Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Gotta Know When To Fold 'Em

Because of the awesomeness of my apartment building, all three dryers went out last Sunday afternoon just as I'd overloaded them with 50 pounds of my sopping wet skivvies.

The woman who's shady kids own the building suggested, "Oh hon… just hang them to dry."

Yes, finally! A use for all that clothesline I have strung-up throughout my apartment.

Bitterly I loaded my wet towels, sheets and v-neck pocket t-shirts from Target (which is pretty much all I wear) into plastic bags and headed for the laundry mat.

If I smoked I would have, because it seems like having a Marlboro Red is the only appropriate way to drive yourself to the laundry mat with bags full of wet clothes. I drove wondering where I had gone wrong in life. What were the turns that lead to me this place - the land of coin operated spinning machinery on a lovely Sunday morning. What, exactly, brought me here... other than the "power surge" to the basement dryers, of course.

Too many are the turns that landed me at Coin Laundry in Oakley, I decided.

The only reason I even knew where a laundry mat was is because it's right across from Domino's Pizza (er, the healthfood restaurant) and I remember seeing it one afternoon while picking up my to-go order of tofu/granola/flax seed stir-fry. (Read: the Pacific Vege pizza at Domino's is kick-ass, y'all.)

This joint must be new, I thought, as I walked into Coin Laundry and marveled at the rows of brushed steel front loaders shouting - EXPRESS! 50 lb capacity! 30 lb capacity! 20 lb capacity!

It was all just numbers to me, so I ignored them and started shoving quarters into the closest machine after carefully reading the directions on the front of a dryer.

Never does it occur to me that my measly bags of sheets and t-shirts probably don't belong in a 50 pound capacity express dryer for 60 minutes.

And that's how I nearly burnt the joint down.

"Those get up to 112 degrees," said the young Coin-Laundry Worker-Girl, as she wiped detergent off a washer and handed out change. "You better check on that stuff after about 12 minutes or your clothes are gonna burn-up."

She was sweet, helpful and smartly intervened again as I started shoving money into the 50 pound capacity washer that was way too big for the three rugs I was going to wash while I was there.

"You should move those to the lowest capacity we have, on the other side," she said. "It's cheaper," and she handed me back the 50 cents I already squandered.

I loved her, I decided. I imagined us being best friends and sharing the cigarette she had behind her ear.

But I wasn't the only newby at the Coin Laundry. As I shoved my rugs into the 20 pound capacity washer I commented to the woman sitting behind me that I was the dumbest person at the laundry mat.

"Girl, I had to read the directions!" she said to me.

"Me too!" I confessed.

Dirty clothes were bringing us together. She and her husband were having their basement redone and she hadn't been to a laundry mat in 20 years, she said.

It's been about 6 for me, I told her.

We agreed that it was a damn fine laundry mat. Clean, new and the staff was very helpful. We bragged about the super-duper burn your clothes up express washers and dryers like they were ours.

I commenced to folding t-shirts as she went back to her magazine and envisioning her new basement, and the Coin-Laundry Worker-Girl went outside to smoke.

I could totally work here, I thought as I folded. You know, if I had to. If the shiz, God forbid, ever went down. I mean, there are worse things than working at the laundry mat. Plus, I'm pretty much an expert on these fancy washers and dryers now, I told myself. I can dutifully wipe fabric softener off of stuff, and I'm great at making change and pushing around wheeled laundry baskets. In my daydream I was an Olympic Folder. No washrag was safe.

Four loads of fresh laundry later, I walked out and told Coin Landry Worker-Girl, who was still outside smoking, that I appreciated her help. Then I told the other woman that I hoped her basement turned out great.

We all hugged and said a teary goodbye. Ok, that part didn't happen. But still. I totally made friends at the laundry mat.

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