Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Laundromat

So I went to the laundromat this last week. Yeah, 10 washers and 12 dryers later, I was done. I hated every second of it. Not because I am a laundromat snob, although I actually think I might be a little bit, but mostly because I despise doing laundry. Maybe it is because my laundry room in is in the basement and I currently have a hate/hate relationship with my basement. It still remains unfinished with drywall, flooring and paint spread out everywhere and this irritates my senses every time I go down there. Perhaps it is the fact that my Christmas decorations made it to the basement but never actually made it to their respective non-holiday spots or maybe it is because I simply hate doing laundry. Ding! Ding! Ding! I think we have a winner.

I was spoiled for many years because laundry was the one household chore that my late husband didn't really mind doing. He liked to do laundry and to iron. I think it had something to do with his time in the military. I actually had to watch him though or else the kids and I would end up with starched and ironed underwear and nobody wants to wear starched underwear.....ever! His years though taking over the piles of laundry that our family produced left me to worry about other house hold chores and I always had clean if not starched underwear. I found this to be a win/win!

Laundry was the first household chore I taught each of my kids to do. I always told myself that the reason I did this was to make sure when they left home they could do their own laundry. I actually think though, that a more accurate reason was because if they knew how to do laundry.....I didn't have to. My two older step kids really weren't around as much in their older years to get the full benefit of my laundry training, but the other two were. Of the two, my older son could do laundry as good if not better than myself and he really didn't hate it. Z on the other hand, inherited his mothers distaste for the chore and would avoid it at all cost. This kid would go so far as to deliberately do it wrong in hopes that I would give up and do it myself. Little did he know, I was good wearing pink underwear if he was. It has been a long standing chore of discourse in this house and the question is always.....who is going to break first? Who will break down and do laundry first is always in direct correlation to whoevers underwear supply can hold out the longest.

All this laundry stuff is probably not helped by the fact that this family's laundry seems to procreate while sitting on the laundry room floor. Between the three of us, we make more laundry than most families double our size. We also have a crappy washer and dryer. The washer is a hand me down from my mother. It was hers for several years before she died and we have been using it since 2002. The dryer has also been around equally as long but came from someone who set it out on the side of the road to be carried off, as they had purchased a new one. I have nursed these machines through clogged hoses, bad timers and complete breakdowns. Last time a repairman was here he wanted to give both machines last rites, but I refused and optimistically believed that they would be good for another 500 loads or so. Apparently I wrong. 

Of late, my washer refuses to drain after it initially fills up. It takes banging, slamming and a whole lot of prayer to get it going again. The dryer is no better as it takes three drying cycles to dry 5 socks and a dryer sheet. Yeah, both have seen better days and I personally am no longer invested enough in either of them to continue the relationship. So, as the laundry room floor was no longer visible due to the umpteen piles of laundry and as it was taking me an entire morning to get one load washed and dried.....I finally decided to bite the bullet and head to the laundromat.

The entire back of my van was full of laundry baskets as I headed out. No, we are not talking about the back of my van behind the bench seats. We are talking about the entire back of my van with all the seats removed except for the two front seats. Luckily, I hit the laundry mat at a slow time. There were just me and three other people and each of them was in the dryer phase of their journey.

It literally took me fifteen minutes to unload my car. I had optimistically brought my computer as the place has wifi and I thought there might be some down time between washing and drying. Silly me! My 18 laundry baskets took up six regular washers at $2 a pop, two extra extra large washers at $6 each and two extra large washers at $4 each. By the time I got the last load loaded, the first load was ready for the dryer and as I loaded the first dryer, all the rest followed suit. As the last dryer was loaded (12 in all) then the first was ready to fold. I literally never stopped, never sat down and never even had time to take a drink of water. It was a non-stop 3 hours of clothes!!!! Did I mention I hate to do laundry????

As I positioned myself at an entire bank of folding tables, more people started to come in. Now this laundromat is in the next town over from mine. My hometown laundry closed many years ago and never reopened, so yes, we have to travel about six miles to the nearest place. It is not huge but as laundromats go, it isn't horrible. It is open 24 hours and it is fairly clean. It has tv's and wifi, a bathroom and soda machine. It is serviceable and I don't feel as if I am going leave with bed bugs or some other laundry born vermin. The machines seem to be clean and pretty well kept up and if something drops on the floor I don't get completely grossed out.

Even though, I never stopped the entire time I was there, it didn't keep me from people watching.
These places are literally one of the most interesting places to people watch, second only to malls and McDonalds. You have people like myself whose home machines are on the fritz and therefore have to haul their butts and their laundry to the laundromat. You can tell who these people are as they check each washer and dryer before they put their clothes in, often wiping out the insides of the machines with Clorox wipes before their clothes are allowed to be put in. They make as quick work of this "ordeal" as they can and look at everyone who comes near their clothes, very suspiciously.

Then you have those huge families who make the laundromat their weekly visit. You can always tell these people because they come in as a family. Usually it is a mom and several kids. At least two or three are older and then there are always two or three younger. Each child comes in either carrying a laundry basket or a younger sibling. Mom already has all the clothes sorted by basket, has quarters as well as laundry detergent in hand and the process begins. Mom and the older kids quickly and efficiently load the washers while the younger kids play hide and seek around the washers and the other customers. Once the clothes are loaded, Mom picks a folding station and sticks her empty baskets on it claiming her territory, then she loads her brood back into the car for a quick trip to McDonalds. Within 15 minutes they are back, the little kids are set at a table to eat and Mom has timed their return to coincide with the final spin of the washing machines. She and the older kids grab available dryers and start loading to capacity.....and then some. They toss in a handful of quarters and then they all sit down to eat and watch tv. As the clothes finish.....they toss them all into laundry baskets and head home to I assume....fold them there. I can honestly say that I have never been to a laundromat that some form of this family did not show up while I was there.

