Yesterday I was washing my clothes in a public laundry facility in La Panier, an arrondissement that’s historically interesting, but neglected like many arrondissements in Marseille. The laundry facility was near my rented apartment, just a short stroll with my eyes locked on my laundry basket for a five-minute walk. This made it simple to drop my clothes in a washer for twenty-minutes and hide back in my apartment until they’d compete. As I returned for the laundry, my clothes finished washing simultaneously with my arrival and I could see four working dryers and one single dryer still available and waiting. In the corner of my left eye I saw human movements, though I hadn’t a moment to take me eyes off my clothes basket to register anything further about the moving colours.

If I don’t move my backside… I thought. …that moving image will take my dryer.

I bundled my clothes up like a madman. My tunnel vision set on the rags in my basket and my ears heard tiny footsteps moving my way.

Not you don’t, not on my watch!

With a big heave I picked up my clothes and look up from the ground while honing in on my dryer. That’s my dryer! Get there! Get there! Get there! And smack! My clothes were in it and I felt a sigh of relief.

Congratulations. We did it. We got the dryer.

I shut the door of the frontloaded mechanism then turned trying not to register exactly what I just did. Each of the five dryers had around six sets of people ready and waiting, couples, singles and generally just your everyday people washing their clothes. I was so relieved that I got the dryer.

After taking a mild breath from my energy spurt, I looked at the owner of the footsteps, the cloud of colours, then, to my astonished surprise, it flashed before me that all of my life qualities that I’d focused so hard on perfecting, were now possibly becoming irrelevant and that I was quite possibly becoming an ass-hole. I saw a frail old woman, yep, that’s right, about 65 years old. That’s what I’ve become and I had nobody to blame for it. I’d robbed an old woman of her dryer, thanks to my quicker footsteps. There was a soul inside me that was crying.

Should I ask her if she wants the dryer?

It was spot-on clear that I’d increased the rhythm of my steps to get that dryer.

Should I ask her if she wants it?

But you’ll be late for a training session that was scheduled for soon after it. That straw breaks the camel’s back. Have a listen to yourself, you’re become down right prick.

They have found cell in the cerebral cortex that are proof of why I was now becoming a prick. We like proof don’t we? They’re called “mirror-cells” and they’re active when you’re being shown happenings that you’re supposed to replicate and now I’m trying to justify my incorrect actions by saying, I’ve been living in Marseille, France, for the past two months.

Luckily, at that point in the laundry matt, one of the other dryers stopped. It belonged to a couple. They looked to the old woman, “Nous avons termine,” they said.

They took their clothes out of the dryer and kind of saved me from looking like the prick that I had just been. I do hope my grandmother, looking down on me from the heavens, can find it in herself to call me that prick and shake it out of me.

*

Today, I’m in Aix-En-Provence. It’s a twenty-minute getting away from Marseille, more of a little town that functions as a city of its own. Apparently the council here own all of the water that’s utilized by Marseille. I suppose they get money for that. There’s money in Aix-province. It’s a quality place, clean, respectful people, not like Marseille. You see, in Marseille, the people, they tend to make you feel like crap. I’m not sure how I can blame them, though it could be because of mirror cells. The people from Marseille cut in front of you while you’re driving, yell things out their car windows and swerve closely as they pull in front of you if you don’t drive like you’re late for their appointment.

My girlfriend came home the other day, looking down to the ground as she said, “I was standing while reading a magazine and a man came up to me.”

This’ll be interesting. “And?”

She hesitated.

I pressed, “What happened?”

“How much?” she said.

“How much?”

“That’s what he said. He asked me like I was a prostitute, but I was simply reading my magazine.”

“What did he look like?”

“Not French. A gypsy. A tanned gypsy. He wasn’t from here.”

I exhaled until I’d depleted anything in my lungs. How much? Said the voice in my head, not hello, not what’s your name, not anything like it, but how much?

I’d say my mirror cells turned on right at that point before I’d forcefully turned them off. It’s a forceful resistance when you have to turn those cells off. You sort of shake your head as you know you’ve got to get those negative becomings out of you before you’re synchronized with a bad egg.

Walking around Aix-En-Provence, you see it’s a nice place, you notice it also takes a little while before you can rattle the effects of those mirror cells off your chest and you can’t enjoy “nice” until you do. That includes anything “nice”. I mean nice is a feeling after all. It’s an emotional response to the positive thoughts going around in your head, not just the nice feeling of clean clothes, but the feeling of being surrounded by nice people, too. I was a prick, plain and simple, but my gut feeling is I was little prick in a pond of pricks.

Gaston Cavalleri is an Australian travel writer, author and screenwriter. For more travel writing click here or source Gaston’s collection on his blog.

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