Lately people have been offering me their seats on the bus. At first I was pleased by these unexpected gifts. Then yesterday a young woman next to the window leaned forward and said, "Would you like my seat?" and I realized the truth. She saw my graying hair and(more) saw me as a senior citizen. A senior. An odd feeling. I am 52 but inside, as Anais Nin was wrote, I am "still every age I have ever been." I don't think of myself as middle-aged, may never, so as nice as the offer was, I turned it down.
I commute three hours round-trip by bus so spend a lot of time observing people. The road to Burien seems full of potholes and I can't seem to read so I watch. I get to know patterns. One rider works at McDonalds, has a gold M on her crispy ironed blue cotton shirt, and carries herself with pride. Sometimes her two children are with her. When she gets off, I look for the arches and I never see them but I know they must be nearby. Another rider has leather Nike sneakers I covet. I know I see him frequently because I recognize the shoes. Yesterday on the morning route, he ate a peanut butter sandwich, his long legs spread out, a quietness about him I liked. There is also an elderly woman who carries an assemblage of bags, neat and organized. She bends over, almost asleep, and I worry she won't wake up for her stop but she always does--gets off in the middle of nowhere. Where is she going?
Last night I dreamed I was a teenager. My mother came out on the front porch just as I remember her--with gray hair but carrying a shotgun.
Even after two years working as a housekeeper I'm still not very good at a lot of things. The small refined touches, like beds. When I tuck one corner of the fitted sheet the other pops out until I'm sweating and cursing and crawling over the bed using both(more) hands to jab things in place. Mine are always somewhat rumpled and never look straight.
In a hotel I'd be fired; in an underfunded care facility everyone's used to crooked edges, tears in the fabric, and everything being not quite right. If the bedding is washed and I keep an eye out for bedbugs then I'm doing my job.
Here linen has been washed so much it's very thin and holds stains. Clean sheets should smell like summer. Good industrial laundries can recreate summer's scent in cotton with perfume but here they smell like smoke and bleach.
After I change a room I'll tote the dirty linen downstairs myself. I have two wash machines and four driers going for my whole shift. The room is hot as an August beach.
Lots of sad heads lay themselves down on those beds nightly. Residents smoke in bed, or bleed or pee. There's numerous pinholes from cigarette ash and splots of bodily waste where the best I can hope for is they turn a less suggestive colour in the wash. The only time I'll throw away linen is when the grey stops washing out, a residue of unwashed bodies or black spots in the sheets because certain residences walk around barefoot all the time, their feet looking cindery.
I have one trick. After I put the plastic pillow in its thin case and tuck it under the bedspread I turn the blankets down. That way a line of bedsheet shows and looks somewhat crisp. (less)