Sunlit Water

July 19, 2006


Filed under: Urban Living — by teofilo @ 8:50 pm

I went to the laundromat today.  Oprah was on, which is much better than the usual fare (although the local news afterwards was all about fallen trees).  I didn’t watch much, though, because of the lack of air conditioning and all.  Instead I moved my truck, then got some falafel, then came back to put my clothes in the dryer.  While they were drying I did a little reading, but it was hard with the oppressive heat and the blaring TV (fallen trees! everywhere!), so I only got through a few pages.

There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have left my clothes at a laundromat while I went and did something else.  When I was in high school I knew a guy who had his clothes stolen from a laundromat while he watched a movie (I was with him).  And then there’s that scene in Fight Club.  I know stuff like that doesn’t actually happen very often, but I’m not a very trusting person by nature, so I generally prefer to keep an eye on things.

That’s all changed, though, and I think it’s largely the result of living in a big city for a while.  In a city, you have to trust people; there’s no getting around it.  People are everywhere, and it would be easy for them to do you harm, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  You can’t barricade yourself off the way you can in some fortress-like suburban developments (not that that really keeps you safe either).  You have to adapt to the fact that people are everywhere and just relax a little.  Sure, there’s a whole bunch of bad stuff they could do to you, but you could do the same stuff to them, so they generally don’t.  It works surprisingly well.

Another example: I mentioned moving my truck.  I don’t have a parking permit because I don’t live here permanently, so I can’t park in my neighborhood.  I have to park in a different neighborhood where parking is unlimited (because the people are poorer).  On past visits this used to worry me, so I would move my truck every couple days.  Now, though, I’ve gotten used to the situation and I just move it when I have to (street cleaning, every two weeks).  I’ve never had a serious problem; people just leave it alone.  Some drunk threw an empty 40 bottle in the bed, but I don’t care about stuff like that.

I find it remarkable how much implicit trust is involved in urban living.  I see people all the time.  I can’t worry about what they’re going to do to me, because if I did I would never get anything done.  I just trust them, and move along.  Perhaps there’s a lesson there.



  1. This is all so true. I had the same experience — I always used to guard my laundry until I moved to NYC.

    Comment by Becks — July 20, 2006 @ 10:47 pm |Reply

  2. I have all sorts of theories about why living in cities is necessary to have a humane public sphere, but this is a bad bad week for me to write anything. I’ll probably end up linking this over at Unfogged next week once I’ve got time to think about it.

    Comment by LizardBreath — July 21, 2006 @ 12:46 am |Reply

  3. I was in a similar situation in San Francisco a few months ago. I was staying in an area with permit only daytime parking but only a couple of blocks from unlimited parking. After a month of no problem with parking on the street a few blocks away a note appeared on my car, complete with underlines and exclamation points, asking me to park elsewhere. (Actually, I was told to park in front of my own house; had I had a house, I would have done so.)

    I didn’t have a problem with that and went to park on another street (and never came back to that street), but the note still bothered me. Had it been a simple request I wouldn’t have been surprised, but the way it was written made it seem like I’d been asked to move many times before when in fact no one had ever said anything to me or posted a calmer note before. And I’d been moving the car every few days.

    My landlady, who’d been in the neighborhood for decades, wanted me to park there again, find out who posted the note, and point the person out for her so she could go pick a fight. Before her block became permit only, she was apparently very tolerant of people who just needed a place to park leaving their cars near her house.

    Comment by eb — July 21, 2006 @ 2:43 am |Reply

  4. Wow, eb, that exact same thing happened to me once. I think the problem in my case was that the block had housing on both sides of the street but parking on only one. I now park on a block with parking on both sides.

    Comment by teofilo — July 21, 2006 @ 11:14 am |Reply

  5. Unless you’re stalking those freaks, you don’t know which car goes with which house, or whether every car there belongs to those houses. Maybe the angry notes were the result of pent-up anger, and it didn’t matter that you were new, just that you were the push over the edge.

    Construction has taken over one side of a street here, and I wonder where the cars are now parked.

    In my small college town, Hell, PA, my parents returned to their car only to have a friendly resident say, “You left your lights on. We were going to turn them off, but you locked your door. My mom thought that kind of trust was quaint.

    Growing up, I learned that laundry rooms were dangerous places, and always in basements. My parents were worried about me not having a w/d, but then I’d have to pay water and probably other utilities. I’ve been lucky to have the laundry room on my floor in two different buildings. I don’t worry that anyone will take my stuff, but that if I leave it there too long, they will vandalize it. Because while there are jerks who can leave their crap there for half a day, and I can’t bring myself to move it, I think I’m more likely to be confronted than jerks, even though I never forgot for very long.

    It would be difficult to replace my clothes, but I do own a lot of crap and I think I wouldn’t miss most of it if it were stolen or burnt to a crisp. It would be a relief to be able to start over and not have to move any of it again.

    Comment by ~Macarena~ — July 21, 2006 @ 4:39 pm |Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: