So, on this Father's Day 2008, I write about my mother and laundry.
Dottie M. gave certain advice about life, particularly when one is brave enough to venture into the great unknown.
There was always the standard advice about socially acceptable behavior to keep you from looking moronic when sending celebratory greetings: "Never sign a birthday card with a pencil. Always use a pen."
But certain experiences drew sterner proposals for appropriate courses of action:
1) Always find a gas station with a clean restroom,
2) Never frequent a bowling alley,
3) Never use a laundromat.
Bingo! All is lost!
Due to the angst of owning a middle-aged bladder, I have visited restrooms of gas stations that would have given the Black Hole of Calcutta a run for its money, only to be saved by more-than-sturdy legs that prevented me from actually having to get near the seat. And I have had the writer's experience of being thrown out of a bowling alley, the result of a blind date with a semi-pro bowler gone bad. He, being very gentlemanly, chose a too-light-for-my-tomboy-strength pink Lady Spalding bowling ball for me to use. When I stepped up to the lane (or should I say plate), it was like I was pitching a big pink softball. It made a perfect arc in the air before crashing down and bouncing to the next lane, and the next lane, and then the next. After management asked us to leave due to my mortal sin of lobbing, I am surprised the fellah actually slowed his car down to drop me off he was in such a rush to get rid of me.
So this past week I did go to a laundromat here in Greenville, SC. While Doug was finishing up some business in town, I tottered off with bags of dirty clothing to The Coin Laundry Inc., an establishment high on a hill that still hosts a Ron Paul for President sign out front.
Inside there are commercial washers, dryers and lots of rules that Dottie M. would have loved. No sitting on tables. Do not take laundry carts outside. Do not allow children to play with laundry carts.
They must make a bloody fortune there. Some washing machines cost $2.50 a load, the larger ones demand $4.25 a pop. There is a cool mammoth machine that will spin the extra moisture out of your towels and jeans and sheets so they dry faster. That costs .50 cents for a three-minute whirl.
You can also observe lots of people stories in such a place. I noticed a man and a woman, with laundry loaded in the next row of washers over from mine. She held him in a far-away field of contempt, answering him with one-syllable words. Yes. No. Uh-huh. Nope. Hmm. He wore a grey stocking cap, a gawdy earring, made a big deal out of buying a soda, and continued giving this woman a whole bunch of lines she'd heard before. She wasn't buying. He talked. She moved to a nearby table to fold laundry. He followed, trying to gossip with her. She matched and rolled socks into little folded balls and dropped them in a basket on the floor. Looked like something she would like to do with him.
A man in a black baseball cap arrived. He was very careful. He carried two big suitcases of dirty clothes, and already has his roll of quarters in a little velvet sack that he pulled from his pocket. His dirty laundry was pre-sorted. He recognized my amateur status by the fact that I had to divide my clothes into appropriate piles before I placed them in the washing machines, plus transform a $20 bill into 80 quarters, a transaction accompanied by loud clanging from a coin-exchange machine on the wall. When his laundry was washed, he divided the colors carefully between three dryers, inserted the precise number of quarters to dry each load, then took his laundry cart with him when he went to use the men's room.
Dryer heat rules are Zen with some Goldilocks thrown in. You need to dry your clothes on medium heat. High is too hot, and low takes too long.
A man sitting nearby read scripture. A children's play area held threadbare toys. The attendent was thorough. She stooped to pick up a small white piece of paper and placed it in a trash can. She carried a set of keys the size of a fist.
Everything hums and whirls there. I bet it is a steamy place in winter. There are cooling fans for summer. I read a few pages of John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in Search of America and discover the author's method for washing clothes when on the road.