Launder and Press
Mildred, the Laundry Team Leader on Thompson Street, was on the phone when I walked into 1927 Ridge Ave in Philadelphia. The facility was fresh and clean, and it smelled like clean laundry. The walls were freshly painted, along with a startlingly clean floor. All the clean white sheets for commercial laundry almost blinded my eyes. The radio was on in the background as Mildred moved all the sheets and towels from the washer to the dryer. “Music keeps me going,” said Mildred, “No music, no work.”
Mildred is the mother of three girls — 21, 13 and 9 years old. Her 21 year-old daughter studies marketing at Penn State, and aspires to become a lawyer one day. Her 13 and 9 year-olds have been spending summer break on the way too comfortable couches watching TV, eating snacks. “I don’t understand how they can just sit there and do nothing everyday. I mean, I can’t,” said Mildred with disbelief, “I have to get up and do something, like now I am working.”
“College tuition these days is too expensive,” Mildred complained, “Wash Cycle Laundry gives me this opportunity to work and help out with my daughter’s tuition. Gabe is also the nicest. I told him that my daughter graduates next year, and he said: ‘Send her to my office when she does.’”
When I asked Mildred if I could take a headshot of her, she took a minute to adjust her Wash Cycle Laundry T-shirt and strike a pose with one of her hands in the air and an exaggerated smile. “Is this good?” she asked, looking a little nervous. “You can do whatever you want,” I said. Then she stood by the window, with one of her hands on her hip with her body is slightly tilted to the side. Mildred knows her angle! “I love taking pictures, take as many as you want!” she said, “My sneakers also match my shirt today.”
She also took me to the back room with an “Employees Only” sign. She pointed me to each corner where the laundry was organized by categories. Each corner had a note with explanation, such as “COMMERCIAL CLEAN LAUNDRY going out today”, “Personal Laundry Done”, and “Dirty Laundry to be Done TODAY”. Mildred adds her personal touch by putting a smiley face on the note. “I have to get everything organized or else I can’t work. Everything is marked so that if anyone were to take my shift, he/she knows what to do, because everything has its place.”
When I said goodbye to Mildred, she reponded while folding more towels from the basket: “You are welcome to come whenever!”
Yue Xiang is a rising junior at Haverford College, a liberal arts college located in suburban Philadelphia. She currently works as a Marketing Intern at Wash Cycle Laundry this summer, where she has been going on “field-trips” to laundry facilites to learn about the staff members and our operational process. She will be writing more about what she learns and people at Wash Cycle Laundry.