What is that smell?

At home we all have different ways of doing our laundry.  Some of us use a certain type of detergent with a certain smell, others use a special rinse or dryer sheet. As a wee lad friends of mine would end up with my clothes and depending on who it was, their parents would wash the clothes before returning them. Sometimes, whatever process these clothes would go through left them smelling heavenly.  My mother had her own great way of washing my clothes until I was old enough that she thought I should be doing my own.  This laundry too had an incredibly comforting smell.

Here in Southeast Asia, laundromat is a term that does not exist.  Along with the disappearance of these fine establishments is the shrinking of the excessive selection of detergents that line our supermarket isles. Since most products here are not a matter of which one, but instead whether or not it is available at all, mountain spring or morning fresh are not terms that are commonly used here.  Because of this, we must find a laundry shop to get our small selection of clothes washed for us.  During the typical encounter at the shop, the exchange is very simple.  A scale is brought forth and the number of kilos on the meter is multiplied by the most recent country’s currency. Yesterday we spent 144,000 on our laundry.

Ummmm…let’s see, carry the one…okay that is about $14 for three loads of laundry.  The most recent currency that we are dealing with is Kip.  In Laos it is about 10,000 kip to the dollar.  When turning over a few bags of clothes the standard expected upon their return is never consistent; sometimes they smell wonderful, sometimes they are still a little wet, sometimes they are a wrinkly mess. It is nonetheless like Christmas every time.  Christmas for us comes once every couple of weeks, and although the bags of freshly washed clothes are a welcome gift from old Santa Claus, there are many more reasons that our laundry is the gift that keeps on giving.

The day or two before laundry day is usually the same day that the laundry bags are getting full. Like many at home the hamper or laundry bag usually make a home out of the reach of our sniffers.  TWBR’s laundry bags call the topper on the back of the Tundra home.  This topper is has no climate control, so in a place with 100% humidity and temperatures exceeding 90 degrees daily, it can start to brew a scent that the likes of a typical American hamper have never been home to.  Due to this ongoing science experiment, our laundry bags must be part of the laundry also as they are not in pretty shape after their tour of duty in the topper .

When these bags of fresh clean clothes smelling oh so fresh make their way back into our life, things change.  The limits of how many times a dirty garment can be worn are no longer being tested, a burst of not so fresh air does not waft itself under our noses each time we need something out of the topper, and we get a much more pleasant answer to that time honored question, "What is that smell?"