Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I like doing laundry about as much as I like riding buses, and I like both even less when there's snow outside. Last night I loaded up my duffel bags and backpack, and I caught a train to go to my laundry place. My laundry place is not fancy. It's old and run down. But at least this one is only one train stop away, instead of being on the other side of the city like my last one. Anyway, I went.

And I did my laundry. And as I was starting to fold some of my stuff, a robust black guy came in to the laundromat. He was wearing a red "Runnin' Utes"t-shirt, and black sweatpants. I don't know what his name was, but I'll call him Bubba, because that's the kind of guy that he was. He walked through the place, and started sweeping. When he got to the back room, there was a drunk guy in there. Bubba asked, "Do you have any laundry in here?" The guy didn't. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave; we're getting ready to close up here." The guy left pretty politely. (He passed by me, because the dryers face the door.)

"WOOOO-WEE!" Bubba exclaimed. "He had more alcohol in him than a bar! I could smell it all over him!" Bubba grabbed his broom again and started sweeping, "He's probably homeless...That's why they drink a lot. It keeps them warm."

"Huh," I said. "I didn't know that." I took one ear bud out, because I'd been listening to music on my phone, but listening to music when someone is talking to you is rude.

"Yeaaaahp. You know, when you're partying, you've had some drinks, you're having a good time...you're not thinking about whether you're cold."

I nodded at Bubba, knowingly, even though I didn't actually know. Bubba went back to the other part of the place to sweep, and a girl came to the [locked] door. "Hey," I called to Bubba. "Uh, there's a girl at the door."

The girl looked at me like she wondered what was happening (the signs say OPEN UNTIL MIDNIGHT (no wash after 11)), and I pointed to the side. Bub came to the front door. The girl told him through the [still locked] glass door, "I just need to dry something." And Bubba said, "What do you need to try?" and she said "I just need to dry something." And Bubba said a little louder, "What do you need to try?" She repeated, "I need to DRY something."

Bubba opened the door, grinning, "OH, I misunderstood you! I thought you said you need to try something. I said, okay, I don't know what you want to try, but you go right ahead..." he trailed off. He let her in, locked the door again, and then went back up to the other room to keep sweeping.

The girl put her laundry in a dryer. "You wouldn't happen to have an extra dryer sheet, would you?" "Actually, I do!" I opened the pocket of my duffel bag to find it for her. Bubba called out to her, "I got some back here if you need one!" I handed her the dryer sheet and she held it up for Bubba, "It's alright. She gave me one."

The rest of my laundry finished and I poured it onto the table to keep folding. The other girl started reading a book she'd brought with her.

Bubba came up and started adjusting things on another table, in front of my table. He picked up a Barbie doll, who was wearing a floofy pink dress and had pink slippers pained on. Her arms and legs were all over the place, and he straightened her out. "This yours?" Bubba asked, looking at me. "No." I shook my head. He looked at the other girl, and held Barbie up. "Is it yours?" It wasn't. She asked him. "Is it yours?" Bubba laughed a big gut laugh. "Now I'm not admitting it's mine, I won't say that." He kept laughing. And we joked with him for another minute about Barbie belonging to him.

He went back to the other room, and came back with one of those weird, like, travel coffee mugs, except that the top was weird. He showed us, and we talked about how he must find some interesting stuff. The girl said, "so it's yours? Do you get to keep the stuff?"

"I'm nice," Bubba said. "I put it back there [he pointed to the other room] for a couple weeks so people can come back for it. And then if it's not gone in a few weeks, then I'll keep it." He picked up a down coat that was on the same table, or maybe from behind the table. "See," he said. "That's a pretty nice coat," the other girl said, and I nodded. "Someone left cold."

"The homeless sometimes will take it," Bubba said. "Like that guy earlier. Or maybe he'll give it to his girl."

[LOVE IT. Rich guys give their girls diamonds. Normal guys, flowers. Cheap guys, carnations, or I don't know, maybe poems. Things that cost less but still show thought. Homeless guys? "I saw this coat at the laundromat; it looked about your size..." or would the presentation be different? She shivers, and he reaches in his shopping cart and tosses the coat to her nonchalantly. "Take this," he says, like it's no big deal that he's carrying a girl's coat in his cart...]

"What else do people leave?" I asked Bubba.

"OHhhhhh, laundry. They leave laundry." That wasn't the answer that I wanted. I wanted to hear about ipods, and mannequin arms, and random stuff that you wonder why people even have. I asked him about it anyway, though.

"Do people ever leave full loads?"

"Yeaaaahp. Leave 'em in the washers, and dryers, and just never come back for it. And if they don't come back, I donate them to the homeless shelter."

"Oh, that's nice," the other girl said.

"Yeah, it is." I agreed.

[Okay, here's what I don't understand--when would you ever leave a full load of laundry? Here are the things I can think of:

- You forget which laundromat you went to, and can never figure it out.
- You're on vacation and plan to do laundry before you go home. You start the wash and suddenly realize your flight time is different than you thought it was. Obviously you can't take your soaked laundry with you, so you decide to leave it so that you don't miss your flight.
- You have so much money that you only wear things once. (Problem: why bother starting to wash it? Why not just throw it away or donate it?)
- You leave after you start the wash, and get distracted with something else.

But, isn't that the kind of thing where you lay down for bed and you're falling asleep, and just before you do, you JOLT awake and shout, "THE LAUNDRY!!!" and you start to get up to go get it, and realize the place would definitely be closed. But then, wouldn't you go back the next day?

Wouldn't you miss, like, half of your socks? Or half of your little kid's clothes? Or your favorite pair of jeans? Could you really make a whole load of laundry that you wouldn't notice if it were all missing?]

By that point, I was about done with folding my laundry. The door was locked, and Bubba was back in the other room (mopping?), so when he came back into our room, I said, "Alright. It's been fun, but I'm ready to go home." "I'll bet you are," he told me. And he unlocked the door, and held it open for me. "Be careful out there," he said. "I will. Thanks." And I left.

It was just kind of funny, though, because for 20 minutes it was like we were all good friends. And I bet if Laundry Man kept a blog of all of the stuff he found, it would be pretty interesting.

The end.

[Photo is from here. And it's an actual picture of the actual laundromat I was at. Except the chairs are different now.]

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

oh I hate those days... I used to walk a quarter mile with my laundry basket resting on my hip... every block I'd change hips because the side would dig in and hurt. Then I'd walk back home and get another load and walk it down... x8 or so usually. And I'd space them out so that I'd put the second load in when the first was going into the dryer so that when it was finished I could walk it up to the house and grab another load to bring back down to put in as the 2nd load was ready to dry... it pretty much took all day and I'd get home exhausted. Yeah, not good times. So I TOTALLY understand.