Monday, November 1, 2010

Laundry night from Hell

Yesterday was Halloween and here's the scariest story I know:  going to the laundromat.

Okay, so millions of people probably do this every single week, but I have been married with washer for many, many years.  Imagine my surprise to walk into the laundromat in 2010 and find that to wash a load costs as much as four giant Hershey bars.  I don't mean the check-out size guys either. I mean the JUMBO ones like you get at Christmas IF Santa smiles upon you.

I have been washing our clothes at a coin laundry for a half a year now.  When I add up the quarters I have fed the machines, I figure I could have bought and paid for a cheap washing machine on clearance about now, especially when you factor in the entire large load of clothing that got ruined when I washed them in a machine that either was leaking oil or had just had a bunch of oily rags washed in it.  Big splotches of oil appeared on every single shirt and pair of pants in that load of "darks" which included a substantial portion of my husband's work clothes.  Oops!

Now comes the scary story.  "It was a dark and stormy night...."  Actually it was Sunday evening around eight o'clock when we decided to throw our stuff into the back of the car and make a quick trip to wash our clothes.  The laundromat closes at ten, so we were cutting it short but we calculated we had about thirty minutes to spare.  As we roared off, we realized that we had forgotten our soap and only had a ten dollar bill, another bad omen.  We should have thrown in the towel right then but we didn't.  After careful consideration, we decided we had just enough money to purchase a couple of those teeny tiny detergent boxes that they sell in the vending machines on the premises and to wash and dry our clothes.

The laundromat was having a sale!  Wow!!  Ever heard of that?  In my mind I could hear quarters falling like in old-time Las Vegas.  Wait a minute.  I really did hear coins falling like in a slot machine.  It was the sound of the coin changer giving us ten dollar's worth of quarters. That was the only fun part of the entire experience.  It always makes me feel like I hit the jackpot!  Of course I always count the quarters to be sure that the machine didn't cheat me.  I have no clue what I might do if it did but I still count the quarters every single time.  So far, so good.

The small load washers were only a buck.  If you add a quarter you can get a second rinse, which is a good thing in my mind, especially when using public washing machines.  The soap dispensers are over my head, so Jerry bought the dry soap and filled up the compartments, put in the quarters and hit the "extra rinse" button.  Soon, we were lulled into a (false) sense of security by the swish, swish, swishing of the water.

Weirdly, we were the only ones in the entire laundromat, except for the Mexican gal who was casually cleaning out the machines and waiting to close the place.  Soon, I glanced over and wondered why there were no suds in the water.  Jerry checked and realized that not only had he put the soap in the dispenser meant for softener, but he had pushed the "extra wash" button instead of the "extra rinse" one.  This meant that we would watch our clothes wash twice without any soap and then see suds in the rinse cycle.

It was at this point that it dawned upon us that our laundromat trip was cursed!  Nothing could be done....we were going to need to re-wash the clothes.  Sigh.  After the first cycle was done, we realized that the soap in the rinse cycle compartment had not all dissolved which meant that, unless we intervened, the entire show that we had just watched would repeat itself. 

So that is how we get to the part of the story where Jerry is disassembling the laundromat dispensers, trying to wash the soap out during the actual wash cycle.  Thank God the gal who worked there was in the back watching Univision!  I kept going into the unisex bathroom (that's another story) and bringing out massive amounts of paper towels.  She could see me from where she sat, but obviously wasn't curious enough to investigate.  Spanish prime time TV can be pretty racy.  Maybe she just couldn't tear herself away.  It was just as well.  She probably wouldn't have taken kindly to seeing all the plastic parts of the dispenser laying on top of the machine.  Truthfully, it didn't do that much for me either.

Now, we are in a serious time crunch.  It's 9:45 and at last our clothes are in their final spin but the place closes at 10:00 and that's not enough time to dry the loads.  We grab our clothes and, as we go to put them in the dryer, the gal appears and indicates that the end dryers are the hottest.  She urges us to use them and so we do.

Meanwhile, I can hear her talking on the phone.  My high school Spanish is kind of rusty, but I understand she is telling someone over and over again that we are using "the hot dryers."  Obviously there is someone waiting for her who is not so pleased that we are just starting to dry our clothes fifteen minutes prior to closing.  She keeps telling us it's no problem, but we know it is.  So at the stroke of ten, we grab our damp clothes out of the dryers, pile them in the back of the car and drive off in search of a twenty-four hour laundromat.

When we finally find one, we go in and throw our damp clothes in the dryer and Jerry starts to feed the machines quarters.  We realize that we probably don't have enough money left to dry the loads totally, because of the fiasco at the last place.  We decide that when we run out of money, we will take the laundry home and if it's still damp, we will drape it all around the bathroom. Turns out we must have chosen the hot dryers here too, because our clothes dried rapidly.  We folded them, threw them into their baskets and rushed off. 

We make it home just before 11:00.  If I had had my wits about me, I could have pressed Jerry to buy us our own washer and dryer at this juncture.  I'm pretty sure he would have seriously considered buying at least one of the banged up models in the center aisle at the local Lowes.  

Timing, as they say, is everything.