Then there are the college students/young people who come in to do their laundry. Most come in pairs and they take up maybe two washers together. They throw their laundry in, sit and text, laugh or depending on the time of day, lay their head down on the table to catch an extra 10-15 minutes of sleep. When the wash cycle is finished, they share a dryer, then toss their clothes....unfolded into their baskets and head off to do whatever it is that young people do with freshly washed laundry.

The other day though, I saw something that I didn't expect to see in this small town down the road laundry. I saw what looked liked two homeless men doing their laundry. No, I am not judging....simply observing, and why this struck me is that this laundromat is not in an area where you have a lot of homeless or even transient people. I never saw whether they had a car or if they walked. Both men had a small plastic grocery bag full of clothes. The men were unkept with long straggly hair and beards. Each wore stocking hats and the clothes they were wearing looked as if they hadn't been washed in a while. Their exposed face and hands were dirty and when one of them walked up to me and politely asked me if I had change for two dollars (he couldn't make the change machine work) it was obvious that he had not bathed in quite some time. I had no idea what the story was behind these men and I certainly wasn't going to stand there and mentally judge them. Instead, I merely smiled, found the change he was looking for and knowing that he wasn't likely going to count the money I handed him, I threw in a couple of extra quarters. The two stood outside as their clothes washed and dried and came back in only to switch out laundry or remove it from the dryers. As they walked out the last time, I couldn't help but wonder who these men were, how they got here and where they were going, but I still had five dryer fulls of laundry that I was waiting on and two dryer fulls that I was folding. I had little time to wonder too long.

Finally, as I folded clothes and put them into the appropriate laundry baskets, (no I may not like to do laundry, but I am very OCD about how it is done when I do do it) a lady sat down in front of my folding station and just watched me. She was older and just looking at her I would say she had been the recipient of a rather difficult life. She fidgeted back and forth, crossing and uncrossing her legs. She twisted and turned in her seat all the while watching my every move and my ever growing baskets of folded laundry.
Finally she said, "You gotta alotta damn clothes there." 
I laughed and said, "Yes I do!" 
She shook her head and I'm not sure if it was a sign of disbelief or disgust that any one person would have so much laundry. I continued folding and she continued watching.
"Why you got so damn many clothes?" she then asked, never taking her eyes off me.
"Because I have kids and a broken washer and I put off coming to the laundry mat until we literally had nothing left to wear," was my reply.
Then she smiled. "My washer is broke too," she said. Then she proceeded to tell me how her washer was pulling in sewer water and that she had been wearing sewer water clothes. All I could think of, was how grateful I was that I had already washed my clothes and that mine would not be following hers. Ick!!!!

She apparently felt that the ice had been broken and that we were now friends. She inched ever closer to me as I continued to fold the clothes and told me about where she lived, her sewer issues, the need for a lagoon and finally as I was pulling my last load out and she was now just inches from me, she let me know how sick she felt. She said she had felt bad for a couple of days (perhaps the sewer water clothes didn't help that much), that she had been throwing up and that she really shouldn't even be at the laundry mat right now, but she needed to get out of the house. REALLY???? And she chooses become buddies with? All I could do was pray that whatever was making her sick didn't cause her to throw up in my vicinity or to pass on her germs to me so that I in turn could pass them onto Z and David. Perhaps she started feeling worse, as she watched me a couple of more minutes and then she grabbed her clothes from the washer, stuffed them into a duffle bag and left. She didn't even say good bye. Hmmmm......

So I finished my last load and loaded all the baskets back into the van. I am sure as the laundromat was filling up that those people in there were very glad to see me and my epic loads of dryer consuming laundry leave. Trust me, no one was happier than I was to be on  my way home with all my laundry washed, dried and folded.

As I drove home, I couldn't help but think about the laundromat and the people who pass through it on a daily basis. Young mothers, old couples, homeless people, college students, large families and people with sewer issues. It is a melting pot of people from all walks of life, incomes and ethnicites. While there can be many situations that cause us to go to the laundromat, we all have the same goal once there.....clean clothes. 

Well there you have it.....another exciting adventure in Lisaland! Clean clothes, laundromats and people watching. Now I call that an afternoon!


Anonymous said...

You amaze me. You may do with want little you have. But when someone with a lot less come before you you don't hesitate to give from your heart.

I am blessed to know you and call you friend.

Becky said...

Bless you for helping that man out!! You have a beautiful heart!! Those extra quarters may have been just enough to get him a bite of food, or enough to restore his faith in humanity!! <3

I hate laundry, but I LOVE laundromats!! :) Our washer crapped out last year and I went twice in 2 weeks. I was thrilled! A week's worth of laundry for a family of 4 all done in less than 2 hours! *heaven* The first time, a young dad with his toddler befriended us. I was annoyed. I just wanted to eat my muffin in peace and do my laundry. Instead it took twice as long, because I couldn't chew and talk at the same time. He was like a waitress/waiter that waits until you shove your mouth full and then comes to ask how everything is! Then, when my washer/dryer stopped, I felt rude just getting up and walking over. He wouldn't stop talking to me. :/ The second time I went, was the night they caught the second Boston Marathon bomber. The TV's were on CNN and I was glued to them. That time, there was a mom in there with her young, rowdy kids. She hurried through loading washers and I thought she was anxious to get them out of there. Instead, she sat down and read a magazine while they ran around the place, racing those rolling baskets and leaping off everything they could climb on to. I guess instead of being in a hurry to leave, she was in a hurry to sit down and have a break? ;)