside takes forever.”
As my dry cycle neared its end, I thought it was odd that we were to finish our laundry at about the same time…. even though I had four times as much laundry as he. Maybe it was a difficult jacket…
It was close to two in the afternoon and he asked me about restaurants in the area. It didn’t take much to get me going. Good food in the Tenderloin? There’s Lers Ros, Sai Jai Thai, that pizza joint that wasn’t too bad… I just went on and on, until…
“So that Thai restaurant you were talking about.”
“Sai Jai Thai?”
“Yeah… Are you hungry?”
JESUS CHRIST, JENNA. I wanted to put a few more quarters into the dryer and shut myself in. Not only had I set myself up to be asked out, I had also walked my dense self right into it.
I’ll just breeze through the rest of story: I said I had to return to my apartment to work, he asked for my number, I politely declined, he offered his, I stood there like a doofus waiting for him to write his number down because I thought that dashing away would be rude, I thanked him for his company, and then I dashed.
You’d think that, having been chatted up and hit on as many times as I have, I
- would have seen it coming, and
- would not have been so shocked nor behaved so awkwardly when I realized what had happened.
The lesson of the story: When something feels odd, plug in your earbuds and pretend to talk on the phone.