When we first moved to Chez Gainey fifteen years ago, Dan acknowledged my love of doing laundry (a sickness, I know) by surprising me with a brand new set of Maytag Neptunes. I genuflected in front of them for the longest time, so grateful to have left behind my cranky undependable old set in the move. A new era had begun, one of sparkling clean clothes from my uber-dependable Maytags and one very happy wife. All was peaceful in the land of Chez Gainey. <cue foreboding music>
Our dryer serves a duel purpose; clothes dryer and critter treat station.
Even though there are just two of us…okay, I guess the dogs count as laundry-creators- I do laundry just about every single day. I like to stay on top of it, keeping the laundry basket empty if at all possible. It has become a comforting routine to me when I get home from work; put a load in, feed the dogs, have dinner, put the load of darks into the dryer and start a load of whites…rinse, lather, repeat.
‘Scenic View’, our guesthouse AirBnB in Birmingham…
With the additional (and welcome!) laundry brought on by our AirBnB, my Maytags have been working overtime. A good problem! We began to notice a little bit of wetness on the mat beside the washer, a wetness that began to increase over the next few days and then stopped. We knew that we’d need to bring in a repairman soon, but were grateful for a little reprieve from another big bill for a little while longer.
<foreboding music crescendos>
And then it happened. Dan had gone to teach his evening yoga class and I was home cleaning and doing laundry, still sidelined from yoga from my recent hand surgery. I transferred the first load of clothes into the dryer and started the second load, then headed into the kitchen to unload the dishwasher.
I turned to put a glass away and saw a stream of water puddling into the kitchen from the laundry room and let out a very un-Poppins-like word. I ran for towels and did the best I could to stem the flow, all the while cursing Maytag for its betrayal. How could you do this to me?
Dan called the one repair place in town that will work on our machines, and they were booked solid until next week. My heart sank as I realized what that meant…the dreaded laundromat, a place I swore I’d never go to again. Damn.
Now, I live in Southside Birmingham, a wonderfully eclectic mix of university professors, doctors, crackheads, and everything in between. We love our neighborhood and its old houses and wonderfully ‘live and let live’ vibe. I do not, however, necessarily want to do my laundry with said crackheads.
Dan had to go teach yoga, but followed me to the market laundromat. While he Namaste-d at the YMCA, I would get to experience the joy of the Southside Market Laundromat, the one that the dogs and I walk past most every day. How bad could it be?
This was both ironic and necessary.
I parked the Mini as close as I could and we carried the packed and stacked-to-the-brim laundry basket into the laundromat. Dan’s first words were, This is ghetto. It was culture shock at its finest as I had flashbacks to my youth, my undergrad years, and to helping Mom do laundry when she lived in a senior community in Florida during my visits to see her. The one blessing? I had the joint to myself.
I should preface all of this with reminding you that I live in Birmingham, Alabama, it is summer, 89 degrees, and this place had no air conditioning. None. I and my Tide Pods had entered into the Seventh level of Hell. Oh, and I have hot flashes like Carter has liver pills. I don’t know what the heck that means, but Mom used to say it. Suffice it to say that this laundromat was not a Menopause-friendly zone.
I rolled up my sleeves and got to work, stuffing way too many quarters into the washers I found that appeared to be working. And waited. And waited. I paced and paced, watching the inhabitants of Southside walk by the glass wall; mostly students walking dogs, buying beer, and an old drunk man who decided to sit outside on the newspaper vending machine. I did not make conversation with him as I periodically opened the door for a blessed wisp of air.
I call this one ‘Underwear Under Chair’…
Knowing that I would have to write about all of this, I began taking photos of the place, one of my hobbies. Soon after, an Indian gentleman came through the glass doors to sternly admonish me in a very thick and melodic accent, “No photos are allowed here. You may not film!” Obviously there was a security camera. Barely anything worked in the laundromat, I was his only customer, and he’s worried about me taking photos? Mary Poppins could have had a run-in with the law and earned a whole new street cred with my university students.
Finally the dryer ended after two cycles and many more quarters, and I quickly folded our clothes and made the short drive home. I was drenched with sweat and fit to be tied, but opening the door and seeing two grinning dogs and a crazy cat made me feel just about giddy after my afternoon. I did have to vacuum the house to burn off some of the experience and then take a shower, feeling like I needed to be run through the washing machine after spending time in that laundromat.
When Dan finally got home, we went up to the top deck with medicinal Sazeracs to talk and laugh about our very different experiences. Dan and I say that as long as we can come home to the peace of Chez Gainey and to each other, we can get through anything. And it’s true…Even an un-air-conditioned Southside laundromat in Birmingham summer. Now, where’s my fan? I’m feeling another power surge…