Overseas travel can be fun. You get to see a culture, completely different from your own. You can explore things only seen in movies, pictures, or that you’ve read about in books. You can even immerse yourself completely in the fact that you are exploring a new world. But at some point, you’re going to have to face a harsh reality. No, not that you have to come home.
You’re going to have to do laundry.
When I embarked on my two-week mission to London, I packed sensibly. Two pairs of sturdy pants to bring me through my adventures (one trusty reliable pair and a back-up, should they prove to not be so trusty), and enough shirts and delicates to bring me through the week mark, because, when you’re backing for a two week journey you realize that you don’t have enough clothes to really carry you through two weeks without needing to do laundry. Or you don’t own a suitcase that will HOLD two weeks of clothes and all the Doctor Who stuff you’re going to bring back. It’s a harsh reality.
Fortunately, I was in good company (with the not having a big enough suitcase to pack two weeks of clothes… the others with me weren’t as big Doctor Who fans so I don’t know what they brought back with them) so together, as a bonding experience, we all sought out a Laundromat in London.
When you’re travelling to any new place, either foreign or domestic, sometimes you overlook the fact that it is a working city and that life is going on, even as you have the time of your life going to see a million plays or getting sweet backstage tours of the Opera House, the Young Vic, the Globe (twice)… This is also a reminder that I’ve got a LOT to write about in the whole “Bad Shakespeare Takes London Series.” But even if you go to Cleveland to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or Pawnee, Indiana if it were a real place, you don’t think, “Hey, while I’m there I’m going to do a couple of loads just to see if the detergent smells different.”
For the record, the Laundry detergent in London smells a little different.
Together, my merry band of classmates and I decided to seek out a Laundromat and get our laundry done. Step one, of course, was finding a place within walking distance, because at that point none of us were going to drag our dirty laundry on the tube or bus, and getting a taxi was out of the question because London being London, they would probably charge us extra for the privilege of sitting in their backseat, clothes on our laps.
There was rumor… fabled rumor, mind you… of a place that you could drop of your laundry, and get a student discount. Alas, we were unable to locate it. (Or I was, but much later, which didn’t help very much.)
We were eventually directed down the street to a Laundromat that was nestled right across from a pub, because just about everything in London is across from a pub, but we were told to go grab a pint as our wash was going through the cycle.
Hey, here’s something else you don’t consider. When you’re doing laundry in a place that’s familiar to you, you have things like “detergent” or “laundry baskets”, so even if you have to take your stuff on public transportation or in a car, it’s easy to carry. You don’t really think about that when you have a suitcase that is rapidly filling full of Doctor Who stuff, so you do the best you can with the few baskets you can find. In my case “basket” was “about four flimsy plastic bags” and detergent was “what my kind roommate left me.”
Let me pause here to point out that I am well aware that not everyone has a washer/dryer in their apartment or house, and that they have to haul their laundry every week. My point in this is simply to communicate the fun of doing it while in a foreign country.
So, we all walked down the street, with our laundry much heavier than we had originally though, as the clouds began to darken and we realized at any moment they could open, spewing rain thus making our washing kind of moot. We eventually found the Laundromat (across from the pub, as promised) and just around a rather shady looking corner. Come to think of it, I don’t know that I have seen a Laundromat that wasn’t around a shady looking corner.
That’s when we learned our biggest lesson: coins only, and the Laundromat shut down around 5. Well, not “shut down” as in “no longer staffed and was pretty much a free for all.” I am happy to report that we all managed to get our coins, hopped on machines, and proceeded to wash our clothes.
Then, the boredom sets in.
See, at this point we had all been in London together for about a week and some change, including the weekend, and we had all roomed together, taken most of our meals together, and seen about four plays while having class every day together. That’s a LOT of togetherness, and we were about to spend five more days also together. Now, normally, in that situation I’d bring a book. But, I had spent five days with this cool group of people, and I didn’t want to be rude, so we all did our best to make the most of it.
One person put on music, because we were the only ones in there. We had our impromptu dance party/laundry session. We gingerly tested the machines, seeing how much money it ACTUALLY took to wash and dry out clothes. We shared detergent, which I managed to get on some of my clean clothes, so I know I smelled like lavender for part of my trip.
At one point, a nice gentleman who was used to doing his laundry in solitary on Friday nights happened in, and was a bit surprised at the large group of Americans now taking the machines, having their dance party. He was a nice, guy, actually, of course, the only thing he knew about America was that “Some guy named George Bush was President there once, right?” He did throw out a few suggestions of places to check out, but I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think I did. It was a nice conversation, however to be completely honest with you my mind was on trying to catch my train to Edinburgh.
You know, it’s funny, I went to a lot of places while in London. I got to live out a lot of dreams, too, like visiting Shakespeare’s house, walking on his footsteps. I even met Bubbles, the Shakespeare cat that gave us his own guided tour of Anne Hathaway’s house. (The Shakespeare wife, not the actress.) But if I had to put a stamp on the most memorable experience, it would have to be this little trip to the Laundromat. It was with a group… a good group of friends. It was really the first time I didn’t feel like I was just staying in London, it felt like I belonged in London. I was doing laundry with friends, then I was going to catch a train out to Scotland for the weekend. It was probably the first time I’d felt at home in a long time.