Most of us dread doing the laundry. Even if we have a washer and dryer, laundry is not our favorite thing to do. So we put it off and the pile gets higher and higher; our dread grows commensurate with the breadth and girth of the pile. At the cabin, I don’t have a washer and dryer. I use the local laundromat.
I have a pact with myself. I go when my plastic Mexican bag that holds one loose load is full. My routine is easy. I set the temperature buttons, put the soap in, layer the fabric, push seven quarters into the coin tray and leave. Maybe I’ll run an errand, or poke around the thrift store down the street. I come back in 30 minutes, put my clothes back in the bag, take them home and hang them up on the line. It’s an easy, dread-free, efficient system. It works every time. Until last Thursday.
Thursday my laundry consisted of a set of white sheets, several light colored hand towels and wash cloths, a large light green bath towel, a small rug, and my favorite night shirt. Everything was well-worn, soft 100% cotton.
When I started pulling my laundry out of the tub, I though I’d made a mistake, that I was in the wrong washer. Nothing I’d put into the washer looked like the large ugly thing in my hand. It was dirty gray and had dark camouflage type splotches all over it. I felt a little sick, looking at what used to be a white sheet. I kept pulling. Everything in the washer was splotched, camouflage patterned, meant for some third world military, some unfashionable, rag tag outfit that didn’t have a designer.
I called Mary at the ICE number posted on the window.
“ Hi, Mary. My name is Ruby and I am at the laundromat. My clothes have been ruined. I think it’s grease. I see the ring around the top of the tub. Maybe it’s coming out of the motor.”
“Did you look in the tub before you put your laundry in?”
She thinks I’m an idiot.
“Of course, I had to look at it to load it. It was empty and appeared clean. I didn’t do a white glove test, but I looked.”
“I was on my way home from the grocery store, but I’ll drop by.”
Within minutes a white truck pulled up, and a short, round, sort of crooked woman climbed out and came through the door.
” I hate this! I did this job for seven years until it got to be too much! People don’t respect things! Because it’s a public facility they think they don’t have to care.”
She glances at my nasty stuff.
“I have cerebral palsy on this side, and (something else) on this one. She nods her head at her arms, one of them is held against her torso, first one side and then the other. The new guy apparently doesn’t know how to clean a washer, It’s ridiculous that I have to do this. This is a public facility. You have to understand that you have to pay attention, because, trust me, others do not. Obviously someone put oily work clothes in there. You need to check before you use the washers.”
“I’m sorry. I mean I’m sorry for your cerebral palsy. My son had cerebral palsy.”
“It’s no cakewalk.”
“No, I know it isn’t. If you can walk at all that is. Which obviously you can, so that’s good.”
“Right. Let me get you some more quarters. She puts the quarters in and the machine starts filling. I add detergent. The owner who came in a few minutes before hands me two boxes of detergent with bleach.
“I already put soap in.”
“Ah, too bad,” he smiles.
“It’s all too bad. My sheets are ruined,”
“ Be lucky it wasn’t your shirts,” Mary says.
“ Yes. That’s a good point.” I should be feeling lucky it wasn’t shirts. Exactly.”
I threw the load into the garbage bin.