Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Comments on Fulltime RVing: We're Not Always Sightseeing

Hauling six loads of laundry in the car to a laundromat each week is one of my least favorite consequence of our choice to live fulltime in an RV. When I owned a Maytag washer and dryer, I could easily throw a load of clothes, bedding or towels in the washer, then go about doing other things anytime of the day or night. Now, I think of laundry in an entirely new way, even when I am dressing. I find myself asking, “Do I really want to wear a red shirt this week when every other shirt in the laundry bin is pastel or white?” I simply refuse to spend my quarters on a laundromat washer for one lone red shirt.

I spent $14 today on laundry. Most regular laundromat washers are $1.25 a load. If you’re lucky, you might find one of the older $1 washers among the rows of machines. Today, an gray-haired lady gave a discrete head jerk signaling me toward two of these cheaper washers. Thank you! Dryers cost 25¢ for 7 minutes. I’ve learned jeans need to run 35 minutes. Every other load takes $1 to dry.

This particular laundromat, Splish & Splash in Pharr, Texas buzzes with activity. Winter Texans are the obvious outsiders in this mix with the local Mexicans who chatter in Spanish. Older Mexican ladies take a break from their own laundry. They play with toddlers and keep a watchful eye on infants while young mothers can tend to the wash.

You can spend money on things other than laundry there. I bought a bag of pineapple filled pastries from a lady wandering among the washers, 6 for $2. As I carried my detergent out to the car, I noticed another lady had come in to sell beaded necklaces and matching earrings. A vending machine labeled Suds n’ Such mounted on the wall dispenses Tide and Downey. If you get the munchies, Chex Mix and Salt & Vinegar Chips run 60¢, exact change required, from another vending machine. And, don’t be fooled. The sound of the dropping coins is not someone hitting big on a slot machine. It’s just the quarters dispensing from the change machine.

To do laundry in a laundromat takes timing skill. Because you cannot add the liquid fabric softener when you fill the washer, at least not at this place, you need to watch the washer indicator lights. When 19 minutes remain, add the Downey. Miss the opportunity and you’ll have to use Bounce dryer sheets.

It takes good memory to do your clothes at the laundromat too. Sometimes it’s tough to get washers and dryers all in a row on a busy laundry day so you have to remember where you’ve placed your clothes. Washers are easier to remember than dryers. With a washer, simply placing a laundry product or clothes basket on top indicates possession. Dryers are wall mounted and vertical. There’s no way to distinguish one load of jeans from another unless you clearly remember which dryer is yours.

In the 34 minutes to wash your clothes and the 24 – 35 minutes to dry them, you can watch TV. You have a choice of network TV or the black & white closed circuit TV panning the laundromat. Now, that’s intimate, reality TV- watching people fold Jockey briefs, nightgowns, and souvenir t-shirts. Why does a laundromat need surveillance TV? Do people steal clothes, grab your quarters when you’re not looking, or walk off with your 64-load orange container of Tide? I’ve watched the monitor and not once seen any criminal behavior. Maybe they’re just waiting to get a clip for America’s Funniest Videos.

Just like TV surveillance, men in a laundromat are totally outside their element. They have no concept of space. They stand in the way of women with armloads of clothes. Can’t they move? And, they mutter things like, “I think we have a lot in common.” I’m thinking - Oh yeah, like what? “We both brought hangers.” Of course! Did you bring dirty clothes and detergent too…Yes, we have a lot in common. Was this a very bad pick-up line or a guy whose mother always did his laundry?

The laundromat is truly a woman’s domain. Where we’ll tell one another if there’s still time on a dryer, give a quarter when you’re short of change, help fold a bedspread, and smile knowingly as you spray the last bit of Shout on the stains on your husband’s polo shirt.

Laundry at home was never quite this experience.

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