The Laundry

Posted: Sunday, 2 January 2011 | Posted by k | Labels: , ,

I actually like going to the nearby self-service laundry. In the times there I have met quite a diverse amount of people, talked to several and enjoyed staring at the ever turning machines with a slightly dizzy sense of joy.

Today was no difference.

The laundry also seems a place where the Rabbis and their wives have no say in who is allowed to wash. It does not seem to matter who you are as long as you bring three coins of five shekel.

Today was no difference.

When I arrived two of the three machines were running and one was empty. An old, seemingly fragile woman was there, and I asked her if she was finished, if I could use the machine (in Hebrew), she said yes. I filled the machine. And sat. She was about to go and had a lot of things. I asked her in English if she wanted some help carrying it up the stairs. She started yelling and shouting in Hebrew that this was Eretz Israel, that she does not want to hear English, I did not understand the rest. It was frightening. I started crying when she left, and was really shaken. She came down on me like a harpy. The shop owner next door said she was crazy. A man came and saw his bag was gone, he was Ethiopian, I gave him one of mine, he said thank you, emptied his machine and left. A woman from Sri Lanka came and waited with me. The old woman came back and in perfect British English started shouting again. She hated the English. Was I English. No. I said I just wanted to help you, sorry. She does not want my fucking help. Was I German. Yes. Was I Jewish. No. See, I had no idea what's going on, she would not need my help. She would not want it. Where was I born. Dresden. She knew someone, very nice, hard working man from there. So was I an Ossi. I said I was from Dresden which is in the East of Germany. Was I an Ossi. The GDR was still in existence when I was born. I had no idea about the Jewish people, I should go back to the Ossis to prevent them from turning Nazis. She would not want help. I was crying the whole time. The woman from Sri Lanka stood nearby and said nothing. The old woman left. I asked the woman from Sri Lanka if she had a tissue. She had not. She asked what happened. I told her I asked the old woman if she needed or wanted help and she started yelling at me. The woman from Sri Lanka said she was here for three weeks now to be a care giver as so many other women and men from Sri Lanka and the Philippines. I wished her the best and hoped she met people who treat her respectfully.

I learn how these things work and experience them as the "other" which I may not have experienced before in Germany, where my white skin seems to "prevent" me from discrimination. Now that I come to think of it, it is a bit ironic that some time in the summer this man on the train in Berlin said they forgot to put me on the transport to the gas chambers in Auschwitz.