Laundromat Adventures; Because it’s Not a Writers’ Conference Without a Story

My vacation started a few days before the conference, and I decided not to pack quite as much this time, and do laundry while I was there. I assumed the hotel would have a laundry, and they usually do, but the manager had closed it this week because guests had complained about a propane smell. I asked around and found out there was a laundromat south of the bridge, in the same shopping complex with Harvest Market.

Then I procrastinated and did fun things until doing laundry became less of a good idea and more of a necessity — or, as Lawrence, one of the people in my workshop put it, “You certainly know how to entertain yourself when you go on vacation.”

Friday afternoon I drove over to Harvest. I made sure I had plenty of quarters, and I bought laundry soap at Harvest Market. The ‘mat was mostly empty of people but a lot of the machines were in use. I found one that was empty and one that needed about six more minutes. Since I had one pair of long pants I wanted to wash, and some dark socks, I decided to do two loads even though they were small. The first load was mostly socks and underwear and I got that started. It was going to take 22 minutes, so I sat down to re-read some of the manuscripts for the next day’s course. A young red-haired woman with two lively children came in and cleaned out the six-minute washer. I started my second load. The red-haired woman, it turned out, was doing a lot of laundry. At the end of the room, she was tending about four dryers and one high-load  dryer where it looked like she was drying sleeping bags or blankets.

The place actually began to fill up.  I unloaded by first washer and threw everything into one of the dryers, the sixth from the end, on top. It was a scrawny little load so I only put in two quarters, thinking ten minutes would do it. Two guys came in wearing faded  Star Trek Enterprise T-shirts. Back by my stuff, a dark-skinned guy with an extravagant afro hairstyle, dark glasses, and a rainbow poncho was talking to an older dark haired man with a hat with a crow feather in it. “You seem preoccupied,” he said to the crow feather guy.

A little bit later the second washer finished up and I pulled out my pants. I walked back to the dryers, found one at the end, tossed them in and dropped three quarters into the slot. I walked back to the sixth dryer from the end. A bunch of towels, a bra, and a pair of sneakers tumbled past the door.

Hmm.  I counted the dryers again; no, still sixth from the end. I looked in the dryer to the right of it; mostly men’s pants in grays and blacks. I figured the dryer had stopped running, and someone had emptied out my stuff, right?  I looked on the table behind me. No clothes. I looked in the open mesh carts; no clothes. I looked under the table. Two kids were playing with toy trucks but no clothes.

I stood in front of the dryer making a circle with my nose as I tried to determine if those were my socks free-falling past. People eddied around me, looking back at me, no doubt thinking, “Who let the crazy woman into the laundromat?”

Eventually the dryer stopped. I opened it up and looked inside,and to my relief my Four-Eyed Frog T-shirt was right on top, so I knew my things were in there. Now, however, I didn’t know the etiquette. I walked back to where several people were sitting and said, “Excuse me, someone put their things in a dryer with mine. I’m going to take out the clothes and sort through them.” A heavyset woman in a pink dress, reading a book, waved a hand at me and said, “Oh, sure, hon, go ahead. That’s what I’d do.”

It still felt uncomfortable, but just then another young woman with long blond hair, who looked like she might have been sleeping rough for a while came in. “I think that’s my stuff,” she said.

We walked back together and sure enough, they were her things. “I don’t know how I did that,” she said.

“I didn’t have a very big load and they were probably on the bottom.”

“Less for me to fold,” she said. She had an eagle eye and sorted out my socks, undies and camisoles in about two minutes flat. I was short one sock, but that’s practically a requirement when you do laundry, isn’t it? I shrugged and was walking away with my folded items. “Wait!” she said, and held out my sock.

A happy ending all around.

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