Long Island Insight: Revelations from an Italian laundry room

The day I locked myself in the laundry room had not been a good one to start with. While the day had started out sunny, clouds had ominously gathered while I was in my first class of the week, Beginning Italian, and by the time class had let out, it was pouring. Gypsies ran up to me, insisting I buy an umbrella (“Tre euro, tre euro bella!”) even though I already had my lovely polka dotted one from Forever 21 at my apartment. The only reason it was not with me, in fact, is because it had not rained a day in Florence, Italy since I had gotten here. On my way home, I stopped into a grocery store to buy some oranges to eat with my lunch, walked out a different exit, and promptly got lost, in the rain. Things were not looking up. I had planned to do laundry on this rainy Monday, since I hadn’t done it since I had gotten to Italy (three weeks ago) and the situation was getting fairly desperate. The reasons I had been avoiding the task were quite simple: there are no dryers in Italy, so I would have to hang all my laundry out my window (and the thought of hanging my undergarments out the window was slightly off-putting,) and the “laundry room,” as it was, was a small outdoor courtyard in the middle of my apartment building that contained a few laundry lines and one solitary, rusting washing machine that looked like it had been standing there since the days of fascism in Italy. The loading door was off the hinges, the buttons blinked erratically, and to top it all off, the directions to use the thing were in Italian, a language I am just barely beginning to understand. And now, it was raining. Given that you have to hang out your clothes to dry, I presumed this was going to be a slight problem. However, I had no pants left by this time, and I felt my professors (not to mention the Italians) would frown upon me not wearing any pants, (plus, Americans have enough stereotypes to contend with when visiting or living here, and I didn’t really want to add to the hostility.) So, I trudged down the stairs to the courtyard to do my laundry and then hang it outside where it probably would get wetter instead of drying. I assured myself it had to stop raining sometime, and hopefully by tomorrow the clothing would only be a little damp when I put it on. After fighting with the machine for upwards of 20 minutes and failing to get it to turn on, I angrily shoved my clothes back into my laundry bag and made my way towards the exit. Upon pushing on the door, I discovered it would not open. There are many strange things I have witnessed in Italian culture, but the absolute strangest I have seen is the doors that lock from the outside. I was now stuck in the laundry room with the door locked from the outside and a bag of dirty clothes at my heels. I had never thought I would miss Seton Hall’s washing and drying machines, which, in the past, I had complained about. Students must pay a dollar to wash and a dollar to dry each load, the dryers did not sufficiently dry, and if you put too much soap in the “ecologically safe” containers, the washing machine locked it’s door and held your soapy clothes hostage. But here I was, ready to break down in tears, wishing I could be back in the cozy comforts of the familiar, of my home university. The library at Seton Hall recently cut its hours, and I understood and sympathized with the many angry students at home, who felt the previous 24/5 system helped them to study and get their work done when college students are most apt to be working. Then I looked in my Florence University of the Arts handbook to find that the libraries here were only open during normal business hours, 9-5, Monday-Friday. Any other time, and you were out of luck. Suddenly, even the reduced hours seemed incredible. The coordinators of my study abroad program here in Florence, (International Studies Abroad,) continually tell us at orientation that we will find things to be very different here. The best way to adjust, they say, is to not judge as good or bad, but just different. That statement was what kept me from getting on a plane back to Jersey the minute I escaped from the dreaded laundry room. I’m not saying that Seton Hall or Florence University of the Arts are by any means perfect, and generally, their relative pros and cons tend to even out. I am saying, though, that students should always be appreciative of what they do have. While they shouldn’t stop striving for more, they should also take the time to realize what Seton Hall does provide for them, and the enormous amount of effort that goes into making sure each student has an above-average college education experience. Their laundry rooms are definitely above-average, at least. Caitlin Carroll is a junior journalism major from Mastic Beach, Long Isalnd. She is currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy. She can be reached at caitlin.carroll@student.shu.edu

Author: Staff Writer

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