Travel exercises trust. Lets say you’re on the streets of Cusco, Peru, carrying a trash bag containing nearly all the clothes you have access to in the Southern Hemisphere. The clothes are filthy and you’re on a simple errand to deliver the clothes to a nearby lavanderia known to guarantee a speedy return of clean clothing. This laundry mat, if you walk downhill far enough, is known to look asi:
But you don’t walk far enough down the hill. Seeds of doubt germinate in your mind and before you’ve even made a conscious navigational decision you find yourself climbing the hill, passing your hotel, and feeling slightly ridiculous wandering around like some itinerant vendor of soiled clothing.
Luckily, you’re relieved from additional distressed climbing not two doors up from your hotel by the solicitous owner of a bodega who beckons you into his tiny shop. His shop may bear a striking resemblance to this one:
You open your mouth to ask directions to the laundry but the older man is already transferring your clothes from the stretched and torn trashbag into a bright yellow bag. This small improvement in circumstance is enough to shut your mouth, but you’re further placated by the comforting sound of the owner and his daughter(?) counting off each item as it’s relocated from your possession to theirs. Sure, things are quickly spinning out of control here, but this is Spanish you can clearly understand!! Deisiseis, deisisiete… It’s so much like a schoolyard game that you have to restrain yourself from joining in. The final unsavory undergarment, numero treintaycinco, is delivered into the custody of this entrepreneurial familia, the yellow bag’s weight set by a small hand scale at ten kilos, prices are set and promises made. You leave feeling pretty good about negotiating the return time down to 18 hrs from 24. Of course, the original task had been to find the 2 hr laundry…
Time passes, and you return the next morning at the arranged time to receive neatly pressed excuses about how cloudy it’s been and how this can adversely affect drying times. You’re tempted to germinate seeds of disappointment, but damn, it’s a sunny blue sky day and the little boy and girl that seem to be running the store are cute as small business buttons. Besides, grandma promises the clothes will be ready in half an hour.
You may decide to kill time at the bookstore down the street, where you might just be revealed as some kind of foreign idiot for asking for a pluma. Your mistake would be twofold. First of all, HA!, a pluma is one of those olde Spanish words that only Mexicans use. You’ve just asked for a quill. Would you like a pot of ink with that feather, señor? Secondly, a LAPICERO would be sold further down the damn hill at the pen and paper store, duh. You will be looked in the eyes and told, slowly, that at librerias, libros are sold.
You could easily spend an hour finding the appropriate place to acquire a pen. Whatever you do don’t try to get one across the street at the drafting supply store, although there you can find a very affordably priced flip book.
You probably know already that the clothes won’t be ready until you give up on wearing clean underwear, or any underwear that day and move back into your touristic groove of viewing magnificent artifacts looted by tomb raiders and tourists long become artifacts themselves. Don’t worry, the clothes will be there eventually, freshly ironed, folded, organized. They’ll look so nice you’ll hardly recognize them as yours.