Why I Do So Much Laundry
After days of fall temperatures and rainy afternoons, today I awoke to a day I could just tell was going to be The Most Glorious Day Ever. I knew I had to do something outside and remembered that there is a big outdoor market in den Haag that I’ve been meaning to visit: the Haagse Markt, and one of its days is Wednesday (Woensdag). (Thanks go to fellow blogger Kitchen Butterfly for alerting me to this market!) Though the tram stops quite close, I decided to bike. We’ve ridden to den Haag once before, and I thought I could remember our route to the center. Then to get from the center to the market, I took some pictures of Google Maps with my digital camera and brought it along. (This is like the poor man’s iPhone.)
I made it from Delft to the center of den Haag in just about forty-five minutes. The weather was picture-perfect, sunny but not too hot, a light breeze, just that sweet intersection between summer and fall. My map-photos failed me at this point (I couldn’t locate myself) and I asked directions from two traffic workers who steered me exactly right. I finally emerged at the entrance to a sea of booths and tents and thought: yup, this is it. I locked up my bike and ventured inside.
The end of the market that I entered was mostly clothing and shoes (incredibly cheap), followed by fabrics on the bolt. The aisles were alarmingly crowded and I was nervous about pickpockets, plus it was hard to enjoy being continually jostled around. I knew there was supposed to be a lot of fresh food, though, so I kept on pushing through the crowds. I passed literally blocks of people selling jewelry, handbags, cosmetics, and all manner of stuff I couldn’t figure who would want. I knew I was heading in the right direction when I saw all these eggs:
And sure enough, I was soon in absolute Produce World.
This is where the fun began. I was so excited. Almost everything was “[some quantity] for 1 Euro.” And a lot of it didn’t look bad, either! I remember once going to the Haymarket in Boston and buying ridiculously cheap produce, only to discover that most of it was rotten before I even got home. This was better than that. At a lot of stalls you see these bins (above) where they fill a plastic bowl with produce (one variety or sometimes mixed) and then you select and buy a bowl, and they put the contents into a plastic bag for you. (Or, you might have your own bag.) At most of the stalls you could handle everything and select which cucumber you wanted yourself, as opposed to the guy picking the one he most wants to get rid of. The whole time vendors are calling out to you, advertising their specials, or imploring you to just look at their strawberries.
I had to cut myself off both for time and monetary reasons—plus I was actually starting to wonder if I had more than would fit in my bike saddlebags! But I left an hour later with: 5 lemons (E1), 10 limes (E1), a bag of onions (E1), a bag of green beans (E1), 4 oranges (I am having a juicing phase; E1), 5 apples (E1—are you getting the price drill?), a bucket of strawberries, two cucumbers, and a loaf of Turks brood (Turkish bread)… all for a total of NINE Euros. Biking home, those saddlebags were heavy. It was an absolute haul of produce, and I can’t wait to go back.
The drama began (you knew there would be drama) just feet from my front door, when I locked my bike to a bike post and began unloading the saddlebags to bring everything inside. The saddlebags, as previously mentioned, were quite heavy. I forgot how the laws of physics would apply here, and emptied one side of the saddlebag, pulling out Turks brood, green beans, cucumbers, strawberries, and onions.
Unbalanced, the bike promptly tipped over on its side with a loud metallic crash. I think I said, “No, bike!” out loud. A man walking by stopped to help me right it, and within moments the bike was upright again and I was holding it carefully so I could empty out the other bag, which I did. Then I bent down to pick up my cloth shopping bag holding the first set of contents. And discovered that I had set it down in a spot swarming with ants. My only thought was: seriously? How does this stuff happen? So I immediately began swatting ants off the sides of the sack, and in the process caused the plastic bag of green beans to split, nearly spilling them all over the sidewalk. Somehow I managed to collect everything haphazardly in my arms and get it inside, though of course the last thing I wanted to do was bring ants INside.
I put the produce on the counter and immediately began washing everything. There were still a few stray ants on the cloth sack, so I put it directly in the washing machine. I killed a few more on the strawberries (method: drowning) and they didn’t seem to have gotten any deeper in the bag than that. Whew.
I had that kind of skin-crawly feeling you get when you’ve been interacting with bugs, and I tried to shake it off. But a couple minutes later I decided I really did feel crawlies in my pants, so I ran downstairs (an act of modesty I later appreciated when I realized my next-door neighbors were on their roof deck) and took off my jeans. Three ants fell out. How did they get in there, too?! I couldn’t believe it. I got right in the shower and everything I was wearing went into the wash.
Just this morning I was speculating about how for two people, Tim and I seem to generate more laundry than should happen. I was wondering why this was. My best answer was exercise (dirty running clothes + work clothes + pajamas). Now I know: it’s chance encounters with substances that spill, and ants.