November 1, 2012

This Is Not A Surf Shop

This is not a surf shop. Nor is it a favela. This is a laundry room. Are you asking why it looks like this? It makes perfect, logical sense if you are an Israeli bureaucrat who sits in the engineering department.

And here is the story.

Once upon a time (some three years ago), a family renovated their home. They redid the whole house until it was gleaming new and a bit elegant too. The family built a third floor, put in new plumbing, remodelled the kitchen and bought fancy windows with real screens so the mosquitoes could no longer swarm them.

But where would they put the laundry room?

‘No problem,’ laughed the architect.

‘Ayn bayya,’ chortled the builder.

And they placed the washer and dryer on a patio outside a bathroom. The builder even put on a piece of corrugated plastic to cover it. He added a clothes line to dry items in the baking sun and a sink to do hand washing.

It was a laundry room al fresco. And it was sunny.

The family was happy. Even the housewife, who spent much of her time doing her laundry outside, was happy.

One day, about three years and many loads of laundry later, the architect said that the family had been living in a house without a permit. He told them that he had added a few extras to the plans while they were building , and he had not told the building department.

Uh oh.

‘No problem,’ he said. ‘A building inspector will come to look and everything will be fine.’
So the building inspector came and he saw the laundry room. And it was not in the plans. Although this area was outside and had no roof (save a plastic sheet) or walls or doors or windows, he said, ‘This is a room and it is not on the plans.’

‘No problem,’ said the architect. Take off the plastic and the inspector will come back.”

So the family asked the builder who said ‘ayn bayya’ to come back. He said ‘ayn bayya’ and came with his fancy tool box and took off the plastic roof. The inspector came by, looked at the open-air laundry room with a large sheet of plastic on the floor, nodded and left.

It was late October and there was a rumbling in the sky. There was thunder and lightning and a big storm raged above. Everyone was excited because it was the first rain in Israel and no one had seen rain in seven months.

The housewife who spent much of her time doing laundry ran outside to check on her al fresco roofless laundry room. The washing machine and the dryer did not like the rain. They broke down. And the laundry piled up.

A man came by to fix it and the housewife spent much of her time looking up at the sky. It was blue, but it could change at any minute. She sniffed for rain. She called the architect.

‘Do not put the roof back on,’ he said.

‘But why? The inspector just  saw the laundry room.’

‘The wall.’

‘What wall? Where? We have no wall.’

‘That’s right and this is the problem,’ said the architect.

The housewife scratched her head. She was standing in dirty laundry up to her waist.

The architect explained. ‘There is a wall in the building plans. The inspector may come back to check it.’

The housewife stomped on her dirty sheets and on her towels and on her socks. ‘But I don’t want a wall and I can’t afford to build one and I just want to do my laundry.’

And then she remembered that way, way back, they once wanted a wall. But since the building department moved so slowly and they had no permit, they installed a bamboo fence. Back then, the inspector did not consider her fence a wall, but now he considers her laundry area a room. And soon enough, he will consider her wall-less bamboo fence a problem, so her building plans will have to be resubmitted.

She dug herself out of her laundry pile, and picked around her garden shed. She found two boogie boards, a beach mat, taped together some garbage bags and made an awning. Then she went out to sniff for rain.

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