Friday, March 20, 2009

Put Down The Quarters, And Step Away From The Dryer

For many years, before city water came to my rural community, our well went dry with the regularity of someone on Metamucil, forcing me to undertake the loathsome chore of Laundromat Duty.

This was similar in many ways to military K.P., however, there was no dog-faced drill sergeant pointing out a mountain of spuds waiting to be peeled. Instead, there were several children who had worn the same jeans for so long one could stand them up in a corner for the night (the jeans, not the kids). And maybe, there was a husband with a few tender words. He took my hand, looked into my eyes and said...

“Honey, dinner was great and the candles were a lovely touch, but this is my last pair of clean underwear.”

My options at this point were few.
1. Down to the creek to beat seventeen loads on a flat rock. 2. Hire someone else to do the wash at a rate high enough to buy new wardrobes.
3. Face the music and haul three-week’s-worth of ripe laundry to the local Wash-a-teria.

Great. Saturday morning at the laundromat.

As usual, the bleach spilled in the car and formed yet another pink amoebae-shaped blotch on our otherwise burgundy upholstery.

And upon arrival, like every time before, there was no one around when I needed help schlepping the behemoth baskets through the door. Yet, like magic, as soon as I did, the place filled up while I played doorman for everyone else. I watched my washers get pirated by a sweet, little ninety-year-old who told me she only had a few dainties to do.

Then, there was the question of etiquette. Should one introduce oneself to one’s laundromat mates? Who speaks first? Should one speak at all, given the fact that the guy hypnotically watching his army blanket twirl around in the dryer, is a dead ringer for Charles Manson out on a weekend pass and looking edgy?

I chose to talk to a five year old whose mother (the one smoking two Camels simultaneously and chugging a 32 oz. Red Bull) snapped at her daughter, “Don’t talk to strange people!”

The first order of business (after the lady with my washers was finished with her dainties) was making change in the innocent looking dollar-changing machine where I spent the next thirty minutes in a battle of wills, flattening and re-flattening my bills, in hopes that the evil contraption would accept them and give me my quarters. This can be very hard on those already suffering from low self-esteem. One must try not to take it personally, it’s your money that’s being rejected, not you.

When my wash was finally in, I realized I had left my book at home. How to amuse myself for the next two hours? There was always the complimentary reading material, Newsweek, vintage 1983, pages stuck together with a scary gelatinous substance vaguely resembling FlufferNutter.

Eventually, my attention was diverted (halleluia!) by my machine lurching out of its place from the orderly line against the wall, like a soldier gone berserk--breaking ranks. I pretended I didn’t notice until all my ‘mat-mates had, in turn, mumbled “not mine.”

I stood in front of it, tried to stare it down. There was nothing else to do, of course, since it was one of those washers that, until it's finished, is sealed tighter than the lips of the folks who know which contestant will be kicked off of Idol next week.

Trying to push it back into place could be fatal, so I stared at it a while longer and muttered something astute like “stupid machine.”
(Note to reader: Make sure at least one other person hears you, this absolves you from any further responsibility.)

The final indignation was the THIRTY SECOND WAITING PERIOD AFTER THE WASHER HAS STOPPED BEFORE YOU CAN OPEN THE DOOR rule. What could possibly happen if it’s opened before the little red light goes out? One might be sucked in to some parallel universe, alarms and sirens go off, immediate arrest and hard time?

“Laundromat police, you’ll have to come with us, Mam.”

Maybe, it’s like those little tags on mattresses, simply a passive aggressive method of world domination and humbling of the masses. At any rate, we conform for the most part, and are obedient children.

But, not this day! No sir, I wouldn’t be bullied any longer!
As I gave in to temptation and choked back my fear of becoming the next episode of Cops (even though I have all my own teeth, do not own a tank top and to the best of my knowledge, have never kept a python in the garage), I tried the handle, in hopes that it would release my soggy clothing thirty seconds sooner than promised.

Oh, the joy! Thirty seconds stolen from the tyranny of laundry automation…

Imagine the possibilities.


At Saturday, March 21, 2009 6:09:00 AM, Blogger Danny Dunne said...

Great job, Gloria! Many funny lines. Liked this one among others:

Should one speak at all, given the fact that the guy hypnotically watching his army blanket twirl around in the dryer, is a dead ringer for Charles Manson out on a weekend pass and looking edgy?

Dandy photo, BTW.



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